Stray - Not Quite Purrfect, But Pretty Close
Explore a Subterranean Cyberpunk-Like Open World
The World's First Stray Cat Simulator
Many people have undoubtedly wondered what it's like to be a cat, leaping carefree from place to place, chasing down rats, and possessing a balance and grace that defy the laws of physics and gravity. With the adventure-simulator game Stray, developed by BlueTwelve Studio and published by Annapurna Interactive, players can now get a taste of what it's like to roam the world as a feline.
Stray, available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Windows PC (via Steam) features elements of various game genres, seamlessly blending puzzles and open-world adventures into its level-based structure. Whether you're a cat lover or not, Stray brings a lot to the table and will provide you with a unique gaming experience.
One Cat in a World of Robots
Stray follows the story of a stray cat alone in an underground city filled with robots, machines, and mutant bacteria. There are no humans anywhere in this wasteland, but the robotic servants referred to as "Companions" have become self-aware and established a feline society.
With the help of its drone friend B-12, the lone cat must join the Outsiders to try and discover a way to escape the hostile city and return to the surface. As the game's storyline progresses, you learn more about the underground city and the reason for its creation.
Lost, alone, and separated from family, a stray cat must untangle an ancient mystery to escape a long-forgotten city.
Playing as the stray cat from a third-person perspective, you'll traverse challenging environments, solve puzzles, and interact with many fascinating characters on your quest to escape the city. You'll also learn more and more about your companion B-12 as you discover his memories to shed light on his past.
Concept Rating: 5/5
Gritty and Realistic Visuals
From the intricately detailed cyberpunk-style city to the fluid animations of the main character, the visuals of Stray are impressive. Anyone who has spent time around cats can tell you how unique and graceful their movements are, yet Stray did a superb job creating a playable feline character. Whether the cat is scampering across a ledge or leaping from dumpster to rooftop, it looks smooth and realistic.
The game's setting feels very dark, gritty, and dystopian. The developers have created a city with a unique blend of futuristic design and the overgrowth of nature that you would expect in a post-apocalyptic world. This contrast gives the game a surreal feeling when you're playing and helps it stand out as a unique gameplay experience. Plus, every inch of the environment feels handcrafted and intricately detailed.
Most of the time, Stray's gameplay is relaxed, and its lowkey original soundtrack fits nicely. However, the tempo will occasionally speed up, or the music will become very eerie and ominous. The game's sound effects are also frequent and diverse as you explore the city.
Graphics & Audio Rating: 5/5
Normal Everyday Cat
One of the most intriguing aspects of Stray's gameplay is that the main character is just a typical run-of-the-mill cat. This feline doesn't have superpowers, futuristic technological enhancements, or equipment. As you'll discover, this cat and its companion B-12 are the world's last hope for survival, but the kitty plays its part, primarily by doing things that any other cat could do.
The fact that the main character is a regular cat also means you get to do many things a cat would often do in real life. These include scratching your claws on sofas, lapping-up water from puddles, and curling up for a nap anywhere that seems comfortable. There's even a button to make the cat meow, and when your character purrs, your controller will vibrate.
Exploring the Fascinating City
Much of Stray's gameplay allows for open-world exploration, and the game's setting is certainly worth taking the time to explore. You'll constantly notice interesting little details in the city's design. And because this world was designed specifically to be navigated by a cat, you'll have a blast squeezing through narrow gaps and leaping from one surface to the next.
Be stealthy, agile, silly, and sometimes as annoying as possible with the strange inhabitants of this mysterious world.
While the game does have a defined storyline, it's loose in terms of how rigidly you must stick to it. Mostly, you're perfectly able to roam the strange environment, searching for collectibles and enjoying the freedom of possessing a cat's grace and agility. However, your character isn't without enemies in this world, and your time in the city isn't always carefree.
Zurks and Sentinels
Throughout Stray, your character will interact with the many robots inhabiting the underground city. Many are friendly, and some provide optional tasks for the player to complete -- essentially the game's side quests. One example is a Companion named Morusque, who will play songs if you bring him music sheets that you find around the city.
That said, not every character you encounter in the game is so kind. Stray's most dangerous robots are the Sentinels, security drones that will try to shoot you immediately if given the opportunity. These Sentinels are identifiable by the glowing lights they produce, and evading them is key to your character's survival.
The other main danger for your character is the Zurks. The Zurks are large, mutated bacteria that will devour the stray cat without hesitation. You can destroy Zurks by using the Defluxor attached to B-12, but you must use it wisely; the Defluxor is susceptible to overheating, so use it sparingly.
The presence of these fearsome enemies adds to the game's tension and gives the player a significant obstacle to survival. The Sentinels and Zurks also help give Stray a compelling duality, as the gameplay can be very leisurely and peaceful when they aren't around.
Stealth and Puzzle-Solving
Much of Stray's difficulty comes from the need to solve puzzles and utilize stealth. You'll often need to quickly use your environment to hide from Sentinels or present creative solutions to problems, such as luring a robot away from a location so that you can access an item you need. Much of the gameplay allows for casual exploration, which is compelling in its own right, but there are certainly challenges to overcome if you wish to progress through the storyline.
Gameplay Rating: 4/5
Getting Your Paws on Stray
Stray launched on July 19, 2022, and is available for $29.99 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Microsoft Windows via Steam, which is a fair and appropriate price. Stray is a unique, high-quality game, but its relatively short gameplay keeps it from having the $60+ price tag you often see with new releases.
For what you're getting, $29.99 feels just about right, and unlikely you'll regret the purchase.
A Strangely Beautiful Game
Just about every gamer will be able to find something they enjoy about Stray. Gamers who prefer a more relaxing gaming experience will find plenty of calm, leisurely moments. But, anyone looking for a frantic struggle for survival will also find those moments. And, of course, for gamers who love cats. Well, does it need to be explained what they'll enjoy about Stray?
Overall, there's a ton to like about this game. The adventure game features a novel concept, unique characters, a fascinating open world, and thought-provoking scenarios. And, mainly due to the intricate details and design of Stray's setting, the replay value is solid.
Replay Value Rating: 4/5
Things That Will Make You Purr
- Excellent cat animations
- Unique and impressively detailed world
- Fun platforming and character movement
- Interesting characters
Things That Will Make You Hiss
- Relatively simple puzzles and gameplay mechanics
- Too short!
Stray is a diverse adventure game in a strange, dark setting, and you don't have to be a cat lover to enjoy it.