Stray – atmospheric and immersive

With an incredible dystopian cyberpunk atmosphere and fun gameplay built around a cat, Stray dazzles with visuals and more.

It’s easy to look at Stray and feel that it’s the latest and most fascinating example that shows the evolution of an entire industry, which has branched out to unite creators and gamers in unexpected ways that vibrate with a very similar understanding and taste. This pastime of ours has changed completely and has become a space where players’ palates enjoy the most varied experiences, where the great blockbusters coexist with adorable experiences that do not follow the very restrictive molds to which those who intend to be successful among the masses.

Previously threatened by a reality focused almost exclusively on action and sports games, with a reduced number of releases, the video game industry has rejuvenated with the arrival of independent productions, with the increasing ease of small teams serving the world their art. Our taste buds have become more refined, we enjoy more choice and we can feel joy in saying that we live in an era where, in addition to shooting bullets or kicking balls, we also control cats.

It’s refreshing how we can play experiences that sharpen our curiosity, enrich our soul and quench our thirst for something more than the banality that, despite being fun and comforting, threatened to completely dominate our menu. Stray is the latest example of a humble title, but with great quality to be worth your time. An ingeniously simple, short game with extremely easy-to-learn mechanics, but still able to stimulate your brain. Not forgetting that it is highly adorable and will be even more so for those who love cats.

Stray from BlueTwelve Studio, a small French studio with 18 employees, imagines a dystopian cyberpunk city where humans have disappeared and in their place we have robots that mimic human behavior. More than that, these robots are not limited to questioning whether that outfit suits them, they are also plagued by existential issues and dream of the day when the abominable roof of the gigantic dome will open to feel for the first time the touch of the light of the sun and see the blue sky.

Stray is much more than a game about a feline that leaps between pipes to navigate a desolate city and return to its family. That’s the starting point, that’s the final goal, but in between there’s a whole series of messages shared in an astute way that echoes with the player. Using a cat and robots in a future in which humans have been decimated by a pandemic, creatures creatures that behave like a destructive virus, turns out to be an ingenious approach to sensitive issues that run through the overwhelming majority of human beings.

This results in an adventure and puzzle experience in which you control the little cat, who has become separated from his family and ends up starting an almost “An American Tale”-style journey. Instead of Fievel, you have a cat and a robot friend who help you with everything related to technology and in the dialogues with the robots. Built with a strong harmony between a simple design supported by visual clues of great artistic style, for an enormous fluidity when going through the levels, Stray is a game designed to be simple to play and highly linear (in the middle of the chapters there is a hub where you can run optional tasks and extend the journey a little longer).

Jump between the scenarios to reach the goal, escape from the little creatures that consume everything they come across, solve small puzzles like finding door codes or clues hidden in the scenarios, and even finding musical scores for a robot to recover its taste for music , is what you will do in Stray. Above all, it’s such a harmonious combination of gameplay with a cat, such a cute and specific perspective, with the devastating and desolate themes of an absent humanity that make Stray such an appealing experience.

There’s a hub where you can complete some extra tasks, but the most dazzling thing about Stray is the inspiring places you pass by, with a passionate artistic touch. Stray’s atmosphere is simply breathtaking and the studio deserves praise for the way it combines a sense of wonder and the unknown. Yes, it’s a game about a cat and we feel lost in a strange world full of dangers, but it’s also a game about adventure, about taking risks outside our comfort zone and having the ability to go further than expected , we go beyond what has been traced to us. It’s the feeling of sadness and doom that creates such a good atmosphere that surrounds Stray, but it’s the hope and sense of adventure that the kitten brings and makes it so enriching.

It’s surprising how Stray isn’t exactly a game about cats, being a game about cats. It’s a game about humanity, about the comfortable feeling of feeling that you don’t have to be special to experience something special. That simplicity is not the enemy of adventure, that humility is an asset in life and the thirst for more does not mean disrespect for what we have. There are a lot of valid and pertinent messages in Stray, all of them built around simple but fun gameplay where you control a cat, which requires a vertical design to jump around and demonstrate the feline animations so believable.

Despite the short duration, you can finish Stray in just over 4 hours, this is one of those games where the value of the journey is far greater than the time it takes to get to the end. The prize is in following the path and not crossing the finish line, this is something that BlueTwelve has managed to fully achieve. In addition to the specificity of playing with a feline whose controls convey a good feeling, Stray conquers with its sensational atmosphere, the neon illuminates a desolate city and forms a high artistic contrast.

Pros: Cons:
  • It’s fun to play with the cat and recreate its behaviors
  • Filled with amazing and enchanting visual moments
  • Simple yet effective gameplay to encourage exploration
  • Good use of the visual element in the design of challenges and puzzles
  • Introspective narrative about humanity without humans
  • Can be finished in 4 hours
  • Optional content is missing for those who want to spend more time here