PS4, PC, PS5
July 19, 2022
Trapped in a world you don’t understand and incidentally involving yourself in grand mysteries and emotive stories—Stray is a title brimming with personality as it bounces between moments of playfulness, glee, sorrow, and deep intrigue. A fabulously unique and captivating narrative/exploration game, there’s a lot to love in this feline adventure.
Stray depicts a grim cyber-future devoid of human life. The majority of the game takes place in an enclosed and quarantined zone that’s home to both friendly robots and not-so-friendly creatures ready to swarm and devour anything that moves. You play as an unnamed stray cat who’s fallen to the depths of this dangerous and sunless quarantine zone. As an outsider, your presence is unusual, but the cautious robotic inhabitants eventually warm up to your adorable existence as you move through the decaying cities in an attempt to make your way back to your former home.
The trash-filled slums in the centre eventually make way for more neon-soaked cityscapes as you move through the perilous and mysterious environment you’ve found yourself in. The game’s world is rich and fascinating, and whilst it may not have the depth of other cyberpunk fiction, the atmosphere created is genuinely palpable. Discovering the origin of the hostile creatures and slowly unpacking details of this world is richly engrossing. And your role as what is essentially an innocent and voiceless protagonist, not intelligent enough to grasp the full reality of this bleak and class-divided society, makes you the puurfect vessel for passive and unintentional discovery.
“For a game completely devoid of human characters, the humanity found within Stray’s personal tales and bonds is staggering.”
For a game completely devoid of human characters, the humanity found within Stray’s personal tales and bonds is staggering. Most notable is B-12, a flying droid companion who accompanies you on your quest, hacking doors, communicating with the inahbitants on your behalf, and providing context for the world you find yourself in. B-12 also comes with their own personal story that’s just so much more evocative than it has any right to be. Told slowly over the course of the game through unlocked memories, you’ll quickly discover your metallic pals are full to the brim with heart.
Stray’s gorgeous visuals, incredible sound design, and meticulous animations do a lot of work in bringing this creation to life. The beauty of a decaying and forgotten city is captured flawlessly, from the rain-soaked rooftops to the littered alleyways down below. The accompanying music always brings a sense of mystery, beautifully capturing the feeling of overwhelming unknown as your tiny feline character explores a world too big for them in so many different ways.
I also challenge anybody who plays not to be enamoured by the true-to-life cat animations found within. Stray so effortlessly charms without words through simple and elegant touches. Even the coldest of hearts would be instantly warmed when they watch as our stray cuddles up onto the chest of a napping droid or walks around uncontrollably when their curiosity causes a paper bag to get stuck on their head. The game is full of these simple yet heartening touches that’ll keep you smiling throughout. Occasional clipping or animation glitches may take you out of the moment, but it’s a mighty small issue compared to the game’s typical visual triumphs.
“Stray so effortlessly charms without words through simple and elegant touches.”
Stray is largely a narrative adventure title with players exploring an intriguing world from a unique perspective. Gameplay segments involve some fairly controlled platforming, light puzzle-solving, some stealth-ish mechanics that largely involve avoiding enemy vision cones, and a “combat” sequence that’s honestly nothing special.
The gameplay is light but it’s all a game like this needs. It allows the story, ambience, and exploration to take centre stage without much distraction. And even then the gameplay that is involved is largely very smart and integrated neatly into the feline premise. Leaping from ventilation systems to pipes as you scale buildings throughout the city is just fun. It allows exploration to be both horizontal as well as vertical, giving literal and figurative dimension to the environments. I found myself lost in the game’s cityscapes, soaking in the atmosphere and finding all the cool interactions that were possible in each and every nook and cranny.
Puzzle-solving in Stray is always thematic, so whilst there’s a simplicity to the game’s puzzles, I also really respected the design. Knocking things off high places, scratching at surfaces, and rolling around in empty oil drums are just some of the cheeky tasks you’ll find yourself conducting. Nothing felt out of place or unnatural, helping the game to strengthen its identity and add personality to every simple interaction. A dedicated ‘meow’ button certainly helps this cause as well.
As for the objectives you have to complete, they’re equally well-implemented in the world. I really like how you’re not given quest markers or any kind of obtrusive UI element or menu that takes you out of the experience. Instead, the game is just well designed and fun enough that it encourages you to naturally find the answers on your own. The tasks you complete do frequently fall into the ‘fetch-quest’ category, which can feel a little uninspired and repetitious by the end, however, even this is fairly easily forgiven considering the limitation of a cat protagonist.
- Surprisingly touching and evocative storylines
- An amazing audiovisual experience
- A game played from a unique and captivating perspective
- A rich and mysterious world to uncover
- Tasks can feel a little fetch-questy
A lusciously dense world of natural beauty colliding with cyber-future grimness is ready to be explored from a uniquely tiny perspective. Stray tells a surprisingly emotional tale that instantly grips during its opening moments and doesn’t relent until its closing scene. A standout release so far this year, Stray proves to be so much deeper than just a cat adventure game.