- Stray game | ‘Cat game’ Stray accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, delivering an authentic cat experience in the form of an adorable puzzle/platformer.
- One of the very first games ever revealed for Sony’s PlayStation 5 console was Stray, a game where players control a cat in a cyberpunk city populated by robots. Stray‘s feline protagonist and eye-popping graphics made it one of the most-talked about games coming out of Sony’s Future of Gaming event, and as it turns out, the hype was warranted.
- First and foremost, the developers at BlueTwelve Studio have absolutely nailed what it would be like to move around a city as a cat. The animations are perfect, down to the smallest details. Real-life cat owners especially will come away impressed with what BlueTwelve Studio has accomplished here, as they may be more likely to notice subtle things like the cat’s ears twitching in the direction of a noise. Early in the game, the cat is outfitted with a harness to help transport its drone companion, and it hilariously flops to the ground, refusing to move for a moment. Any cat owners that have tried to put similar harnesses on their pets to take them on walks will recognize this behavior, and it’s the little details like this that make the cat from Stray feel like a living, breathing cat. It helps that the animators went as far as to make the cat literally breathe, of course.
- There is a cliché about video games making players “feel” like they are whatever character they’re playing as, but there’s really no other way to say it. Stray makes the player feel like a cat, whether it’s knocking objects off ledges, walking over keyboards, or scratching furniture. Stray lets players carry out typical cat behaviors even when there’s no gameplay reason for it, like drinking water from a saucer, rubbing up against someone’s legs, and curling up for a nap. There’s even a button dedicated entirely to meowing.
- Sometimes these cat actions are incorporated in Stray‘s puzzle solving gameplay. While players are free to scratch furniture, walls, tree trunks, and other objects like cats do, this ability sometimes has a practical purpose, like pulling down a curtain or ripping wires out of a device. Meowing, meanwhile, can be used to get rid of the bug-like enemies that will sometimes cling to the cat.
- Stray‘s bug-like enemies are known as the Zurks, and while players are eventually able to fight back, they are mostly meant to avoid these creatures at all costs. There’s not much in the way of “combat” like in other games, but Stray is better for it. The cat in Stray is meant to represent a real cat, so the developers didn’t give it outlandish abilities or special attacks that would break the immersion. Yes, players are solving puzzles and talking to robots in the game, but that’s because the cat is being helped along by its drone companion, B-12.
- Stray players meet B-12 early in the game, and from there, the drone helps guide the story along. With B-12 at their side, players can talk to friendly robots, hack doors, get hints about what to do next if they’re stuck, and more. But while B-12 plays a key role in helping players overcome some of Stray‘s obstacles, the focus stays squarely on the cat and how it is able to interact with the world around it.
- The Stray experience is broken up into linear levels and more open areas. The linear sections offer more action, with players having to use a mix of speed and stealth to outrun and hide from the Zurks and other enemies. However, the open-ended areas, of which are there are two in the game, are where Stray really shines. It’s here where players are let loose to explore as a cat, testing the limits of what exactly they can do in the game.
- The fact that Stray only really has two open areas like this may disappoint some players, especially since the game is light on content in general. Stray is a short but sweet experience that can be completed in less than five hours in the initial playthrough. Those wanting to get 100% completion can easily do so in under 10 hours, as it doesn’t take long at all to unlock all of Stray‘s trophies. This will certainly be a downside for some, but Stray‘s short length may actually be to its benefit. This way the game doesn’t overstay its welcome, so the novelty of what the developers accomplished with the cat never wears off.
- The blow of Stray‘s short length is lessened further when taking into account that the game is available to play through PS Plus Extra and Premium subscriptions at launch. It’s already a budget-priced game to begin with, but this way those who aren’t happy about its short length can still check it out without dropping $30 to do so.
- Stray is very short, but it works for a game like this. There’s no wasted space or filler in Stray, and the short length likely played a big role in allowing the developers to perfect the cat’s movement like they did, not to mention make it look as good as it does. Stray‘s graphics are incredible, with detailed environments and impressive lighting effects. The game is highly polished, and while there is the occasional hiccup like the camera getting stuck, any issue is easily rectified by reloading the last checkpoint.
- Part of the reason the developers were able to obtain such an impressive level of polish is likely due to the restrictions placed on the game’s platforming. Stray doesn’t let players jump wherever and whenever they want, but instead relegates jumping to a contextual button press. This could be another point of contention with some players, as they may find Stray‘s platforming too restrictive. But the trade-off is the developers are able to keep the animations tight and better maintain the illusion of playing as a cat, whereas jumping everywhere could easily break that sense of immersion and lead to animation problems. Not only that, but this also gives platforming a puzzle-solving element, as players have to figure out exactly where they can jump to get through each area.
- It’s true that some may be underwhelmed by how Stray handles its platforming and by how short it is, but these issues are easily overlooked because of the high quality found throughout the rest of the game. Stray is a genuinely unique gaming experience and is worth checking out for the cat alone. Stray looks great, plays great, and accomplishes exactly what it set out to do. It’s a must-play, especially since it’s available at a budget price and can be played in its entirety with a PS Plus Extra subscription.
Stray launches July 19 for PC, PS4, and PS5. Game Rant was provided with a PS5 code for this review.