I didn’t know I wanted—no, needed—to play a game that puts you in the paws of a cat until Stray was announced. And while the wait for this cute, memorable game was agonizing, I can assuredly say it was well worth it. Stray is a third-person adventure game developed by BlueTwelve Studio and published by Annapurna Interactive and features possibly one of the cutest protagonists around.
Obviously, the game’s main selling point is that you play as a stray cat. Honestly, I’d be pretty happy if that’s all the game had to offer. But Stray delivers so much more with its beautifully rendered graphics, provoking story, wonderfully quirky characters, and fun puzzles—it’s purrfect.
Stray begins in possibly the most adorable way possible—on a rainy day where you play and snuggle with your feline family, ending the day curled up together and purring. This short interaction is enough to feel utter dismay when your cat is suddenly separated from the rest. Alone and lost, players find themselves exploring a derelict city long-forgotten by time, trying to find their way back to their family and the verdant, peaceful landscape of their home.
In the belly of the city, you’ll encounter multiple threats that you’ll have to use your wits to avoid and outsmart. But you’ll also find allies to help you, humanoid robots who are as stuck as you are. This is where many of your puzzles crop up: helping your new friends so they can help you. The game explains what’s expected of you clearly, but even puzzles that have nothing to do with the main plotline are intuitive and are solved mainly by a bit of exploring. None of the puzzles are too complicated, which really lets you enjoy the experience of just being a cat and investigating the world and plot.
The puzzles are not only fun, but they take full advantage of a cat’s natural behaviors. Walk across keyboards, knock objects off shelves, jump in boxes, and meow to your heart’s content. BlueTwelve has gotten cat behavior down to a T, and it’s a seriously delightful experience. The developers haven’t just asked you to see through a cat’s eyes but to become a cat. Interact with the environment in silly ways; the world is set up perfectly for you to be stealthy, agile, and playful, even requiring you to be as annoying as possible to get what you want. Sharpen your claws on carpets and sofas, scratch on doors to get people to open them, and startle people with a well-placed meow. At the same time, there are plenty of charming moments, like nuzzling against your robo friends or curling up to sleep next to your buddies.
While your robot friends don’t speak and only communicate with you through text on the screen, emotion comes across effortlessly. The body language is so expressive, which is essential for the story to hit so hard. There’s a vast mystery abound: what happened to all the humans? The more you explore, the more the mystery unfurls, and the more emotionally invested you become. I really wish I could say more, but that would spoil the shock of discovery.
The environments are wonderfully detailed—neon-lit alleyways, graffiti-covered walls, and cluttered rooftops. The world is wonderfully messy and simultaneously full of junk and life. But perhaps the best part is all the places you can go. Roam high and low; the environment is set up to incorporate your natural feline balance and leaping. I can’t properly explain how satisfying it is to hop between signs, pipes, and air-conditioning units as you scale the city.
My only real qualm with Stray is that some of the revelations you can see coming a mile away, but the utter personality of the game easily drowns out the predictability of some of the plot beats. I also wish the game was longer, but that’s only because I want more cat shenanigans.
Playing in the paws of a cat is enough to make plenty of people buy this game, but Stray astounds with its beautiful graphics, quirky characters, and puzzles that bring out the best and worst in a cat. If you’re looking for a game that is as intriguing as it is silly, look no further.
Stray will be available on July 19th for PC, PS5, and PS4.
Stray astounds with its beautiful graphics, quirky characters, and puzzles that bring out the best and worst in a cat.