There are plenty of games with animal protagonists but only a handful aim to faithfully replicate the species. Sauntering away from the anthropomorphism which tends to feature in most games, Stray looks to capture the spirit of a feline. With an adorable backpack sporting, ginger tabby at the forefront, will this cat-centric adventure pounce on the hearts of gamers?
Alone and lost, you scour the neon-drenched streets in search of a way back to your family. Set in a dystopian future, robots litter the city. Devoid of human life, you begin to learn about the strange place through a delightful drone named B12. He translates all the signage and communicates with the array of NPCs that offer further insight into the unique world. Each droid you encounter shares a snippet of its life which helps to build a wider picture of the universe. Depravity and isolation are evident. Due to this, melancholy resides which creates an incredible juxtaposition between natural beauty and man-made machinery. The lovely-paced plot drifts from a simple premise to mature themes laced with social commentary.
As Cool as a Cat
A cat has many skills and these are perfectly implemented in Stray. Known for their agility, BlueTwelve Studio adopts a contextual-based platforming mechanic which helps with immersion. Due to this, you can simply leap over hazards without the need to wrestle with the controls. While this does remove the challenge, it does manage to capture a certain authenticity. Besides linear segments where you search for a particular route to your objective, there are also open areas. These sections allow for further exploration where you can find memories that build the lore of the world. Multilayered missions will have you bolt from one side of the area to the other in order to progress, however, without a map, it’s easy to run in circles.
The game continues to evolve throughout its duration with the addition of light puzzles and stealth. Environmental conundrums will require you to interact with objects to overcome an issue. These can be simple tasks such as blocking a fan or slightly more complex that requires you to use a combination of platforming and timing. Drones with searchlights occupy the sky, and you must avoid their view. Due to this, you‘ll have to scurry behind objects and even hide in boxes to ensure your safety. Similar to other games, enemies have a traffic light system that suggests their alert level. As a result, you’ll find yourself lurking in the shadows and waiting for the opportune time to dart to your location.
On The Cat Walk
Countering the meandering pace of the open world segments are the chases. These hair-raising sequences are an absolute joy. With creatures emerging from every nook and cranny, you must quickly survey the horizon and react accordingly to reach a safe point. These memorable moments continue to vary with new mechanics and camera angles to make them a highlight of the game.
Whether on purpose or not, cats seem to cause trouble and this is the same in Stray. With a specific button to ‘meow’, you can frustrate the residents and moan throughout cutscenes in a hilarious manner. As well as this, you can cause further mischief and knock over the vast number of empty bottles and trash that adorn the streets. BlueTwelve Studio really wants to transport you into the paws of a feline. There are plenty of opportunities in the environment to be a cat. You can scratch the crap out of a couch, get your head stuck in a bag and snuggle up for a snooze. All of this adds personality to the game in order to see the world through different eyes.
A Stroke Of Genius
The animation of the kitty is extraordinary. Each movement and reaction feels genuine; due to this, a bond quickly builds with the protagonist. Therefore anxiety manifests when an air of danger exists. You’ll find yourself in a panic when trying to keep the cat safe through treacherous sequences. Realism permeates the entirety of the game. Each environment is stunning with vivid and contrasting colors which oppose the dingy poverty-stricken areas. Subtle narrative points dwell in the world and give you a glimmer of their story as you pass by.
Stray is much more than a jaunt with an adorable cat. It tells a story about social injustice in a form that is both clever and discreet. The gorgeous visuals and attention to detail make it easy to lose yourself in a distinct world. While the game lacks challenge, the pace and memorable set-pieces make this a tremendous trek with a tabby.
*** A PlayStation 5 key provided by the publisher ***
- A Fascinating World
- Incredible Animation
- Lovely Pace
- Lack of Challenge
- No Map in Open Areas
- No Replay Value