Stray’s little tomcat will not leave you indifferent if you are a fan of felines and adventure. Test.
Between dogs and cats, the debate has been raging for years, and Bluetwelve has chosen its camp. It is indeed a cat that the studio has chosen to put at the center of its game stray, published by Annapurna. With a word that literally means “alley cat”, here you walk the streets of a futuristic city, surrounded by a mysterious post-apocalyptic aura. In the skin of the feline, you must try to find your family after having locked yourself in this hostile and desolate environment, while uncovering the secret of missing humanity.
A city where there isn’t a cat… well, yes
After only a few minutes, the colossal work of the developers is already paying off. We find ourselves absorbed in a dark universe, which we can only see as imposing because of our small size. We grope our way, we learn to explore, until we gradually discover the challenge of stray around streets and abandoned houses. A cat sneaks around, jumps everywhere, and watches for dangers like a human could never do.
This is where the studio plays its most interesting card. Embodying a cat allows you to explore gameplay mechanics that have not been exploited until now, although they are not so numerous in stray. The gameplay is condensed to its maximum, to the point of having very few HUDs, and some recurring and above all intuitive mechanics. We don’t bother with superfluous text on the screen or demanding combat techniques, stray goes straight to the point with accessible mechanics and it’s damn effective.
It all comes down to thinking and strategy, even during the most active phases. You won’t find puzzles that are too complex or scenes that are too demanding, Bluetwelve manages to balance the difficulty of its title well so that it is entertaining and accessible at the same time.
When the cat is not there, the zurks dance
In general, immersion is a subject that developers also master. We were simply blown away by the level of photorealism in the game, especially for an indie title. We won’t go so far as to say that it’s graphically perfect (a few textures are missing and the transitions lack naturalness/fluidity) but it manages to put us in the mood.
But the immersion does not pass only by the visual one and on the level of the sound design, one can say that we were conquered. From cat noises, to sound interactions and music, everything is done to immerse us completely. On this side, the scores succeed in punctuating all the phases of the game and sometimes even help to make us understand what kind of scene we are entering. Indications which can also be visual and which tend to frame our adventure.
If we will not dwell on the details of the story itself, we could qualify the overall frame as quite interventionist. You can follow several “quests” at the same time, if you try to talk to the people around you, but officially, only one goal drives you. Everything is therefore in place for you to succeed in reaching it in one go. No worries about level or equipment, everything you need is on your way.
Despite everything, we expected a level design that was even more linear than it really is and we were pleasantly surprised by the certain freedom offered by certain areas. We are still very much taken by the hand, which could annoy more than one, but everything remains very fluid and pleasant. However, we would have liked to have more collectibles and secrets to discover, in order to encourage even more exploration, and to extend the playing time a little.
stray it’s a title that you will finish in 6 short hours maximum, ten if you count the achievements/trophies, so it goes without saying that it’s a perfect game for those who never have time to play. And in this very short period of time, we still manage to get attached to the various characters, whether mechanical or biological. Even without dialogue (or almost) the studio has made some efforts on the writing of important characters and their personalities. They all have their name, at least that’s already taken.
If you have the opportunity to play it on PS5, know that the DualSense is exploited by the developers, which allows you to feel like a real little cat, which purrs when it is happy or which spits when it is feels threatened. It is therefore an additional initiative which has the gift of reinforcing immersion.