First road test for Stray, the “cute cat game” coming from Annapurna Interactive in July on PC, PS4 and PS5: is it really as cute as it sounds?
The world we see every day can look completely different when you look at it from another perspective. Human beings love to be amazed every time when looking out of an airplane window because they look at the Earth in a new way, just like macro photographs that zoom in on details that would never be recognizable with the naked eye. Animals live from yet another perspective. The streets, paths, chairs, everyday household objects that are associated with specific functions disappear, and are thus replaced by simple objects. A platform, a place to scratch, a bed and, of course, new paths that humans could only dream of open up before the eyes of athletic felines. Stray it’s all about capturing that new perspective in every way possible.
Cats are agile, have excellent balance, stand out in incredible jumps, can run up vertical surfaces with obvious ease, and run very hard with minimal effort. A normal driveway becomes an obstacle course, and that’s what makes Stray so interesting. Moving around the world seeing paths where everyone else sees wallsand communicate with that world without any words – this is what you need to learn when you play Stray.
To be clear, Stray is not a probative platformer. Conversely, the way you move in Stray is developed to emphasize how agile cats are in real life. Cats don’t trip or slide down stairs, they make walking on a precarious ledge seem easy instead. As a result, you will hit the jump button when contextual interactions appear. This allows the detailed animated hand movements to flaunt their quality, and truly capture the movement and action of a cute kitten.
What is Stray? –
“Tender” is the watchword. Provided you have a heart, it’s impossible to look at Stray and not feel a lump in your throat. The feline protagonist, based on one of the developer’s cats, is placed in the most adorable poses possible as he rides a bucket on a rope to the lower floors of a tower block, with his front legs sticking out accompanied by two wide-open eyes. It will melt your heart, honestly.
There is a central story to unravel, but essentially cats are rare in this world inhabited mainly by robots. Over the course of the game, you will discover what made the world the way it is, and why it is so difficult to find other felines, but the developers have not wanted to share any extra details for now. Don’t expect a quest system – this is more of a linear exploration game, with a hint of puzzle-solving along the way. You can expect to throw all sorts of things off ledges, as cats usually do, including paint cans that will conveniently smash a window to open a whole new path.
Come The Last of Us –
Other puzzles include things like a platform that moves depending on where you jump on it, changing the range and direction of movement, accessing new places, or throwing an object down into a spinning fan to make it stop. There are enemies who can attack and knock out your kitty, but combat is not an important part by Stray. Avoiding threats is much more important than fighting them directly.
Luckily you will have a travel companion, a small robot that will sit quietly in your small backpack or float above you, translating signals and interacting with objects that cats cannot interact with because they do not have opposable thumbs and fingers. This will help you understand the world around you, while adding the intelligence a cat may need in exploration. But one of the best aspects of Stray is aesthetics. The world has been slightly stylized in some places but, for the most part, the team has aimed straight at a realistic presentation, making you feel like you are exploring a real world, the world of humans, but very different. It’s the same kind of post-apocalyptic tourism as The Last of Us Part II, but with your eyes only one foot off the ground and climbing the sides of the buildings.
Stray, the verdict (for now) –
Stray looks set to be one of the unsung heroes of PS5’s 2022 lineup. It’s the most wholesome game of the year, and everything we’ve learned about the title so far has only made us want to get back to playing it. It’s just a simple 8-10 hour adventuredepending on how long you spend admiring those adorable animations of hers, but it could be the most touching 8-10 hours the year has in store.
Written by Dave Aubrey for GLHF
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