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What we've been playing - campfires, unexpected cat games, and northern lights

A few of the things that have us hooked this week.

Simple and striking artwork for cat game Little Kitty, Big City, showing a 2D image of a cute, simplistic cat wearing a frog hat.
Image credit: Double Dagger Studio

17th May 2024

Hello! Welcome back to our regular feature where we write a little bit about some of the games we've been playing over the past few days. This week, we look up at the sky, with our eyes and through our phones; we live out our fantasies as a tiny fire trying to find their way home; and we find the best cat game you have probably never heard of.

What have you been playing?

If you fancy catching up on some of the older editions of What We've Been Playing, here's our archive.

Northern lights, iOS

Okay, not a game, but hear me out. My wife and I were just about awake at 11 on Friday night and we saw the Aurora out the window.

A photograph of the aurora borealis as seen from Christian Donlan's garden. What a show off!
Cor-ora. | Image credit: Eurogamer

Here's the game part. We didn't really see it. You couldn't see much in the sky with the naked eye. The lights only appeared when we took pictures on our phones. Suddenly, the grey night sky over the neighbour's house was stained a leafy green. Minutes later there were shimmering icicles of coral light hovering above the houses in our street, and a red glow on the horizon.

All of this just on our phones, mind. Eventually it got to the point where you could see a very dim white shape in the sky unaided, but the colours and everything were purely on the phone screen.

It reminded me, inevitably, of AR: that slightly spacey feeling when you're interacting via a screen with something that isn't really there, or isn't there in the same way you are. I had no idea that the northern lights existed in the same realm as the games Niantic makes, but frankly I'll take it.

-Chris Donlan

The Last Campfire, Switch

Rem-ember this?Watch on YouTube

This was on sale a few weeks ago, so after reading Chris Donlan's Last Campfire review, I thought I'd give it a shot. It follows the story of a little Ember trying to find their way home, but it's so much more than that.

The puzzles themselves range from relatively easy to 'stare out of your window and contemplate your own intelligence levels' hard, which has kept me on my toes to say the least. I'm often guilty of getting so angry with tough in-game puzzles that I'll walk away (looking at you Professor Layton). But, the difficulty of the ones here are balanced by the internal desire to unravel the story and, as a result, the hardest of puzzles become the most satisfying ones.

It's possible the story is one of those things that only has as much emotional power as you're willing to give it - and I was willing to give it a lot. I'm only a few hours into it yet I've already had to stop several times to think about the actions Ember takes. I've rarely had a game force me to think about things in a deeper way than what's happening on the screen. It really hit home with finding your place in the world, how small positive actions have a larger impact and how lost you can feel on the potentially eternal journey to figure out what it means to be you - a journey that many of us, including me, are still on.


Little Kitty, Big City, Xbox One (via Game Pass)

Me-ow haven't you played this yet?Watch on YouTube

I am going to say it: I think I preferred Little Kitty, Big City to Stray. Honestly, this cat-game revelation is as much a surprise to me as it is to you, but Little Kitty, Big City really got its claws into me. The writing made me chuckle as I prowled along knocking plants off ledges and bopping footballs into goals, and receiving many scritches of course. It's all quite simple and some things could do with being refined, but it was cosy and fun, and exactly what I've needed recently.

I am not the only one in this house to become enamoured with Little Kitty, Big City, either - my kids have as well. I've loved hearing them play together as I made supper, one controlling the titular kitty while the other encouraged them to explore that ledge over there, or see what happened if they pounced on another poor, unsuspecting bird. Then, they swapped around.

Their giggles spoke to their enjoyment but I pressed them to find out exactly what it was they enjoyed. My son was apparently rather taken with the banter the cat has with the game's many animals, the chameleon in particular being a big hit. “I love the fun of trying to find him and how funny he is,” my son said. “He thinks he's hard to find but he really isn't. He also thinks cats' eyes are weird, for some reason. I wonder why that is... I don't think cats' eyes are weird. Do you?” (My son went off on a bit of a tangent after this.)

My daughter, on the other hand, was all about the mischievous escapades. “You can steal the humans' food!" she said. "You can make people drop their phones! You can leave paw prints in wet cement! You can even 'paint' things by knocking over pots.” She also liked the many different hats you can adorn the kitty with. So far her favourite is - ironically - the dog one.

A cat in a hat - what else do you really need?


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