Stray follows a stray cat traversing a world populated by machines, deadly viruses, and what seem to be other stray cats. Brought to gamers by Annapurna Interactive and developed by BlueTwelve Studio, this adorable third-person (or should I say ‘third-feline’) adventure game is sure to warm players’ hearts. The game is set in a futuristic city taking inspiration from the walled city of Kowloon – worth a bit of research if you’re interested in architecture or history. The team behind Stray made sure to do their own research into the movement of cats and their behaviors to bring us a realistic experience. Join us at VIBE as we review and explore this highly anticipated game, now available on PS4, PS5 and Windows.
A Futuristic Post-Apocalyptic World
Stray is set in a future where it appears that humans are a relic of the past. The player must navigate a treacherous city inhabited by robots called ‘companions’, seeking to reconnect with their feline family. The player will soon learn that a devastating plague of monsters named the Zurk are rife in the cities, consuming everything they encounter, including robots and cats. The mystery of the Zurk, the robot companions, and the underworld cities is something that will grip players from the very beginning.
The story is easily one of the best parts of the game. It’s clear that it was given a great deal of thought and it’s easy for the inquisitive player to get drawn in. It’s essential to understand when experiencing Stray that the story is a main focus. I won’t spoil too much, but things aren’t always what they seem.
The companions are an intriguing part of the world of Stray. Companions are found throughout the world, all with different personalities and stories to tell. Interacting with them will give the player new insight into the environment and the story. Not all of them will be friendly. Some may be hostile towards our feline friend. But despite this, the companions are no real threat. The cat can often snuggle into their legs or lie beside them to nap. A great aspect of the companions is their ability to show their emotions through a computer screen in place of a face. The cat will get an emotive reaction when meowing, purring, or just walking by.
The cat mechanics in the game are outstanding. The cat behavior is on point. One of my favorite moments from the game was when the cat had a paper bag on its head, sending it into a frenzy and inverting the player’s controls. The cat can meow, purr, scratch objects, and jump from really high areas. The cat also avoids any type of water. All this creates an exemplary feline experience. If you love cats, this game is a must-play. Even better if you have a feline companion at home.
Threats To Our Favorite Feline
Stray may seem like an idyllic experience, but there are enough threats that the player may have to test the ‘nine lives’ theory. The aforementioned Zurk will stop at nothing to consume our little furball. The player must be fast and quick-witted to evade them, which creates some fast-paced chase scenes, infusing the game with a dose of excitement and adrenaline. While Zurks are the only lethal threats to the cat, they aren’t the only threats, which brings us to our next section.
Sentinels controlled by the mysterious powers-that-be often patrol restricted areas of the game. The player must utilize their espionage skills and sneak around them. Upon sighting the player, the sentinels will fire a variety of bullets and then detain the poor kitty. Stealth makes a great addition to the game. It means that the player has to exercise patience and planning.
Every part of the world is aesthetically pleasing. Strong visuals amplify the post-apocalyptic and dystopian vibe. The color palette is largely the same throughout, with dark greens, oranges, and browns, bringing a distinctive character to the environment. The graphics and art style are unique, while using next-gen capabilities to their fullest. I primarily played on the PS5, and the world looked beautiful and captivating from start to finish.
The soundtrack is unique and quirky. The music fits in with the world of robots and industrialized cities. The player can also seek out their own sounds by doing a quest for a companion. Whilst traversing through the first city, “The Slums”, the cat finds a friend. This friendly robot asks for sheet music, offering in turn to grace us with his artistic talents. I made it my mission to seek out the music sheets and snuggle up next to the companion as he played. It was an incredibly fun aspect of the game and I recommend everyone do the same.
It’s true that the game can be played through in its entirety in one sitting. However, as the old saying goes, “Quality, not Quantity,” and Stray delivers quality. The story, the world, the characters, the gameplay – everything serves for a fantastic experience. This game is for players of all varieties, and for gamers who enjoy various genres. It’s clear that any player will find something to like. It leaves players keen for any sequels or other developments from the same studio. It’s clear that other players, like myself, were not phased by the length. The length of this game may be one of its strengths.
The game is teeming with Easter eggs and references. Pay attention, and let us know here at VIBE if you find any! My personal favorite was helping a companion character named Doc who was exactly like Doc from Back To The Future. Pictured above, you can see the companion looks like Doc, and his “son” with the orange down vest and blue jeans looks just like Marty McFly. Easter eggs are always fun, and Stray does a great job making players go “OOH!”
Firstly, I would like to extend a warm thank-you to everyone who joins us here at VIBE. Your support is appreciated. Stray is one of the best games to grace our platforms in a while. A cat, a good story, and other exciting aspects have earned it a resounding 9.5 here! However, if you’re still unsure on whether to play, why not check out the announcement trailer below? Check out the game on Steam and on Playstation. Right now, players can play Stray for free if they have PlayStation Plus Premium. Now, excuse me while I go convince my partner that we need a cat in our life.
26, Indie Game connoisseur. Also a hamster mum, fiancée & working in the addiction field. Gaming and writing are my escape and comfort for when the world gets too much!