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Little Kitty, Big City (NS)

Little Kitty, Big City (NS) - Review

by Evan Norris , posted on 09 May 2024 / 1,779 Views

If there's one way to make your game more buzz-worthy, it's by adding a cat to it. The barely-domesticated animals, which oscillate from sleepy indifference to murderous violence, are endlessly interesting, after all. That's not to say that developer Double Dagger Studio added a feline protagonist unthinkingly to its debut title Little Kitty, Big City in a cynical attempt to get more views. Quite the opposite, in fact. This is a video game designed thoughtfully by programmers and artists who clearly understand and adore cats, and made for people who appreciate their playful shenanigans.

Little Kitty, Big City starts in a high-rise apartment building in a generic Japanese city. As a cute black cat suns itself on the window sill just outside its owner's bedroom, the cruel, inevitable demands of gravity kick in and send it bouncing down, down to the ground. Mostly unscathed, the cat finds itself in a sleepy suburban neighborhood, a long way from home. Soon, it's off to explore the city, meet a few interesting new friends, take on some odd jobs, and, ultimately, find a path back to its owner — not to mention its favorite napping spot.

The game's premise — a missing pet finds its way home — is nothing new, but the characters and scenarios that surround it really elevate the adventure. The city is home to an entrepreneurial crow, a foursome of rambunctious ducklings, an overworked beetle, a ball-collecting shiba inu, and a tanuki interested in quantum mechanics to a worrying degree. You'll quickly warm to the heroic kitty and the colorful characters that inhabit the metropolitan area.

Exploring that metropolitan area is the name of the game. At first you'll be disoriented and rudderless, but soon you'll get your bearings and receive a helpful hint from that business-like crow: if you eat enough fish, you'll gain the stamina needed to scale the apartment building and reunite with your owner. So, it's up to the kitty to scour every inch of the city to find those fish, and run into some quest-givers and collectibles along the way.

Really, it's the side quests that make Little Kitty, Big City. If you hunt only for the fish, the game is too straightforward and over in a disappointing two hours. If you delay the main quest, and chat with every NPC and take on every ancillary mission, however, there's much more to sink your claws into. You can wrest about five hours worth of play time by going for 100 percent completion — which you absolutely should. There are a lot of cosmetics to find and achievements to unlock.

Even at 100 percent, though, it's still a relatively short game. It would absolutely benefit from a larger metropolitan footprint, with additional neighborhoods and more mini-games & interactive elements. There is an arcade in one area of the city, but, weirdly, none of the games are playable. Kamurocho this is not.

While it's fun to help citizens in need, or just explore the rooftops looking for hidden cosmetics, it's also a touch too easy. Most objectives, including the main quest line, are simple to overcome. Rarely does the game challenge you or stand in your way; it's all very inviting and accessible. That's the point of course — this is a cozy, low-pressure type of game — but it does diminish the feeling of victory. The one exception to the rule is a series of hide-and-seek challenges from a chameleon magician dealing with an existential crisis. Tracking the lizard down can be tough at times.

In order to find the chameleon, and to access all the areas of the city, you'll have to lean on the kitty's move set. It can scamper around, dash and head butt, pounce on unsuspecting birds, climb ivy, and leap from all manner of platforms — fences, air conditioners, vending machines, etc. Climbing is probably the most entertaining mechanical piece of the game, in part because it's always thrilling to start on the ground and slowly make your way to the top of a tall building, and in part thanks to approachable jumping controls. By holding the jump button you can "aim" your paws, making for predictable landings. Moreover, if you miss by a slight degree, kitty will clamber over the edge. It's both forgiving and, because you plan and execute the jumps yourself, tactile. It certainly surpasses the automatic jumps in Stray.

Stray has it beat on graphics and art direction, though. That's not to say Little Kitty, Big City is an unattractive game; that's far from the truth. Rather, it's simply a less sophisticated production with more humble assets. And, to be fair, the low-texture models and cartoon aesthetic work for the jaunty, lighthearted vibe Double Dagger Studio was hoping to achieve.

Unfortunately, technical performance doesn't always live up to the graphics, at least on Switch. Aside from sporadic frame rate hiccups, and rare instances when kitty gets stuck in the level geometry, the game suffers from fuzzy, low-resolution shadows that are drawn in at a higher resolution as you approach them. You can literally see the engine fine-tuning the environment as you go, ostensibly to improve performance. It's quite distracting, and pulls you out of the illusion of the game, especially at first.

What's not distracting is the game's soundscape, which is pleasantly understated. It's essentially just soft jazz mixed with the ambient noise of the city: the faint rumble of the elevated train, the chirping of birds, etc. No one will be rushing out to buy the soundtrack, but it serves the carefree action well.

Little Kitty, Big City obviously profits from its feline main character, but remove the cat and you're still left with a breezy, cozy game with a colorful cast of characters and a bunch of diverting side missions. It would certainly benefit from a larger, more interactive open world, trickier gameplay, and better performance, but even without those things it's impossible to dislike. If you enjoy lighthearted, low-stakes action-adventure games, and you love cats, Little Kitty, Big City should jump to the top of your fish list — er, wish list.


VGChartz Verdict


6.5
Decent

This review is based on a digital copy of Little Kitty, Big City for the NS, provided by the publisher.

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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1 Comments
Machina (on 09 May 2024)

The platforming does sound much better than Stray's. A mix of Stray's production values and art style with this one's platforming would be great.

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