If you love cats, you’re gonna love this game.
A 2022 adventure game, developed by BlueTwelve Studio and published by Annapurna Interactive, takes you on an adventure with our little orange tabby who just happens to be separated from its clowder and fall into a walled city populated by robots, machines, and mutant bacteria known as the Zurks, and sets out to return to the surface with the help of a drone companion, B-12.
Stray is definitely a one-of-a-kind game, with a unique and refreshing take on a cat, instead of a fictional human or humanoid object, that allows players to experience the world from a cat’s perspective. The game’s world is beautifully rendered and full of detail, and the cat’s movements are fluid and realistic.
But the best part is, the cat has a button to meow.
Players can interact with the environment in a way that cats would do, such as scratching carpets, knocking over objects, and sleeping on pillows. Most of the interactions are just gimmicks, but some are required to progress through the game (knocking over planks to cross buildings, for example).
The game’s plot is easy to follow and quite engaging. The cat is separated from its family and must find a way to return to them. Along the way, our orange tabby encounters a variety of interesting characters, including robots, machines, mutated bacteria, and enemy drones. Depending on how much the players explore the world, they will also uncover past histories of the place, including the last trace of humankind, and what happened to them. As the players unfold more of the story, they also explore some interesting themes, such as companionship, loss, and the importance of family.
Stray is not a difficult game. Players can easily pick up the game and progress through the story without much effort. But of course, some areas can be tricky to clear, but they are doable. In Stray, our orange tabby explores the Walled City 99, which is divided into six main areas to explore and progress: the lower level (the Slum), the SafeZone, the Sewers, the Upper Level, the Jail, and the Control Room.
Players must solve puzzles, and platforms, and avoid enemies in order to progress. The game’s puzzles are generally well-designed and not too difficult to solve. The platforming can be challenging at times, but it is fair and rewarding. The players will most likely find themselves spending a lot of time exploring rather than frustratingly trying to figure out the puzzles and platforms in the game, which is good. The game’s enemies are not particularly difficult to deal with, but they can be an actual threat if players let themselves be swarmed.
I decided to give Stray a try, and I absolutely loved it. Here are a few things that I genuinely found heartwarming and fun when playing the game.
You Get to Interact with The World the Way a Cat Does.
One of the things that makes Stray so unique is its perspective. Players control the game from the perspective of a cat, which gives them a whole new way to interact with the world. For example, players can jump onto objects, climb shelves, and scratch carpets. They can also interact with other beings in the game, which can lead to some funny and heartwarming moments. I found myself meowing to the locals in the slum more than a few times because they actually react to meows. Some of them will give out heart reactions, some with question marks—overall, it’s fun that the developers take this into account.
There’s also a fun detail that most cat owners can relate to; players can trip walking Companions (the humanoid robots) by walking or running up in between their legs. I was testing the limits of how much I could be an Oyen (a menace) to the locals there, and apparently, the developers cut no expenses in making sure you are controlling the tabby.
There’s more, but I’ll leave it to you to find out.
The World is Beautiful.
For an indie game, Stray has done tremendously with designing the world that revolves around our orange tabby. The game greets players with our Oyen with its family coming in a tunnel, sheltering from the rain. As the rain subsides, they take off as the players can gauge what’s happening around them, judging by the greenery that took over the human infrastructure. It’s beautifully rendered and full of detail.
It doesn’t end there. The game’s environments are varied and interesting, and the city itself is a fascinating place to explore. As they progress through the game, players will visit a variety of different locations: the Dead City, the SafeZone, the Sewers, and more as they progress. Different areas have a unique look to them, and they can (and will) bring out emotions in the players.
The Slum or the SafeZone, for example, gives this eerie feeling that while they are safe, they are stuck there for good. The Antvillage, on the other hand, feels welcoming. The players are free to stay for as long as they wish before continuing on their journey to Midtown.
Feel free to take a nap, too. There are various places you can take a nap as you put down the controller and enjoy the scenery (or record them for a free Stray screensaver). As the camera pans around, the players are treated to a fascinating scenery of different areas of the game, which definitely makes you feel it’s worth every penny spent.
The Key Attraction Lured in Players, but the Engaging Story Kept the Players in.
It’s possible that we buy and play Stray because of the chance of playing as a cat. There are plenty of games that revolve around Feline (e.g., Cat Simulator on Play Store), but none were as polished or had true effort put into as much as Stray. We all can admit that when the trailer was released, everyone was hooked on the cat alone, and that was the driving force for the people to buy the game.
It’s not a bad thing. But the story definitely keeps the players in. Because of how we would easily empathise with the cat (mostly due to our unconditional love towards cats in general), players follow the story studiously, unravelling chapter by chapter just to see the ending for our beloved cat here—can we get a good ending? Is our tabby going to have a bad ending? It’s the driving motivation for the players to keep playing.
Along the way, the players will encounter a variety of interesting characters (besides the cats)—some of which will help the players out on their journey (in favour of doing something for them, of course). The story, whilst simple, keeps the players engaged throughout their playthrough of the game, and it’s often hard for them to lose track of what to do, or what the plot is about.
The game’s characters are also well-developed and likeable. Our Oyen itself is a lovable protagonist, and B-12 is a helpful and witty companion. The other characters in the game are also memorable, such as the mysterious Zbaltazar and the friendly Momo.
Go Ahead and Try It Out.
Stray’s overall presentation is just a chef’s kiss. BlueTwelve Studio had no business developing a game that would leave such an effect on those who have played the game. The game’s graphics, sound design, level and character designs, the story, and the performance are all top-notch. Plus, the ending of the game leaves the players wanting for more to uncover.
The characters are well-developed and likeable. The puzzles are well-designed and the platforming is fair and rewarding. It’s too bad that, since it’s an Indie game, it’s almost glossed over by so many more of us out there. Regardless, the game made it quite successful, with over $57 million in sales within the first month of its release.
It’s currently on Steam for RM63.99 for those who wish to give the game a try. Or, you can wait for the Winter sale and get a bargain. But I assure you, it’s worth every bit of your money.
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