Not many people expected that the biggest PlayStation release in July 2022 would be a third-person adventure game about a cat, but stray It is quite a good choice as a leading game. A refreshing change of pace from the big-budget heavy releases leading the gaming release calendar, you don’t necessarily need to be a cat lover to get the most out of this release – although it certainly helps.
The unnamed protagonist is a stray ginger cat who lives in a world where humanity died long ago. As he sets out with his feline family, he plunges deep into a mysterious, long-forgotten world. The wretched, decaying electronic city is a mixture of garbage alleys, dark sewers, and neon-lit backstreets, but while humans may have been wiped out hundreds of years ago, there are still secrets to be revealed. With the help of a mysterious drone mate called B-12, the cat sets out to get outside again.
world without humans
The world beneath may be deprived of humans but still occupied by their robotic workers, and those only evolved to be conscious of their own personalities. There’s a martial arts-loving guardian, a musician who’s lost his music, and a mischievous duo throwing paint cans at each other until one of them is brought down to make a mess on the street below. Apart from the clothes, these mostly look identical apart from the charming and varied set of faces which gives more of an idea of her personality. The bots are mostly peaceful and their city is a welcome safe haven where they help push the story forward, as well as offer occasional side quests.
Most of the missions and overall gameplay involve exploring the forgotten world and solving simple puzzles to unlock new areas. The journey is divided into chapters, some of which focus on linear environments that travel from one destination to another with a guided path. Other areas take the form of open world cities where players have to work on things much more, especially in terms of paths a cat can take to reach rooftops and buildings that larger objects cannot reach. Puzzles cleverly take advantage of the limited abilities of cats without repetition or complexity. For the single occasion you might be stuck, B-12 has hints although I didn’t find them more than a reminder of my current goal and not particularly helpful.
Developer BlueTwelve Studio is clearly a fan of cats and has studied their movements extensively. These movements are very precise, like the agility of a cat that allows you to measure scenery such as boxes, pipes, and air conditioning units to reach rooftops, but not to climb impossible heights. He will whisper about surprises he considers threatening, cute friendly robots, meow to attract attention, and even hide in the spread of cardboard boxes scattered all over the city. Make the robots stumble upon it like never before. The only downside is that the scratch animation rarely matches the control input, so most of the time players don’t know if it’s working or not.
B-12 is here to do everything a cat can’t. It can translate the bot’s conversation, and sees that they have created their own language. He can operate electronics such as door keys and turn useful items into inventory that the cat carries on his back in a harness. A cat’s limitations become more apparent in the moments when B-12 is not able to use its capabilities. They can solve puzzles using each other’s abilities or even team up to be in two places at once.
The apocalyptic side of a dystopian world
However, not everything in the wretched city is at peace. Outside of the safe zones, the lasting effects of the epidemic can be found. Vein-like substance that coats surfaces and takes hold of previous lives. Zorks, pink blobby creatures that look suspiciously like the lobster’s head in Half Life and are just as dangerous, explode from pulsating sacks when they detect movement nearby. It is the main challenge that prevents the cat from returning to the outdoors and will kill him easily.
The zorks won’t hesitate to rally the cat and result in chase sequences that are easily the most stressful parts of the game. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to figure out what to do next while you are being chased by hordes of bloodthirsty and mineral thirsty zorks. They also highlight the sudden limitation of the cat’s movement because he cannot jump over them. Hopping is limited to climbing around the scene and only when a directed button is highlighted, a decision that seems somewhat questionable in regards to how resilient the cats are. Other issues included some minor visual bugs, including a roaming bot that crashed. The motion was also choppy enough in places that it made me motion sick after a few hours of gaming – I’d recommend desensitizing the look from the default if that’s an issue for you sometimes.
Mindless Review: The Final Verdict
Despite the odd slip, Stray is a (mostly) relaxing game that takes clever interactions with cats and turns them into a compelling adventure. An 8-10 hour story (at the full run) is sure to pull the strings in some places but it won’t overstay its welcome. The gameplay is simple so that all ages can enjoy it although young children may find Zurk’s pictures a bit frightening. Those who play Stray on PlayStation Plus should definitely give this game a shot, while those looking to purchase the game on release should not hesitate too much.