Stray. The cat game. Meow meow meow meow. I have been looking forward to playing Stray since I saw its announcement with the PlayStation 5. Exploring a world as a small animal has a lot of gameplay advantages. Try Moss in VR as an example of this.
But like the majority of the YouTube and streaming world, I was keen to play as a cat. If you use the internet at all, you have probably been inundated with Stray gameplay. This is part of the reason this entry is going to be relatively short. The other is I am going to do my first proper review of Stray soon. So in a week or so you will hear a lot of my thoughts in more detail.
First up, I played almost all of Stray with Enzo lying on top of me. Did this help with immersion? Nope. Was it cute as hell? Absolutely!
And cute as hell describes the opening of Stray. You play as a ginger cat, playing with other cats and exploring the world. There aren’t any objectives or exposition dumps – you are a cat. That kind of thing isn’t important to you as a cat. You just are.
Stray uses environmental storytelling incredibly well, and the world is surprisingly detailed. Exploring the world of Stray is a fun experience, and while it sounds cliche, you do get out of it what you want. Do you want a casual experience where you go from point a to b? You will enjoy Stray. Do you want to explore a world searching for lore and building up the story of what has happened? You will enjoy Stray.
I have heard people complain Stray devolves into a ‘standard 3rd person shooter adventure’. People that say this stopped playing about halfway through. I can see where the sentence comes from, it’s not a totally false summary. But this happens for one level and is an optional way to play it. That’s as much of a spoiler I will get into.
That isn’t to say Stray is perfect. Early on, you find B12. A little drone that acts as a translator and story focal point more than anything else. You as the cat become more of a vehicle for B12 than your own character. Well, that’s how I felt for a little while. An attachment does from between your cat and B12. While forced at first does become a very natural character attachment.
Don’t think cats can form an attachment? Scroll up and look at Zo happily curled up on me. That type of comfort around me didn’t happen in a day, but the bonds can definitely be formed.
Yes, Stray is a short game. I think this works in the game’s favour though. While delayed, Stray is an incredibly polished experience that works well. The only big complaint I have is in the context-sensitive controls. This isn’t a problem with Stray exclusively though – getting the prompts right is hard to do development-wise. So I did miss some exploration parts the first time through as I wasn’t in the perfect position for the jump prompt to appear.
That’s it. That’s my biggest complaint about the game. Occasionally it was hard to hit the right spot for the prompt to appear. If that’s the worst I can throw at it, Stray is doing pretty well.
The humour is fun both in-game and in achievements/trophy names. Stray’s journey is a mixture of peace and adversity, and the pacing of that story feels right. There are cliches and tropes in the story, but also ‘Where did that come from’ moments as well that don’t feel forced.
Exploration is amazing in Stray, and while there are puzzles to be solved, they generally aren’t brain-breaking. There is an argument that a cat wouldn’t be solving a lot of these puzzles, but B12 would. It’s part of what makes the duo work so well together.
It took me about 8 hours of playtime to finish Stray and find 100% of the collectibles, including badges. There is a Platinum trophy on offer, and there is a good chance I am going to try and do it. I am going to play through Stray one more time ‘normally’ to try and memorise the best path to continue the story. During this run, if Rabbit isn’t watching me play, I might try and do some of the skill-based remaining trophies.
This means I can do one last run for the final planned trophy – finish the game in less than 2 hours. I usually enjoy these runs in the Resident Evil games. The world of Stray is one I definitely think I will enjoy exploring to nail this speed run.
So yes, I very much enjoyed Stray, and think many players will as well. If you have PlayStation Plus Extra or higher, you can play Stray for free. You won’t regret it.