Stray Review (PC): A visual spectacle of Love, Cats, and Robots

Stray, featuring the player as a cat. You can play Stray for free on Day one via PS PLUS

This adventure platformer follows the mishaps of a cat that (you guessed it!) “strayed” from its clowder. From BlueTwelve Studio and Annapurna Interactive, the indie breakout game came out of nowhere and took the gaming community into a frenzy.

Stray has taken over the meme world and has shifted the mainstream paradigm of open-world games to a fresh new perspective.

The build-up and hype may not have swept everyone. However, there’s no denying it, the game has made its name for itself, like a cat walking on fresh cement.

Meowing on the first few minutes

The game was not a quick win in its first hour. Much like any tutorials in an open world, it gives the player an orientation of the basics; from jumping, scratching, and yes, even purring.

This is reminiscent of Sypro (yes, I’m talking to you, Millennials), only, that you’re not a fire-breathing purple dragon. Instead, you’re a fuzzy ginger cat with springboard hinds.

It introduces you to this dystopian environment as you stride along the concrete jungles of a combination of pipes, platforms, and beams to get from point A to point B. Without spoiling much of it, you get separated from your gang and the adventure begins!

You start in what looks like a back alley of a cyberpunk world as you jump across hurdles while monitors and neon lights guide you to where you need to go. You get to knock over paint cans because you’re a cat. That’s why. Some are part of the gameplay; some are just for our satisfaction.  

You get immersed into the mechanoids that seem to inhabit this territory. The game also makes you run for your fur against these tick-like creatures. They look like those little nightmare baby head crabs from Half-Life. After that, the game starts to be a bit more challenging as it literally pushes you to interact with elements of the location.

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From leaning on plywood, sitting on buckets, and pulling out batteries. The game lets you be a cat with an engineering degree. After completing some puzzles, you get your own personal Aku-Aku. The game obviously borrows some game elements from renowned classics and takes them all for a ride, cat style.

Cat’s out of the bag, the unpopular opinion.

Stray Gameplay

Nitpicking though, if you’re someone seasoned with Cyberpunk 2077, Fallout 4, and other games with a cyberpunk(ish) aesthetic, you may find the visuals – mundane.

The transition from a lush green locale to a dark damp bustle-of-a-place has been a trope too often used in this dystopian-like storytelling. The tutorial itself treats the player like a toddler starting its way to walking.

Its simplistic approach to game mechanics seems to be its way of straying (heh) from the common approach of many to mashing buttons, like doing a fatality in Mortal Kombat. It gets points for it though, but to a lot of us, it could be interpreted as an insult to our combo-streaking fast hands.

It’s not exactly rocket science, it’s a cat trying to get back to its clowder. Depending on how much you are invested in-game mechanics of jumping, pausing to look at your surroundings, and jumping again, the grind may start to be tedious at some point. It does offer challenges in increments but again, may fall short for the experienced players.

It has some moments where you’d be “oh, so that’s where I need to go.” to almost just jumping from one platform to another out of reflex. The Zerks (those oversized ticks that jump at you, like face huggers in Alien) serve as a change of pace from your unhurried quest to find your gang.

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On the surface, they appear to be a challenge, but tactics like varying your pace from running to brisk walking or just going on zig-zags seem to alleviate the pesky problem. It never really seems to reach the point of panic to the player. Although, it does become taxing, and to a certain extent, annoying. If that was the goal of the developers, then three cheers to them!

It does pick up the pace in the third chapter. The puzzles become more complex, up to a point where you start thinking, this is probably the cleverest tubby cat to ever be simulated. The addition of your interactions with the Companions becomes a breath of fresh air from your soloist escapade.

Your personal translator, B12 also starts becoming this useful buddy that helps you navigate through tasks given by androids. From spreading mischief like knocking bottles on top of the head of NPCs and, you know, just being a cat, to collecting music sheets and helping out the denizens of the community, the game starts to feel alive and organic.

It broadens the immersion of the player through its world-building and strategic shooting (yep, you read that right, the cat fights back), and provided that your device can handle it, the graphics become more engaging.

If you’re not planning to speed run the game like Super Mario Bros., you would likely reach the credits roll within 4-5 hours. This is where it would likely fall short for most of us. The playability (and re-playability) of a game is a leading factor for players to make it sound like it’s well worth the buck.

READ MORE: HOW TO PLAY STRAY FOR FREE

Stray, featuring the player as a cat. You can play Stray for free on Day one via PS PLUS
Credit: Annapurna Interactive

Should you take the cat out of the box?

Yes! Take it for a spin. The game puts into the spotlight a pivotal moment for casual players. The simplicity of its game mechanics is a tall glass of water amidst your straining, trash-talking, rage-quitting games we all know you have a copy of or at least you’ve played once.

It’s a bitter-sweet game with a refreshing lens on the post-apocalyptic trope developers keep milking. What makes it stand out is that it deviates from the crowd that tries to scratch the superficial itch to just wreak havoc in the digital world, it’s a landscape of purrsibilities. So, go ahead; go astray.

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Stray is available now on PC, PS4, and PS5, as well as being available as a day one release for PS Plus Extra and Premium subscribers.

Stray

8.3

Graphics

8.5/10

Gameplay

7.0/10

Features

8.5/10

Story

9.0/10

Pros

  • Tutorials are brief but purposeful and direct
  • Inventory dynamics is organized per Quest and Chapters
  • Game controls are not cluncky and has quck response time

Cons

  • Will start to become tedious as challenges may become monotonous for more experienced players
  • Lack of customization for characters
  • Limited playable hours

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