Five of the Best is a weekly series about the bits of games we overlook, those poor old things. I'm talking about crowds, potions, mountains, hands - things we barely notice at the time but can recall years later because they're so important to the overall memory of the game.
Now is the time to celebrate them - you and me both! I will share my memories but I'm just as eager to hear yours, so please share them in the comments below. We've had some great discussions in our other Five of the Best pieces.
But this week we're all about...
Cats! You know who really loved cats? Stanley Kubrick. His house was full of them. So full of them that when Clint Eastwood came to visit he was driven back at the gate by his allergies. Cats versus Dirty Harry and cats come out on top. Anyone who's owned a cat will not be surprised by that.
Anyway. here are five of our favourite cats in video games.
Yes, you can walk on the ceiling in Gravity Rush, but you know what's better than that? You get to hang out with a cat - a lovely black cat of that skinny variety which makes them look like they're all shoulder blades.
The Gravity Rush cat is magical, of course, but what's so much better is that it's based on obvious prolonged observation of actual cats. At one point the cat gets sick and throws up a sort of interdimensional furball. The way the poor little thing heaves to bring it up makes me extremely upset - it's that beautifully done. Also, great game. Play Gravity Rush! And play it on Vita! Vitas are amazing.
Thirty Flights of Loving
So much greatness in Thirty Flights, but right up there with the best bits is the game's handling of cats.
In the apartment building there's a stairwell, and in the stairwell there are about a dozen cats just hanging out, as cats often don't really, knocking around together and taking in the sights. One of them is walking back and forth along a railing, and this cat obsessed me for a while because every now and then it flashes orange. Why? I had to know. Was it a clue? A reference? Was there a puzzle involved? It turns out that the cat's sudden flashes of colour are a quirk of the way that the engine handles lighting. Oh well. Still nice to be around that many cats. Kubrick would have been very happy.
There are loads of great cats in Animal Crossing - it is full of them - but the best is clearly Rover, who meets you on the train and helps you set up the game.
Cats are curious, sure, but what's interesting about Rover is that they're curious in a very un-catlike way. They're directly curious. They just come out and ask you a bunch of questions. Listen: I have cats, and they rarely, if ever, ask direct questions. It is not their way. But Rover seems happy enough.
Meowth is one of the two best Pokémon. Meowths are absolutely brilliant. Look at them! So cheery, so playful, maybe a hint of danger.
The thing I really like about Meowths is that they come from a simpler time, when Pokémon could still riff on stuff like cats and dogs. Nowadays there are Pokémon based on piles of garbage, Pokémon based on the Industrial Revolution. (Do we still call it that?) Anyway, back then you could sit down at Game Freak and say, "How about cats?" And someone did. And we got Meowth.
What would make a Metroidvania really sing? How about a cat in a mech suit? Done!
Gato Roboto is a wonderful game, compact and clever and filled with lovely feedback. Even better it has a cat at the centre of it all who isn't even remotely a jerk, and cats are often de facto jerks in fiction. This guy just wants to climb into the suit and bring justice to the universe. The Gato Roboto cat is even willing to venture under water. What a star!