Let me say this first and foremost - I have an infatuation with cats. If you just so happen to check out my Instagram discovery page, you'll see nothing but suggested videos full of kittens doing the darndest things. I grew up with a cat and four of her lovely kittens, so you can see why I've developed such a huge appreciation for felines. When I first locked eyes with the announcement trailer for development studio BlueTwelve Studio's Stray, my curiosity piqued to the same high level that cats usually lose their nine lives over. After spending eight hours with the game's cute and cuddly protagonist, I've emerged with a ton of love to give to a cat simulator that's way better than it has any right to be. Here is my Stray game review.
'Stray' Game Review
The first time you load up Stray, you'll be treated to a post-apocalyptic world that's seemingly devoid of humanity and taken back by nature. A sense of wonder will quickly envelop your thoughts as you take control of the game's main cutesy calico and gallop alongside your fellow kitties during a sunny outdoor run. When your main kitty finds itself split apart from its besties, the game's true adventure takes over. Taking control of your new furry bestie is a joy since it reflects all the mannerisms and body motions you see in your everyday cat. Your new favorite tomcat can take big & small leaps, rub against friendly robots to show affection, hop into random boxes just for fun, and paw at various items when it's time to knock something over. Not only are those actions great for delivering everything you expect from a cat, but those same behaviors also play a huge part in how you'll tackle many of the game's stealth scenarios and puzzles. And before you ask, yes - there's a button that you can use to instantly meow.
One of Stray's most commendable attributes is its art style. As you make your way through an underground city inhabited by bots that mimic human behavior, you'll be taken aback by all the city-inspired sights. The slums you'll crawl through are filled with graffiti, splashes of color pop up in portions of the locales you'll explore, and the indoor shops/homes that your new bot buddies inhabit are equally attractive in their own right. The deeper you make your way through Stray, the more visually arresting the places around you become. I won't spoil what those locales are - just know that you'll always want to take an opportunity to have a cat nap while the camera zooms out to let you take in all the visual splendor around you. I also have to show some love to Stray's excellent sound design - the lowkey meows from your beloved cat, the signature gibberish the bots spout out, and all the catchy EDM & acoustic tunes your ears will be treated to are a testament to that statement.
Stray's gameplay centers around finding a way out of the underground city and making your back up to the outside in order to reunite with your buddies. Things start out simple enough as you interact with the sort of helpful bots that'll get you closer to accomplishing your goal. But as time wears on, you'll get the freedom to fully explore each hub area and get your paws on the items needed to grow closer to the bots you end up befriending. All the little knick knacks you acquire, such as random energy drink cans, music notes, and notebooks, get you closer to finishing tasks big and small. Completionists will get a lot of mileage from this game as their's plenty of goodies to seek out and discover. Stray also offers a nice variety of environmental puzzles, stealthy sections, Zurk chase sequences, fun interactable situations, and codes to decipher in order to collect even more items. Don't let the game's simple premise of playing as a cat fool you - Stray offers an engrossing campaign that offers a lot to players that enjoy exploring every nook and cranny possible.
For a game that appears to be nothing more than an excuse to run around as a fully realized 3D cat, Stray is a lot deeper than it initially appears to be. You'll be treated to storylines that deal with themes of togetherness, oppression, and hope. And by the time you reach the game's conclusion, you'll gain a deeper understanding of your helper bot B12, the machines who previously attempted to escape their underground expanse, and the rest of the population that make their stay in that same locale. There are intense moments that push you to keep your cat out of the clutches of parasitic organisms and calmer moments where you'll knock some pool balls around a table while some curious bots look on. Stray embraces the simplicity of being a playful cat and also introduces a surprisingly complex adventure that you'll never forget. I say all that to say this - this kitty caper is a fun one that will surely scratch the itch of curious onlookers that want to give it a shot. And that right there is how I'll bring my glowing Stray game review to a close.