I’ve at all times been a canine particular person. Much of my household is allergic to cats, so I used to be by no means round them rising up. And why would I need to be when canine are so superior, playful, and constant? My solely pets have been canine, and I like them, so I’ve by no means puzzled about being on the opposite facet of the aisle in one in all humanity’s least vital societal divides. Of course, I take pleasure in cute cat movies on the web (who doesn’t?), however exterior of that, I don’t plan on crossing celebration strains anytime quickly.
That makes me in all probability the worst particular person to overview Stray, a sport tailored for individuals who love cats. So, after all I made a decision to just do that.
BlueTwelve and Annapurna Interactive’s Stray has made the rounds on cat-owning gamer Twitter (which is shockingly giant), because it stars an lovable cat and lets gamers discover a postapocalyptic world with all of the bizarre cat mannerisms cat house owners are accustomed to. From the detailed cat animations to all of the small, pointless interactions gamers can have with the setting, it’s clear that Stray is made for individuals who need to see their cat’s weirdest habits visualized in a playable approach on the display.
As somebody who has by no means owned a cat and even been round them for that lengthy, it was evident from the beginning that I, a canine loyalist, am not this sport’s goal demographic. Still, I couldn’t assist however marvel if Stray may convert me. I took the sport for a spin, by chance getting the trophy for dying 9 occasions alongside the best way. But has my perspective on cats modified in any respect?
The cat’s out of the bag
Stray goes for the guts proper out the gate. The very first thing it’s a must to do is work together with a few cats, and also you’ll see them purr, pet, lick, and play with one another. While the opening’s objective is clearly to indicate gamers how deep Stray’s understanding of cats goes, I didn’t get a lot out of it. OK, I’m not a heartless monster — it’s cute as hell. It simply hit me extra as a fundamental tutorial than a heart-melting introduction.
[Editor’s note: No, I’m pretty sure you’re a heartless monster.]
From there, I rapidly realized that Stray is a comparatively easy journey platformer all in favour of exhibiting how a practical cat can work as a playable character. The finest elements of Stray for me didn’t really should do with the cat mechanics; it’s the visuals and worldbuilding as a substitute. Stray is a beautiful sport on PS5, because the sealed-off metropolis it takes place in is lush with shade, from the rundown slums to the management room that manages the whole lot. The “small guy, big world” setup at all times works nicely as a sport setting, and that’s much more true when that small man is a furry creature that you just simply need to pet.
Stray additionally tells a considerably somber story about how humanity destroyed itself and the way one’s legacy can even reside by way of actions and creations. That’s what I count on to stick with me greater than the lovable cat interactions. In reality, I used to be really let down by Stray as a platformer and cat sport.
You can solely leap the place and when the sport desires you to as soon as a button icon seems on display, making it really feel barely extra restrictive than it ought to. Puzzles by no means get terribly thrilling, with many counting on the cat pulling down objects or scratching partitions and curtains, as cats do. Still, it appears to expire of delicate inconveniences to gamify about midway by way of the journey.
For those that spend time round cats all day, it’s clear that these mechanics are in-jokes that allow gamers do what their cat does to harass them. As a canine particular person, although, a few of these gags are international to me. Sure, the erratic behaviors make for some cute moments, however don’t you need to play as a badass canine that may run quick, comply with scents, hear issues from far-off, and even combat if want be? That’s what I’m speaking about!
[Editor’s note: You’re killing me.]
There have been occasions the place I felt like I used to be on the skin trying in, with sure feline nuances probably not registering. That took some affect out of the sport, as I felt like I couldn’t fairly join with the in-jokes the sport is constructed on. Maybe I’m really a heartless monster. Oh no.
After beating Stray, a few humorous cat moments nonetheless stick out, like when the feline protagonist walks on a keyboard to by chance clear up a puzzle or when it nervously slunk to the bottom when a backpack will get wrapped round it. I’ll admit that I discover cats extra lovable now than I did after I began taking part in Stray — don’t you dare inform any canine I stated that. But these occasional moments of kitty cuteness weren’t sufficient to chop by way of a few of my extra base critiques of the sport, which feels a little bit missing as an journey title (Now, if I have been taking part in a sport the place a canine was wagging its tail and flipping on its again to be pet when assembly new individuals, that’d be a unique story).
Stray has resonated with lots of people, and I don’t blame them for loving it — each online game doesn’t have to be for everybody! Still, I at all times respect getting contemporary views on video games from individuals who aren’t squarely the goal demographic. It helps uncloud my biases and higher see flaws I might need in any other case ignored. We all come from totally different backgrounds and experiences — mine simply occurs to be one the place cats couldn’t be round, and canine fortunately (and superiorly) stuffed the void. And talking from that perspective, Stray‘s moment-to-moment gameplay can underwhelm if you wish to play it much less as a cat particular person and extra as an journey sport fanatic.
So, have I change into a cat particular person after taking part in Stray? No, probably not. The journey feels a little bit too easy and reliant on references to essentially win over those that aren’t already massive into cats. Still, I don’t remorse wandering across the streets of a megacity as a cat that’s actually freaking cute! Look at its little paws!
OK, perhaps Stray wasn’t solely ineffective.