Little Kitty, Big City review: the cat’s meow

If you love your weird little cats, Little Kitty, Big City is made by people who clearly love them, too.
Little Kitty, Big City

My partner and I have two cats. Our youngest, Ruby, is a 3-year-old beauty who was raised on the streets, is missing a chunk out of one ear, and has turned into a loving, anxious, clingy little creature in the year since we adopted her. As I write this, she is sitting right under my partner’s chair in the office while we work, risking her tail being crushed under the chair wheel in the hope that someone will pay attention to her.

The cat in Little Kitty, Big City reminds me of her – tenacious, dedicated, with an understanding of the streets that it has set aside in favour of a comfortable home life.

Our other cat, Cherry, has a different disposition. She’s older, fancier, and cost a lot more money at the RSPCA rescue shelter than Ruby did. She’s completely deaf, and if she wakes up in the night alone she sometimes wanders the house, wailing mournfully until someone wakes up and acknowledges her. She’s not very observant, but she absolutely loved watching Little Kitty, Big City.

When I played, she’d walk up to the TV and lean against the entertainment unit with her paws, watching the game’s beautiful little black cat wandering around with a level of attention I’ve never seen her pay to anything. She’d turn to stare at me briefly, then turn back to the screen. Sometimes she’d get behind the TV to try and make sense of it.

If Cherry was reviewing this game, she’d give it five stars. If a small child who adored cats got their hands on it, they’d probably do the same. Ruby, with her nervous disposition, would score it lower. For the rest of us, Little Kitty, Big City is a lovely game, albeit a very slight one.

Little Kitty Big City
Image: Double Dagger Studio

Little Kitty, Big City is based on a cute, but also kind-of distressing premise – a little cat that loves sleeping on the open window of its apartment slips off one day and crashes into the street below. To get back home before their owner notices they have gone missing, the cat will need to get its strength back by exploring the city and completing objectives laid out by cats and other animals dotted around.

Most of the objectives are straightforward to complete, and the NPCs who hand out missions will usually tell you exactly what you need to do to get them done (their dialogue is generally funny and well-written, though).

Your cat protagonist can jump, run, climb, sneak, and bat at things with its paws, and the objectives rarely ask you to think too far outside the box in how you might use these skills. Even the climb back up to your windowsill – the major challenge the game is working you up to – is a simple affair once you’ve found and consumed the three fish you need to grow your stamina bar, which is not a particularly complicated task in itself.

Read: Little Kitty, Big City and more coming to Xbox Game Pass in May 2024

Despite the game’s name, the city really isn’t very big – you unlock new areas as you go, but it amounts to a few blocks. The most exciting exploration comes as you gain additional climbing strength and get more opportunities to explore vertically – finding a way onto the rooftop of a building by climbing and jumping in the right spots is inherently satisfying. 

There are really very few objectives that need to be completed to “finish” the game – the developers perhaps anticipated that people like me would feel a little anxious until the cat was reunited with its family – but Little Kitty Big City is, above all else, a game about charm, and the pleasures of being a sweet little guy.

If you’re a cat owner, you know the feeling of sitting and watching your cat, trying to figure out what is running through its tiny little brain as they go about their daily routine. The game captures that feeling, but in reverse – it’s your own brain driving you to walk through cement, sprint through someone’s legs, stalk a bird.

The core appeal of the game lies in doing recognisably cat-like things – finding a good place to snooze, slinking through a hole in the wall, leaping back fearfully if a dog barks at you. Yes, this game understands exactly why cats are great, and how nice it feels when a cat loves you enough to want to be near you. They’re weird little guys! But look at how cute they are!

Little Kitty Big City
Image: Double Dagger Studio

If you played Stray in 2022, these charms may sound familiar – and indeed, the games have a lot in common. But while Stray was about a cat playing through an intensive sci-fi story, Little Kitty Big City really is just about being a cat, wandering around a city, jumping at birds and walking between people’s legs and knocking plant pots off of ledges. In many ways, it feels like a more accurate portrayal of a cat’s true nature.

Having said that, the major reason to stick around after you’ve rolled credits is to complete your hat collection, which can be earned by completing certain objectives, finding them scattered around the world, or paying scrap pieces you find to a crow in exchange for extra hats out of a gacha machine.

I’ve never met a cat who would willingly agree to wear a hat, so dressing your little guy up so that their head looks like an eggplant, or a crab, or a mushroom, is a sort of wish fulfilment (recently my partner tried to put a tiny doll-sized sunhat on Ruby’s head and she recoiled with a look of utter disgust). The game has a keen sense of humour without ever feeling like it’s leaning too much into bad cat memes. Again – it’s charming.

The game is buggy, but not ruinously so – I had to reset once when a character picked the cat up and then got stuck in an infinite animation loop, but that was a minor inconvenience. In other spots, text bubbles displayed in weird spots on the screen, and the physics of the cat’s jump can be a little messy. But in a game where the stakes feel so low, and the vibes are this chill, it’s difficult to really get worked up about anything that goes wrong. 

You can see everything in Little Kitty, Big City within a couple of breezy afternoons, but it’s also the sort of game you might bring out occasionally when, say, your cat-loving nephew visits, or you’ve had a hard day and just need a burst of cuteness.

It’s a game made for people who already love cats, and it’s probably not going to convert your one uncle who’s a bit weird about how much he hates them (you know the one). But if you love your weird little guys, here’s a game made by people who clearly love them, too.

Three stars: ★★★

Little Kitty, Big City
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S
Developer: Double Dagger Studio
Release Date: May 9, 2024

A code for Little Kitty, Big City was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. GamesHub reviews are rated on a five-point scale.

James O'Connor has written about games for a long time. He has written for games, as a narrative designer, for less time. Against his better judgement, he's on Twitter: @Jickle