“Stray delivers on its cute cat adventure premise, but its excellent atmosphere and powerful sci-fi storytelling are what elevate it.”
- Creative cat gameplay
- Excellent atmosphere
- Intricate level design
- Impactful sci-fi narrative
- Limited interactions
- Some undercooked ideas
I used to be lying on my couch playing Stray when my cat, Mirah, jumped up next to me. As I controlled the sport’s digital orange cat, Mirah climbed onto my legs and lay down along with her face pointed towards the screen. I could feel a mild rumble as she purred, not dissimilar from the vibrations my DualSense controller’s haptic feedback was giving off. It’s perhaps the one moment I’ve had while playing a game where the natural and mechanical felt perfectly in sync.
Stray explores that very intersection with a way of cat-like curiosity. Developed by BlueTwelve Studio, the journey game imagines a not-too-unbelievable future where humans have destroyed themselves, leaving overgrown plants, animals, and sentient robots to take charge of the Earth. Much has been made concerning the game’s cute feline lead for the reason that game was first announced, but Stray isn’t only a cute gimmick; it’s a forward-thinking science-fiction game about our increasingly complicated reference to technology.
Between its clever (though limited) gameplay ideas and weighty social commentary, Stray is a special experience that works best as a futuristic mood piece. And a extremely darn cute one at that.
Press O to meow
Stray has perhaps the simplest selling point within the history of video games: Live out your ultimate fantasy by controlling a very normal cat. The sport’s orange hero isn’t some anthropomorphized, talking tabby running around on two legs. It’s your on a regular basis pet that naps and scratches couches. That premise allows for some creative gameplay decisions which are at all times a delight to find.
Separated from its family after dropping right into a walled city filled with sentient robots, the furry hero has to make use of its unique skills to resolve puzzles and escape the mysterious slums. BlueTwelve Studio has a blast here determining how standard cat behaviors can twist into navigation tools. As an example, scratching a door might cause an annoyed robot to swing it open, allowing you to dart inside. A stealth section had me jumping into boxes to cover from patrolling drones. Even totally optional interactions, like finding a very good book nook to nap in, are joyfully clever.
There are limits to what Stray’s in a position to do with its feline setup. By the top of my journey, it felt like nearly any non-platforming puzzle was solved by scratching or knocking something over. A number of the charm gets lost in those moments, as I’d almost forget I used to be controlling a cat altogether once the journey game auto-pilot kicked in. There are a small handful of traditional puzzles that require brainwork, like using written clues to work out protected combos, but Stray doesn’t quite find as some ways to utilize the few skills players have in addition to, say, Untitled Goose Game.
It’s the authentic feline moments that make the sport special …
To widen out the list of actions players can do, Stray gives its cat hero a drone companion that handles the more basic adventure game tropes like trading items with NPCs. Those ideas help bring some variety to the sport, though they’ll feel a bit of obligatory at times. As an example, one transient stretch of the sport introduces a combat mechanic that disappears before it will possibly really develop.
It’s the authentic feline moments that make the sport special slightly than its video game-y ones. For me, essentially the most memorable scene wasn’t after I was running from a pack of parasitic enemies. It was after I got my head stuck in a paper bag, inverting my controls until I managed to shake it off. Those often comedic touches gave me a momentary glimpse into my cat’s confused little brain. No other game I’ve played with an animal lead has really captured that feeling in the identical way, but now I wish more did.
The world is your litter box
The cat-focused gameplay is simply a small a part of what makes Stray work. The actual star of the show is its distinct atmosphere, which turns the sport into a very transportive experience. From the sport’s astonishing electronic soundtrack to its detailed cityscapes awash in decaying neon signs, it’s easy to black out the actual world as you wander across the digital one (that’s, unless your actual cat gets hungry and starts shouting over your headset).
Stray gets that a well-designed world doesn’t have to dangle treats in front of players …
Stray looks like a direct descendant of Ico. There’s an underlying sense of tragedy present within the isolated robot world, however the game doesn’t have a depressing tone. The feline perspective allows players to see a potentially dystopian space through earnestly curious eyes. Dilapidated apartment buildings develop into cat towers with numerous ledges to leap on and nooks to explore. There’s a tragic backstory behind all of it, however it’s a game a couple of creature finding a solution to survive and thrive in any environment it’s placed in.
The navigation system helps emphasize that concept. Fairly than giving players a jump button and having them struggle with tricky platforming puzzles, Stray takes an Assassin’s Creed-like approach to movement — call it purrkour. Players move from surface to surface by pressing the X button when it appears on screen. That permits the cat to make precise, agile movements because it safely scales architecture. There’s no threat of death as a consequence of a mistimed jump when exploring; the sport desires to indulge your curiosity and encourage you to bravely snoop around.
It helps that the locations, inspired by the real-world Kowloon Walled City, are so intricately designed with numerous nooks and vertical space to mess around with. The primary major area you’ll encounter is a compact, but open city that will be freely explored. First, I hopped up as high as I could, slipping my way through barely-open apartment windows. Later, I hopped onto the bottom and strolled through narrow alleys as I chatted with the local robots lining the streets. Even when there’s nothing to search out in some tucked-away corner, I used to be content just sticking my head where it didn’t belong (the more I write this, the more I’m starting to grasp why my cat is so desperate to stick her head within the fridge anytime it’s open).
Where other games turn exploration right into a chore with limitless tasks to chase, Stray gets that a well-designed world doesn’t have to dangle treats in front of players to get them to maneuver.
Should you’re the type of one who sees Stray as a “meme game,” you could be surprised by how weighty its story is. It delivers a socially conscious sci-fi narrative that weaves together quite a lot of modern threads. There’s a transparent environmentalist streak, as an illustration, digging into how humanity is poisoning itself out of existence. That runs right into a class inequality reflection, because the robot city is actually a slum that humans used as an enormous dumpster.
Stray understands that tech is commonly just used as a scapegoat to excuse the individuals who abuse it.
The cat hero stands out as the character that gets essentially the most attention, however the androids that populate the world give the story its heart. Using my drone pal as a translator, I quickly became engrossed within the mysterious robot backstory told through collectible memories. It’s a bittersweet story about sincere machines that wanted to have interaction with their creators and the uncaring humans that abandoned them.
It will be easy for a story like this to be cynical about technology, placing all of the world’s problems on all those dang screens we have a look at. But Stray understands that tech is commonly just used as a scapegoat to excuse the individuals who abuse it. It’s telling that the closest thing the sport has to antagonists are androids which have recreated the concept of a police state by mimicking the mistaken people.
It’s easy to see Stray’s decaying cities as a dark dystopia, but I actually walked away feeling the alternative. It imagines a world where nature and technology have found a natural balance, undisturbed by the selfish chaos humanity can often bring to the equation. We’ve at all times seen androids in sci-fi depicted as creepy villains that’ll bring about mankind’s downfall; Stray posits that perhaps they’d actually be higher caretakers for our planet than we’re.
Stray isn’t a furry gimmick that’s in it for the memes. Its cat-centric gameplay brings a fresh perspective to the journey genre, putting an emphasis on curiosity-driven exploration. A few of its gameplay ideas feel limited and underutilized, but playful cat interactions make it a warm and fuzzy experience from start to complete. Come for its cute furball hero, but stay for the socially conscious sci-fi story about how human beings are the architects of their very own downfall.
Is there a greater alternative?
Probably not! Stray’s feline gameplay is a bit one-of-a-kind for a game of this scale.
How long will it last?
The story took me around five hours to finish, though I missed a couple of collectibles. A 100% completion ought to be closer to 6 or seven hours — eight should you’re going for the “nap for an hour” achievement.
Must you buy it?
Yes. Stray is a very unique (and cute) adventure game that’s far more than its central selling point.
Stray was tested on a PlayStation 5 connected to a TCL 6-Series R635.