Purrfect Gameplay: Stray (Review)

First off, I apologise for the title; it had to be done.

Stray is an adventure game that was released on 19th July 2022 for Windows, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. In the game, you take control of a cat that has fallen into a world of robots as it traverses the new environment to return to its family. Throughout the story, you meet numerous robots with different stories and tasks for you to carry out, all while doing things that a cat in the world would do, namely purring, sleeping, and knocking things off shelves to the annoyance of those around you.

Stray is one of those games that was a must on my to-play list as soon as it was announced. Of course, there wasn’t a great deal about it, to begin with, but the fact that it was a game you play purely as a cat intrigued me.

On day one of its release, Stray was made available on PlayStation Plus, so of course, I had to get straight into it. The game itself starts off quite slowly as you get to grips with controlling your friendly feline. It shows you how to jump to different surfaces (one of the game’s main mechanics) and how to navigate the strange world that you are thrown into. It’s a calming pace that never really leaves the game, even with those moments when you are more at perilꟷI’ll come back to that in a bit.

When you reach the robot-inhabited town, you learn that there is an elevator that will take you back to the surface, where hopefully, you can reunite with fellow cats after you fell down a hole. The robots themselves are mainly friendly and helpful, and through the slow unveiling of the world, you come to discover that humans are long dead after a pandemic, and only the robots now inhabit the world.

At the start of the game, you discover a small floating robot, B-12, who becomes your companion and helps translate the robot’s language as well as helping you collect objects from the world to further quests, and even gives you hints on what to do next.

As you explore, you discover numerous different locations, from robot towns and cities to sewers that have their own unique challenges for you to overcome. The quests range from collecting items to give to certain NPCs to scaling buildings to fix apparatus, along with sections of stealth where you must sneak through areas undetected to reach your goal.

Now for the peril. This comes in the form of strange creatures known as Zurks that, in certain sections of the game, will attack your cat in swarms. It’s your task to either outrun or just plain avoid these creatures. There are also the occasional sentry bot enemies which will shoot at you should they detect you. Attacks by these enemies are pretty much the only way you can die. There is no fall damage as your cat will refuse to drop to another surface unless there is a clear way down, so this makes scaling buildings and objects that bit easier.

I’ve played about 5-6 hours of the game and so far haven’t really come up against any negatives. But the one thing I will say is a little annoying at times is the camera. You’re allowed to rotate the camera at your leisure, but at times, if an object is in the way, it may block off the camera, so you can’t really see what’s going on. The story, although simple, is well written, and you really do find yourself invested in getting your purry friend back home. The environments are beautifully crafted, and the robots themselves all look unique. The controls are easy to get a handle on, and the gameplay mechanics don’t have anything complicated within them.

As I said earlier, Stray is a calm experience and one where you could spend hours watching your cat curled up on a pillow, listening to the gentle purring through the DualShock controller speaker. There is enough within the game, alongside the main story, that will keep you busy for a good few hours. For example, you could spend quite a while exploring all the first town has to offer on and above ground level. I don’t know how much replayability Stray will have, but if you’re going for the platinum trophy, you could probably have at least a couple of playthroughs and still enjoy the experience. I’m going to give Stray a solid 9/10 and say that anyone, lovers of cats or not, should play this game. It’s a well crafted game and one that deserves recognition. Me? Well I’m looking forward to continuing my playthrough soon.

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