The videogame beast is filled with explosions, blood and Mick Gordon playing the hottest guitar solo that your little ears have ever heard. I could be describing doom, or I could be describing the general tone of video games that we class as normal. The higher up the scale you go to triple-A, the bloodier and louder it gets. So, when the gaming world is halted by the kind sound of a ginger cat in a cyberpunk world, we should all pipe down and listen, because Stray is worth it.
Announced back in 2020, Stray piqued the curiosity of many gamers (there’s some cat irony there) with the innocence and calmness showcased in the trailer. Showing a ginger cat with a backpack moving through a world filled with clucky robots with monitors for faces, many were curious about what story this game had to tell. With BlueTwelve Studios at the helm and producer Annapurna Interactive behind them, Stray was in good hands, but it would be some time before release in 2022.
The anticipation of Stray was an incredible site to see, as many gamers even before playing it were as hyped as they would be for most mainstream triple-A titles. This was an incredible feat for any game, to steal the limelight when a studio has no prior titles, and for the concept to be so…. cute and fluffy. Hitting stores at £24 and also being playable on PS Plus subscriptions, Stray was in the spotlight and fairly accessible. But did it stand out after the curtain was pulled down, or was it overhyped? Thank the cat gods my friends because this game delivered.
This 5–6-hour experience is truly one of the most beautiful and expressive games that I’ve ever played. With a cute protagonist in a bright and haggard world filled with robots that are brimming with personality. The adventure Stray sets you on is a brilliant and interesting experience that does well to keep you engaged through the eyes of our furry protagonist. We also get to see true depth within the world that is crafted here, both through barren and abandoned areas and lived-in bright city streets. The personality of the city speaks volumes more than lore-ridden books can, and what can’t be explained visually is explained via companions.
Jumping to the start of the game, we are one of four cats living within a plant overgrown structure with no other life in sight. As we look around, we find ourselves dropped into a city abandoned by humanity and what seems to be any and all organic life.
With the exception of plants, the city at first glance appears lifeless. But as we further explore, we are guided by signs and lights to an apartment. This is where we meet B-12, a robot with memory issues who wishes to find his purpose and regain his memories. Through this, we gain a backpack, a companion and a purpose, as well as find our cat family.
Through exploration, we also find a threat that keeps the residents of this city indoors and afraid, the Zurgles. These horrific-looking tumour creatures infest parts of the city like cancer and seem to have destroyed any human life that once existed there. Now turning themselves on the robotic lives that are still dwelling within the few settlements, the Zurgles prove to be a terrifying enemy for our furry friend. This threat is well known to the robots we interact with in this story, with some of them making it their goal to escape the city, stop living in fear, and see the outside world. This also becomes the central goal of the game, making our protagonists go from explorers to heroes for the people of the city.
This brief description of the story doesn’t even touch on the emotion that this game can reach at times, truly making you grow attached to the few close friends you make. This doesn’t take away from the gameplay however which although simple, is very detailed and also very satisfying. I’ve never been a big cat person myself, but I know a cute meow when I hear one and that being attached to a button only helps.
The nimble jumps to solve puzzles and the tight squeezes through vents to enter areas where you and B-12 can do some detective work. There isn’t a lot here with it being such a small adventure, however, what we do get is very engaging, very interesting and has tons of personality.
Stray at its core is a game that focuses on story and characters more than anything else, but this doesn’t mean the gameplay is garbage or boring. You will move through areas at a pace that you can set yourself, and the puzzles offer enough challenge that you feel satisfied but don’t require much thought.
The engagement within this game is incredible and it is well worth the money and time that you’ll put into it. Stray is available on PlayStation and PC and is well worth a look, especially if you’re a cat person, and if you’re not then get the PC version. They’ve just modded dogs in.
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