Game Review: Stray

Release date: 2022
Version played: PlayStation 5 in 2022

An adventure puzzle game released in 2022, Stray was developed by BlueTwelve Studios and published by Annapurna Interactive. Taking control of a stray cat, players must navigate a futuristic city inhabited by robots with the aid of a small drone, B-12.

[Just for full disclosure, I had absolutely no idea what the plot of this game was, or even what the gameplay was aside from what was shown in the reveal trailers several years ago. I had no idea what to expect.]

+ the cat is cute, and the animations are generally accurate to what real cats are like. Anyone among us who has attempted to put a jacket on our cat, only for it to slump to its side will recognise that early animation, and every stretch and scratch on a rug will bring a smile to your face
+ I loved the robots of the various locations. Their crude clothing, mundane jobs, and realistic human-ish (?) personalities really did make this feel like a living world (so to speak… not literally obvs)
+ this is absolutely not a horror game or anything like it, but there was one point where I was caught off guard by just how unsettling something was. I’m squeamish when it comes to this thing in particular, anyway
+ I loved the soundtrack, especially the chase music that takes place in a few sequences. One small side quest involves tricking one robot with a obnoxiously loud trance song on a cassette tape, and I have already sought that out on YouTube and added it to my music library

– I was very disappointed at how short the game was. I was not expecting some sort of Ubisoft open world game, but I finished this in about 5 hours. There is a trophy for finishing the game in under 2 hours, so the developers must have known this was a one or two sitting game. Having completed that trophy, I don’t know if I can say there is any replay value at all. You can’t even skip cutscenes when going for the speedrun trophy, which feels like an oversight
– there is some very limited stealth and combat gameplay, but it feels so bare bones that I can’t help but think it was added very late in development, if it was intentional (stealth) or desired (combat) at all. I think this was intended to be a ‘walking sim’ and that’s basically what it was, with the incredibly low difficulty that comes with it
– the ending of the game leaves much to be desired. There are numerous plot points left hanging, including the big one that players may reasonably expect to be the core ‘hook’ of the game. I would go as far to say that the game starts at its peak, and each chapter gets progressively less good
– you play as a cat. I don’t know how else to stress this, but these robots sure ask for a lot of help from a cat. And not a super strong or agile cat. Just a regular cat. That really bothered me as I went on playing

> Of the two upcoming cat games, I was certainly looking forward to this more than Little Kitty Big City. Now, I’m not so sure the latter might not have an edge

Should you play this game: I did not know at all what to expect before playing this, but I know I was expecting ‘more’. This game has earned a sort of meme status, but after such a long wait, this was a real let down.

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