The last time I played a silent protagonist was when I played The Quiet Man, but he wasn’t a cute furry ginger cat; I’d probably have played more of the game if he was. Stray is part platformer, part adventure game where you control a cat that gets separated from his friends and ends up in a cyberpunk world, trying to navigate his way back to his gang of adorable strays.
If you’re a cat lover, you will fall in love with this game within moments. The first few minutes are spent getting cleaned, cuddling, play-fighting, and meowing back and forth with your cat friends. What follows is a lovely moment of wandering around a beautifully created world of overgrown trees, a world that Mother Nature has reclaimed. Soon though, everything excellent shatters, and you fall off a giant cliff ending up hurt and limping. I’m too attached to cats and felt at that moment I’d probably cry a lot throughout this game. You soon find yourself in a post-apocalypse cyberpunk-type world with no humans in sight, simply wandering for what feels endless. After a frightening chase and a fun puzzle, you find yourself making friends with a small robot named B-12, and my heart swelled with love when B-12 put his battery pack (a small vest) on me, and I flopped over as an actual cat would. From this point, B-12 becomes your adorable floating robot companion who hangs out in your backpack and helps with puzzles and talking to fellow robots. All of this is only the first section.
Stray is generally an entertaining game with a compelling story, and the fuzzy feeling that the beginning moments give me is not something many video games have managed. Being a cat brings me light-hearted joy that otherwise wouldn’t seem possible in this sometimes dark world. I love that there are moments that you’re simply supposed to enjoy without fighting or wandering- you play a game similar to basketball at one point. It’s actually just rolling a ball into a basket, but imagine a cat playing basketball, it’s adorable. There’s a dedicated meow button, so you must know there’s a trophy to meow 100 times. Can you imagine how many times I meowed? Because I lost count. I meowed at everything: the robots, as I scratched a carpet, at trees, because if I’m going to be a cat, I’m going to be a noisy cat! Being a small, nimble cat is confusing at first because you see bars that separate areas or tiny crawl spaces, and then you realize, ‘Oh, I’m a cat, I can just walk through these bars, I can crawl under the door’ It’s not something you’re used to when you’re always playing an upright humanoid character.
The futuristic soundtrack is beyond amazing. There are many video game soundtracks that I really enjoy, like The Last Of Us or Silent Hill 2, but this one might be hitting the top 10 for me. The music skips around between genres but always kind of keeps a good Sci-Fi feel to it. The sound design is even more beautiful, just listening to the pitter-patter of the cat’s paws on roofs or different objects falling is amazing; I think that’s why I knocked so many things over.
There are times the city is bleak, and then there are times it’s very colorful and filled with charming robot citizens to chat with despite the fairly dystopian situation around them. Once I found a complete robot, I talked to everyone regardless of whether they had to deal with the plot. This game made me really care too much about these robots and I liked watching the little faces they made. It was interesting that when I meowed near them, they could show different facial expressions, no matter if it was annoyance or surprise at seeing a cat, or hearts in their eyes. There’s so much to do, sometimes you’ll just be wandering and jumping around trying to solve puzzles, then sometimes you’re in an open world talking to people and enjoying the scenery, listening and taking in all the beauty.
One reason I was scared to play this game was that I didn’t want to see a cat die, and my biggest fear in most games is fall damage, so I thought, ‘Oh, I’m gonna trip with so much jumping and this cat will die,’ but there’s no fall damage in here. I don’t have to worry about taking a step too far off an air conditioner and falling to my death. That’s not to say the cat can’t die, but honestly, it’s pretty hard to kill the cat; he’s very hardy. I played so delicately because I wasn’t going to let this cat die- he meant the world to me and I looked at my own cat a lot throughout the game.
There are plenty of optional collectibles to keep anyone busy for hours, some can be right in front of you, or they can take you forever to find; there are some I still haven’t even found, and I was studying everything. My favorite was collecting sheet music for a musician bot because you can lay right next to him and listen to him play his music, and it adds exactly what is needed at that moment. You can spend at least 2 to 3 hours finding collectibles.
This game is really an experience game; nothing gets repetitive or feels like it’s being reused. It’s a new feeling through every chapter; in some chapters, you’ll have to do a specific thing and stick to that specific thing, but then you’ll move to a new chapter, and it has its own new mechanics so the specific thing that you did the last chapter doesn’t apply. I can say there’s always excitement, no matter if you’re being chased by small robot creatures called zerks, or in stealth sections where you’re hiding from security drones. You can do things that aren’t even needed because you’re a cat, like knocking over every single thing you see whether it makes the plot go on or simply because you wanna be a jerk cat.
The ending leaves something to be desired. It felt like it ended abruptly and left me a bit empty, but that’s entirely my personal opinion; you might feel a totally different way about it. I find the game so fascinating that I wish there were a bit more to it, like an extra chapter, being able to talk to robots more to find out extra lore, or more to do with B-12.
Stray is worth the price for a 5 to 7-hour game. It’s endearing, whether you’re scampering around, taking a nap on a cowboy, or just jumping from platform to platform, solving small puzzles. All in all, I find the game a solid 4/5. You’ll love this game if you like cats, platformers, and story-based games. If cats aren’t your thing, I would save your money for another game, maybe Nintendogs, if you’re into dogs more.
Stray was created by BlueTwelve Studio and can be played on Steam, PS4, and PS5.