Stray is one of those games where I saw the trailer and knew I would love it. The idea of exploring a large cybercity as a cat intrigued me, especially since it looked like you were playing as an ordinary stray cat and not a robotically enhanced one. How would a regular furbaby handle an environment like this? More importantly, how protective of said furbaby would I become while playing through the game? Well, the answer to that second question is extremely protective. The answer to the first question? Honestly, that answer is what makes Stray such a special adventure.
Lost, alone, and separated from family, a stray cat must untangle an ancient mystery to escape a long-forgotten city. Along the way, the cat befriends a small flying drone, known only as B-12. With the help of this newfound companion, the duo must find a way out.
At the end of the day, you’re just a cat
In Stray, you’ve been separated from your family of cats and are trying to reconnect with them. Along the way, you meet the robotic citizens of a decaying, cyber city that is the exact opposite of where you originally came from. By meeting B-12, you work to find a way out while uncovering the secrets of the city. The twist? You’re a cat.
That twist is what makes the game for me. You are going around, collecting items, gathering clues (or rather memories) of how things ended up the way they did as a cat, which means you go about the situation in a very cat-like way. This adds a level of charm I wasn’t expecting. I knew from the premise that I was a cat, but actually playing the game showed just how much work the developers put into the character. It’s heartwarming, and you really want to make sure nothing hurts the cat. At the same time… you’re kinda an asshole – like all cats are.
Yes, I was absolutely stressed out when I had to run away from the Zurks (little creatures that roam the street and who are able to eat robots). And yes, my heart melted whenever the cat rubbed against a robot and the robot displayed a heart emoji on its screen. But also? I laughed a lot more than I thought I would despite the bleak environment where the game takes place. That’s because the way you move around the game is exactly the way a cat would, which means you are gonna knock over a whole lot of shit. Intentionally. Need to get to a higher level and the only way is a stack of books? Well, jump on top of the books and make all of them fall over after you jump down. See those paint cans on that ledge? Knock them over and make a mess, don’t worry about the cleanup, you’re a cat. There was a moment when I was walking down an alley and ran in front of a wandering robot. You know what happened when I did that? The poor bot almost tripped over me!
It’s… exactly what my cats do to me. You really are just a cat. You are such a cat that one of my cats reacted to the game while I played it!
There are so many moments in the game that made me realize this. You press a button to meow and that causes certain things to react to you. You can find little spots to nap in and just… sleep. You try and get robots to open doors by scratching at them with your controller’s trigger buttons. It’s such a fun, unique way to approach a game with such a daunting premise. There are no humans, only robots. There are creatures scattering about that can devour everything in sight. And you? Well, you really hate the little backpack B-12 made you put on so you’re gonna whine and slink around real slow until you get used to wearing it. You’re also gonna bring Grandma material to knit something real nice.
As I played the game I knew there were bigger things going on. The thought of there being some lush, outside world is seen as an unrealistic dream. B-12 is uncovering memories that will probably unlock some devastating news. I could barely handle watching the cat try and shake off the Zurks, I know this game is gonna break my heart the further I get in it. At the same time… I can hit a button, curl up against a robot, and chill. The robots can’t even explain why they enjoy the cat’s company, they just… do! The world around them is so heavy, but now there’s a cat who’s just… gonna cat.
Do I want to know the greater mystery of the world? Yes. Have I been distracted by meowing at the camera and watching it actually NOD to acknowledge me? Also yes. From crawling into different homes, stepping over computer keyboards to make something happen, and knocking over empty bottles, Stray is one of the most memorable gaming experiences I’ve had this year.
Be sure to check out Stray today.
(Featured image: BlueTwelve Studio)
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