Stray Review

Photo from Steam

Photo from Steam

Sierra Donis (she/her), Editor

Stray, a platform adventure and indie game, opens up a giant concrete playground of a Cyberpunk city to your character, a cat. Released in July of 2022 to the Playstation 4, Playstation 5, and Windows, developed by BlueTwelve Studio and published by Annapurna Interactive, this delightful feline narrative purr-suades its players with its charming concept and stellar atmospheric gameplay. 


Following your character and your robot drone companion and acting translator–B12–you are tasked with scaping the decaying city of robot citizens to uncover its mysteries and get back to your home on the surface world. Stray has a short runtime of five hours, but you’re immersed in the plot for every second. Trekking through the bustling cyber city or its eerie underbelly as a cat is a concept worth exploring, and Stray proves it. Breathtaking visuals drenched in neon lights and orchestrated by a mix of electronic sounds created a tone that anyone can love. From the fluorescent glow of the littered alleyways to the mere pitter-patter of your paws on steel, Stray’s graphics and sound really are the cat’s meow. 


Yet, the contrast and contradiction of Stray’s two main concepts are what keep the players hooked to its compelling story by its claws, and sets it apart from other games. A lighthearted and furry-soft cat in the dark and dreary underground Cyberpunk city full of robot inhabitants. The physical interactions that come with these two ideas are fascinating, and can really relate to all cat owners alike. Knocking over paint cans, mauling carpets, rubbing up against a robot’s leg, or causing mischief in any way possible; Stray offers a variety of entertaining mechanics to keep you busy. It’s completely absurd, and that’s what makes it so enticing to its players.

Photo from Steam

A prominent issue in Stray was the non-physical interactions between your feline character and the robot characters. It felt glossed over, almost like you being a cat did not matter to the conversation whatsoever, and as if it was a normal conversation and daily occurrence for the automated residents. These two aspects of Stray didn’t land on its feet as well as others, since the story and writing didn’t feel like they matched with your furry protagonist.  


However, this issue is generally covered-up with well-crafted adorable characters and backed up with amazing visual body language and expressions. The TV heads of the robot characters lighting up with hearts and expressions or erratic yet smooth body animations make up for the partially dull dialogue. The partnership between your character and B12 is also another delightful and heartwarming addition to the game, even though you–as a cat–can’t directly interact with your drone companion. These aspects partnered with interesting and silly side item-hunting quests can create a bond between you and some of the droid denizens of the cyber city.

Photo from Steam

When we talk about a platforming game, we typically think about a certain high level of difficulty. Games like Super Mario Maker, Hollow Knight, Celeste, and much more, pose a level of challenge to players with problem-solving and difficult parkour. Yet, Stray particularly contrasts this concept; almost too much. Stray has set movements and platforms you can get to with ease, but not much freedom or control. The only real difficulty is finding where you are supposed to move to, all you have to do is press a button and you’re there. It has a “no-risk, no-reward” effect, and this nimble cat-based game felt like it could’ve used more flexibility in its platforming mechanics. 


Stray prides itself on showing an extremely realistic depiction of a house cat, and it does a great job of the portrayal. The behavior of your feline character is perfect, but movement animations had their problems at times. There are moments when leaping from wall to wall is perfect, and others where it felt stiff and forced. It seemed like a fixable problem when it comes to animation, but it came down to feeling rough around the edges upon release. 


Yet, Stray does shine when it comes to changes in gameplay. Each area has a new posed threat that introduces new tools and puzzles for you to solve. From blowing up squishy yet hostile alien creatures known as “Zurks”, to a stealth aspect of nimbly hiding from security cameras. Stray presents a wide variety of mechanics paired with distinguished chapters of the game, and always brings something new to the table. 

Photo from Steam

Stray gives us a breath of fresh air with a unique yet lovable concept that anyone can get around. Even though gameplay could occasionally feel rigid when it came to animation and slightly monotonous in the execution of dialogue, you can still find yourself indulging in leaping from rooftop to rooftop, enjoying the moving story, or just causing pure chaos in all the mechanics the game offers. Stray capitalizes on all nine of its lives and is a whisker away from being one of the best and most charming indie games of the year, making it well worth the anticipation. 


Verdict: 8/10