[REVIEW] Stray – The Cat’s Meow

Cats are assholes. They ruin your interior solely because they feel like it and sleep when they are not. Except when you’re sleeping (or trying to), then they’re definitely not sleeping. And even though the world has unanimously decided that cats are egotistical, non-compliant, homewrecking bastards, we also love them to bits. Therefore, creating a game like Stray – in which you play one of those selfish furballs – can be a stroke of genius when executed right. In that respect, the Frenchies at BlueTwelve are truly geniuses.

On paper, Stray sounds like a dead-ass boring game. You play a cat, which has no name and no real significance at the start of the story. Tip-toeing through an empty, overgrown world, you do what cats do; very little. You walk around, jump on things, annoy other cats, and meow on command. Not really the most exciting start, honestly.

It’s when you get separated from the clowder (a group of cats, if you’re wondering) that things start to get interesting. After licking your wounds and catching your bearings, it becomes clear that the peaceful grounds you were once treading on, are gone. Instead, a dark, industrial, neon-filled underworld filled with robots is now your domain. But you couldn’t care less about this world. All you want to do is go back up. But that is easier said than done. That’s a quest taken by many others, all of whom have failed.

Suddenly, those boring gameplay mechanics serve a higher purpose. Even though Stray hardly challenges you with its controls and actions, it still keeps you drawn in, weirdly enough. Where other games lose the attention of the player if it doesn’t stir things up regularly, Stray works on you like catnip. Because honestly, all you do is walk around, jump up on things (to traverso or interact), meow, solve a puzzle or two, and “talk” to robots about robot stuff.

In fact, the talking is not even done by you. You’re a cat and cats don’t talk. Instead, the “talking” (a.k.a noise-making) is done by a found drone, B12. But I guess it’s the connection between B12 and you that makes things tick. Drones often seem to have that effect in games, as proven by Jedi: Fallen Order. During your 4-hour adventure in the Slums, figuring out B12’s past becomes a part of the encompassing story. As you converse with the robotic residents of the Slum, each with their own circuits to fry, you start piecing together what’s going on down there. Your trip to the surface slowly turns into an adventure in which you -this feline asshole – are turning into a savior. And it’s that balance between selfish cat behavior and your ability to save a forgotten city while doing it that makes Stray work so well.

It also helps that Stray looks absolutely gorgeous. The cat itself might look a little glonky (animating animals is a bitch, I know), but the world looks breathtaking. Whether it’s the luscious greens you start in or the cyberpunkish Slums you fall into, BlueTwelve has really outdone itself on the environmental design . Admittedly, Stray isn’t purrrfect (sorry, it had to be done). Minor bugs and glitches do occur. There are cases of clipping and collision detection here and there. Plus, button prompts can be a bit finicky at times. But those mistakes can easily be forgiven.

So basically, Stray really does deserve to be called a cat simulator. It does a fine job of reflecting a cat’s life. At first, it comes across as boring, tedious, and pointless. You know, walking around and being annoying. But if you give it some time, Stray springs to life and even lets you go after some pesky critters. And after four hours or so, it’ll let you be. It’ll grant you some time to snooze it off. Because that’s what cats do after going through other people’s stuff, knocking over shit, and subsequently saving the day.

The Frenchies at BlueTwelve know our desire of being annoying and giving zero fucks. That’s why Stray is almost purrrfect in every way.

Stray was reviewed on PlayStation 5

(Almost) Purrrfect
The Cat's Whiskers
You get to knock over tons of shit and not care whatsoever
The collab between you and your drone just works wonderfully
The story goes deeper than you might expect
The environment - above and below ground - looks paw-licking good
You have a dedicated 'meow' button. Nuff said.
The Clawful
With 4 hours of play, Stray is quite short
Minor bugs and glitches can make you hiss
I think the cat looks weird