“Stray” video game review: The cat’s meow

In most video games, you’re playing as some sort of powerful character; a warrior that rises against impossible odds. 

But within “Stray,” publisher Annapurna Interactive’s newest release, you’re playing the role of a tiny, four-legged ball of charm exploring a stagnant, ruinous world. There’s danger around every corner, but plenty of friendly faces to help you along the way as you unravel a mystery that can shake the world.

BlueTwelve Studios have crafted a believable, engaging world for you to explore through the eyes of a humble stray cat. Even though it stumbles at certain points, “Stray” is a genuinely entertaining and charming game. 

A gorgeous, neon-streaked future

The underground city you’ll be exploring in Stray. | Image courtesy of Annapurna Interactive

“Stray’s” world is gorgeous. The graphical fidelity on display is impressive, displaying incredible work by BlueTwelve’s tech team. Among the dozens of interpretations of cyberpunk futures, “Stray” is able to take inspiration from the most well-known and make it unique. The underground city where the game takes place is well realized, brimming with color and personality. 

Neon signs are plastered everywhere, painting garish scenery that is reminiscent of our own massive cities. The slums you explore have less neon but are still bustling with robot inhabitants that hang out in bars, clean the streets, sell clothes, and even meditate. 

They’re all lovingly animated and designed, ensuring that no robot citizen looks the same. 

The protagonist itself is the most lovingly designed cat to ever exist in a video game. From the look to the animations, “Stray’s” furry hero is what any future game featuring a cat should aspire to be. 

Inspired by some cats that belonged to members of the team, the leading feline of Stray moves and looks the part for the entire game. 

Tail to remember

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B-12 meets the cat protagonist for the first time. | Image courtesy of Annapurna Interactive

At the beginning of the game, your cat (player character) is enjoying a relaxing day with its fellow feline friends.  

A sudden mishap sends the cat plummeting from the sunny surface world into the secluded underground city. Soon after meeting B-12—the robot companion that serves as the player’s inventory space—the two are pulled into a gripping tale. 

Throughout “Stray’s” runtime, the game muses on humanity’s legacy and what preserving that entails. While not the most original theme in a cyberpunk story, it is presented well and benefits from the unique setting where it takes place. 

Unfortunately, the story might not be as compelling if you can’t suspend your disbelief and accept that a cat would help an entire civilization with its issues. The cat never talks, so all of the dialogue in the game is conveyed to the player by B-12. 

This will probably be the most contentious aspect of the game’s story. The cat sometimes reacts as if it could comprehend what the other characters are talking about. If you can’t accept the absurdity of the story’s protagonist, then you won’t be able to invest yourself as easily. 

Softer than a ball of yarn

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One of the many ruined parts of the underground that you will explore. | Image courtesy of Annapurna Interactive

Challenge is not Stray’s forte, which will turn away anyone who looks for difficulty in their video games. You’re not Mario stomping on enemies and jumping on platforms; you’re a cat that can leap across pipes and rooftops by simply holding down one button. 

Your feline hero can’t fall down chasms or off of rooftops, so crossing dizzying heights isn’t dangerous. 

Any difficulty in the game comes from the many puzzles you need to solve and the few enemy encounters that are in the game. The puzzles hearken back to the days of point-and-click adventure games, where you need to find objects or keys to proceed. 

Maybe you need to find an outfit for a character so that they can sneak through a restricted area. Other times you’ll need to use your qualities as a cat to distract someone or to create a path to proceed. That might mean knocking over an object or meowing at the right time to grab someone’s attention. 

Feel like a clever feline

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The derelict ruins of a once bustling city. | Image courtesy of Annapurna Interactive

“Stray” does mix up its formula by including explorable environments where you can interact with other characters and find collectibles. They are nice distractions that don’t serve the gameplay in any meaningful way, but they do give players more context for the story and characters.

Action is still present in the game, by way of introducing chase sequences where you have to run away from Zurks, the alien antagonists in the game. These sequences are thrilling and engaging, especially when compared to the stealth sequences you’re forced into at certain points.

During a specific portion of the game, there are moments where you have to hide from a group of enemies. While keeping in spirit with being a cat, these parts of the game don’t feel as satisfying as the chases and the puzzle solving do. Mercifully, they are short and only appear towards the end of the game. 

Always landing on its feet

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One of many spots where you can sit your cat down and take a nice nap. | Image courtesy of Annapurna Interactive

“Stray” might feel like a mere novelty for some, but as another entry in the world of cinematic games, it does well to stand out. 

Playing as a cat is an obvious draw and controlling them can be fun most of the time. Despite having some moments that aren’t as engaging as the chases and puzzles, the game never feels overlong. You’re likely to finish it in a couple of hours if you ignore the extra content on offer and go straight through the main game.

If you’re a cat lover, know that “Stray” is a love letter to your furry friends that hasn’t existed until now. This video game offers all the joy of being a cat wrapped up in one little package that is sure to satisfy if you’re looking for an engaging and emotional story. 

Stray is available on PC and PlayStation 4/5 for $29.99.

You can reach Eloin Barahona-Garciaat eloin@beaconmedianews.com

This news is republished from another source. You can check the original article here

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