Hello everyone! We normally publish our What We’re Playing articles on Wednesdays, but being that all three of us have recently played and finished Stray, it only felt right to wait for Purrsday this week. Here’s what we all thought of the no. 1 cat simulator game on the market.
Joe – Writer & Lead Editor
It’s no secret that I’m a major Stray fanboy. Ever since it was first announced back in 2020, the idea of being able to play a game as cat blew my mind. As gorgeous screenshots were drip-fed to us in the intervening years, I couldn’t help but get caught up in all the hype. And although I may be a touch biased, I think, by and large, Stray lived up to it. That’s not to say it isn’t without fault, though.
Let’s start with the pawsitives… playing as a cat rules, obviously. But it’s way more than just a gimmick. BlueTwelve Studio nail the sense of scale you’d feel as a little floofball running in between imposing alleyways and towering buildings. Despite not being able to jump freely (instead, an X button prompt indicates a pathway) I still found it enthralling when scrambling among the ramshackle rooftops of the Dead City in search of a hidden nook to sleep in.
The platforming then, is Stray at its best, while the light combat and occasional stealth were weak in comparison and didn’t quite fit the tone. I’d have happily taken more platforming and puzzles in their place. That being said, it’s disappointing that the Robot inhabitants of each area all have similar lines of dialogue. It feels like a missed opportunity to add further depth to the rich, mysterious world BlueTwelve created.
Despite its shortcomings, there’s something special about this game. Whether it’s the beautiful art style and richly detailed world, the evocative score or the heartstring-tugging ending (you’ve been warned), Stray is simply the cat’s pyjamas.
Tom – Lead Writer
Like Joe, I’ve been eagerly awaiting Stray for two years. The teaser shown at the PS5 reveal event didn’t give much away, but having recently become a cat owner for the first time, I was immediately intrigued. Did the game live up to my expectations? Ehh. Kind of.
There’s certainly a lot to love about Stray. The design of the city is really lovely, in all its decrepit neo-futuristic glory. It really feels lived-in, a place where humans used to live that robots have since modified to better suit their needs. The score is moody and atmospheric. And the titular cat is beautifully rendered; the animation is so realistic, in fact, that my cat Sonny immediately became transfixed by the TV any time I played. He’d leap up and gently paw at the screen, so it’s maybe fair to say that although I’ve completed Stray, I only ever saw around 80% of it at any given time.
More importantly, Stray more or less fully realises the fantasy of feeling like a cat for a day. Whether it’s scratching up furniture, callously knocking objects over, or curling up for a little snooze, you can get up to all kinds of classic feline mischief. I was initially a little dismayed that you can’t jump freely, and can only leap to predetermined objects. But it start to make more sense when I realised that in a game about cats, being able to constantly miss jumps and fall might undercut the theme.
Stray nails playing as a cat, but I was somewhat disappointed by the game around those mechanics. It’s essentially an adventure game; you’re looking for objects, like a length of electrical wire or a poncho, and then taking them to a character who needs them before they can help you. These puzzles are quite simplistic, and while the game does have a few chase sequences and combat scenes thrown in, there’s not a whole lot of complexity.
By the end of the game, I began to find the limited interactivity a little frustrating. I almost wish that Stray had gone further in either direction; that it had either been a one hour short, or that it had been a ten hour experience with more involved gameplay. I came away liking the game a whole lot overall, but in some ways it feels like a rough sketch of what could have been.
Ollie – Social Media
You know what I’m gonna say, right? I’ve also been looking forward to this game since it was announced. I don’t have a PS5 yet (I might set up a JustGiving), so naturally I was a little worried that it might not be released on PS4, or that it would be expensive even if it did. Imagine then my delight when I heard it would in fact be on PS4, but also included in the new PS Plus catalogue. I got it immediately.
I love cats. I’ll make no bones about it. I love them. So I was always gonna love a game where you potter about as a little cat all day, but would Stray give me anything more than a bit of escapism pretending to be a tiny mammal for a day? As it happens, yes.
I really loved it: of course from the off, I was completely enamoured with the protagonist and his pals, but as the gam progresses I found myself getting drawn more and more into the world that Stray creates. The characters you encounter, their stories of loss, nostalgia, pining for something more, it all felt incredibly human, despite their being absolutely none of them to be seen.
The gameplay itself was pretty good I felt, the movement around the world felt natural and cat-like, however sometimes it maybe lacked a little manoeuvrability, leaving me a little stuck when trying to evade the Zurks. That said, I actually really liked the relative lack of jeopardy or threat. Even in the more frantic sequences later on in the game, I felt fairly calm. This was exactly what I was looking for in this experience.
The puzzle elements were great too, I really enjoyed wandering about, meeting characters and interpreting their stories, using that knowledge to solve the riddles later down the line. Though as Joe says, I could have taken a few more of these, and a little more complex. All in all, it was a a really enjoyable game to play.
For me, though, the main draw for Stray was just how great it made me feel. I wasn’t expecting to be as moved as I was; each story revealed a more tragic layer to the world the game inhabits, each one holding up a mirror to the world we live in too. For a game that involves no audible language besides some squeaks, I found myself incredibly emotionally attached to the protagonist, to his pal B-12, and to all the companions you meet along the way. And the ending – don’t get me started. I was in tears. And that’s a really good thing.