Cats have a knack for capturing your heart – even virtual ones. And BlueTwelve Studio’s adorable adventure game Stray does just that. If you’re anything like us, you’ve been curious about this game for long enough (and I hear that can be dangerous for cats). So let’s get straight into our Stray review.
It could be the quirky and magnificently realistic nature of the feline protagonist, or the unexpected beauty of the neon backlit alleyways. But Stray dug its claws into me from the very beginning, and it didn’t let go.
Stray is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Steam for $29.99.
Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world populated by sentient robots, the game begins as you tumble into a city completely surrounded by concrete walls. The city has been cut off from the outside world due to plague, leaving you trapped inside.
This crude quarantine situation leaves the city’s inhabitants to fend for themselves against an invasive species of massive mutated bacterium named Zurks. But don’t let their cute sounds fool you! The Zurks have evolved in the darkness to consume any living thing – organic or not. These Zurks create a man-eating barrier that can only be crossed by someone – or something as speedy and dexterous as a cat.
However, as the saying goes, it is dangerous to go alone. The lovable feline is joined by an equally adorable AI drone named B-12. And thus begins your quest to escape the impenetrable walls of the city and rejoin the outside world.
Witnessing the mysteries of B-12 and the walled city unravel like a ball of yarn is a roller coaster of emotions, but it is a ride I absolutely recommend going on.
Stray is one of many in a new trend of cat related games that seems to have hit the gaming scene, and we are all for it!
Stray is a story-heavy adventure composed of five chapters. It has an emphasis on puzzle solving, exploration, and platforming. You progress through the narrative by solving puzzles and traversing terrain using your expert kitty skills in stealth and speed.
There are also a number of memories to unlock. These belong to your AI drone companion B-12. Unlocking all of B-12’s memories isn’t necessary to complete the game, but his story is well worth hearing. You will unlock most of them by just progressing through the story, but several memories are hidden throughout the world and require a little more exploration to find them.
Figure it Out
The puzzles can be challenging, but they aren’t so difficult that you might find your controller hurtling towards the wall in a fit of frustration. Most of these puzzles are simple enough, requiring you to move certain objects around to reach higher places or finding hidden items by embracing your inner cat and knocking everything off shelves.
While some puzzles later on in the game require a little more thinking to figure out, most consist of finding a way to reach certain areas by manipulating the environment around you and can be easily solved with enough exploration.
Even though you play as a cat, Stray does require you to embark on a couple of fetch quests. Speaking to all of the NPCs and a healthy amount of bribery is usually all you need to find what you’re looking for.
The progression of Stray is very linear. There is a lot of platforming involved, but rather than having the ability to explore wherever your heart may take you, you can only access the areas you need to.
The platforming here is very unique. You can’t actually fall off any of the platforms in Stray. I found that this lends itself to the realism of the cat (they are ninjas after all). But it does mean that some may not consider it a ‘true’ platformer.
Rather than relying on your own platforming abilities, Stray prompts you to press X to make it to the next platform. The cat will jump without you needing to direct it in any way.
This makes for fast-moving and very fluid platforming, but it also keeps you in line. The X will only appear in certain places, making sure you stay on a linear path throughout the story.
You can turn the X prompt off in the settings if you prefer to play without any hints.
Run For Your 9 Lives
Platforming purists may resent the lack of control here and see it as a detriment to the game. But I found that it made the platforming extremely fluid and satisfying, especially in some of the more challenging platforming areas.
There are several times where you will have to outrun Zurks. These challenges are somewhat reminiscent of the chase sequences in Crash Bandicoot, and see you hurtling down dark alleyways at full speed to escape the man-and-robot-eating bacterium.
Follow the Light
Although the city is in complete darkness, it is brightly lit with neon-colored lights.
I found that these lights played a pivotal role in the game, subtly leading you throughout your adventure. If I ever got lost in the sprawling alleyways that make up the city, I easily found my way by following the lights.
This is a perfect example of the nature of Stray. The puzzles aren’t obvious by any means, but the clues are all around you if you know where to look. The difficulty is perfectly balanced.
Release Your Inner Ninja
I’m quite certain that most cats have a PHD in stealth, and Stray sees you put these skills to the test. There are a couple of times throughout the story where you are required to just bolt away from Zurks in an insane frenzy. Some enemies however, require a little more thought.
There are stealth sequences in Stray. These are required to evade the other enemies in the game: drones. These have a wide field of vision and move methodically, causing you to judge their movements before making a run for it.
Graphics and Sound
Stray is an expertly crafted adventure. The graphics are rendered beautifully in a vibrant and realistic art style, and the soundscape is perfectly utilised to evoke the emotions of the story.
The soundtrack is industrial, complementing its surroundings perfectly. But it also builds suspense when necessary, influencing your emotions to fit whatever situation you find yourself in.
The extremely unsettling, bassy tones that surround enemies suitably increase your stress levels by approximately one thousand, while the music in the city leaves you bopping your head along with the hologram dancers. I must say, there are some real bangers in this soundtrack!
Stray is a near flawless experience that performs wonderfully with no noticeable frame rate drops or pop-in of assets. I only experienced one graphical error throughout my entire playthrough involving a mysterious disembodied scarf.
But other than that, my entire experience was unhindered by any performance dips. I was completely immersed from the beginning and remained so for the entire time.
The visual fidelity and general performance of the game are further enhanced by the Dualsense controller’s haptic feedback. This pushed the realism of the adventure to the next level and added so much charm to the experience of playing as a cat.
Subtle touches such as purring emanating from the controller drew me even further into the game. And this brings me to one of my favourite parts of the game: scratching things!
BlueTwelve Studios studied the mannerisms of our feline companions closely to bring as much realism as possible to the protagonist, and they did an incredible job.
I found myself engaging in all of the endearing behaviours of our furry friends. Almost instinctually, I would find myself compelled to claw at every surface I could – just like a real cat.
The haptic feedback increases the resistance of the triggers as you destroy carpets and couches. It is incredibly satisfying. I almost can’t be mad at my cat anymore for destroying my furniture now that I’ve had a taste of how good it feels!
To Sum It Up
Stray is a short but incredibly sweet adventure. The story is thought-provoking and emotional, and the gameplay is fluid and incredibly satisfying.
My only complaint is that I wish it was longer. Stray takes about 8 hours to complete, with an extra 1-2 hours for completionists. I loved my time in the game so much that I didn’t want it to end.
Stray was created by cat lovers, for cat lovers. BlueTwelve Studios poured every ounce of love they have for their furry feline companions into this game. The ginger tabby cat in question is even modelled after the developer’s own cat – Murtaugh! Stray is a true passion project. So much love and effort have been put into making it the incredible adventure game that it is, and it truly shows.
If you have been unsure about getting this game, hopefully our Stray review has helped you decide to give it a go. You can purchase Stray for just $29.99 which is half the cost of most full games. Alternatively, you can even get it for free with the PlayStation Plus Deluxe or Premium packages. So you really have nothing to lose!
Stray was reviewed on the PlayStation 5 with a review code provided by Fortyseven Communications.