Stray review: New PS4, PS5 and PC game is the cat’s pyjamas
The much-hyped cat game Stray is well worth checking out.
When Stray was first announced, the internet went wild. Everyone suddenly declared at once, “A game where you play as a cat? Yes, please!”
Pounce forward to today and Stray is about to come out on PS4, PS5 and PC, with PS Plus Extra and PS Plus Premium members getting the much-hyped game at no extra cost as part of their subscription.
The first game developed by BlueTwelve Studio, Stray will be published by the indie darlings Annapurna Interactive (Journey, Maquette, Kentucky Route Zero). The hype levels have remained incredibly high among fans of felines, but does the game live up to those lofty expectations? Keep on reading to find out!
The basic setup of Stray is that, yes, you play as a cat. This is no ordinary moggy, mind! After a short prologue that explains the basic controls, the unnamed player-character winds up being the only cat in a post-apocalyptic city that’s populated by maudlin robots. These mechanoids haven’t exactly found much joie de vivre since the downfall of man, and the only other life forms to be found are gross little slime balls evolved from ancient rubbish.
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To start with, you’ll only have your feline wiles to help you as you clamber through platforming segments, collect clues and solve puzzles to progress from area to area. It’s not long before the plot kicks into action, though, and you’re paired up with a helpful little drone named B-12 that will help you unlock doors, speak to the robots and store handy information.
Your mission, as it turns out, is to escape the city. This is trickier than it sounds, not least because this entire civilisation has been walled off from the wider world. It doesn’t help that most of the robots therein have given up hope of ever seeing ‘the outside’. Even the rebellious few that once dreamed of breaking free have long since given up hope. Until you come along in cat form, that is.
What follows is a delightfully varied gameplay experience. To start with, you might feel like all you’re doing is hopping between platforms along a pre-determined path. Although the cat character is adorable and loveable from the start (you can meow whenever you want, take naps and even nuzzle up to amenable robots), the gameplay experience could take more of a slow burn to win your affection.
Once the game slowly eases into itself, though, you’ll find yourself facing trickier puzzles and a host of quirky side quests, and you’ll also pick up a torch-like weapon that can blast those slime balls to hell. There are also horde-escaping segments where your only option is to leg it as the post-apocalyptic trash tries to eat you.
As the game unfurls, you’ll also find that the world around you gets more and more interesting. Much of the early action takes place in one down-trodden town, but eventually you’ll be climbing higher, meeting new characters, exploring more intriguing environments and witnessing some truly beautiful vistas.
The graphics are really impressive in places, and we only saw a handful of little glitches in our time with the game (ocassionally, B-12 would float through a wall, for example). This game is in great shape, and it’s really hard to find anything major to dislike about it.
A special shoutout should go to the audio, as well. B-12 speaks in a totally alien-sounding robot dialect, and the music is eerie and atmospheric in equal measure, helping to hammer home the emotional moments that are surprisingly frequent for a game about a cat.
Make no mistake – Stray is a brilliant game. It doesn’t outstay its welcome across 12 pacy chapters, but it continuously impresses as it serves up new ideas at every turn. Playing as a cat is great, of course, but Stray doesn’t slack off in any of its other areas. In fact, it’s one of the best games of the year so far. The cat's pyjamas, you could say.
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