Stray

Cover Art - Stray
Lost, alone and separated from family, a stray cat must untangle an ancient mystery to escape a long-forgotten city.

Stray is a third-person cat adventure game set amidst the detailed, neon-lit alleys of a decaying cybercity and the murky environments of its seedy underbelly. Roam surroundings high and low, defend against unforeseen threats and solve the mysteries of this unwelcoming place inhabited by curious droids and dangerous creatures.

See the world through the eyes of a cat and interact with the environment in playful ways. Be stealthy, nimble, silly, and sometimes as annoying as possible with the strange inhabitants of this mysterious world.

Along the way, the cat befriends a small flying drone, known only as B-12. With the help of this newfound companion, the duo must find a way out.
Platforms PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows
Developer BlueTwelve Studio
Publisher Annapurna Interactive
Player Count 1
HomePage https://stray.game/

Game Review

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Journal Entries

July 25th, 2022

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!

20220725 - Enzo Curled Up
Enzo happily curled up while I was playing

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.

20220725 - Stray - Somewhere to sleep
You get to just be cat – who wouldn’t enjoy playing this?

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.

20220725 - Stray - Meet b12
Meet B12

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.

20220725 - Stray - The puzzles are not the hardest in general
Most of the puzzles are about this hard to work out

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.

20220725 - Stray - Great trophy puns
If you just act like a cat, you will generally be rewarded

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.

August 1st, 2022

Stray got fired up near the end of last week. I am going to play it through at least twice more. Once with Rabbit watching the story, and once more trying to finish the story in under 2 hours. Stray is going to be my next Platinum, I only need to sit down and work out the best path.

For the moment though I am picking apart specific trophies with Chapter Select. I am loving the pun names in Stray. My favourite Stray trophy to unlock so far is called Productive Day. It’s one of those annoying time-based ‘just leave the console on’ trophies. I don’t mind this one in Stray though.

For Productive Day, you need to sleep for an hour. That’s it. No dexterity, no path or puzzles to solve, just find a spot and nap. While this is happening, you can hear the cat purring through the DualSense controller. I had some YouTube up on the screen while the controller was next to me on the couch. The slight rumbling and purring was soothing, if not great for battery life!

20220801 - Stray - Productive Day
Nap in a nice spot with chill music and a purring controller – my kind of trophy!

So I have two trophies left before earning the Platinum for Stray. One I am going to get with the playthrough with Rabbit, which I am surprised I didn’t already earn. You have to perform the ‘Scratch’ action in every chapter. I don’t remember ever passing up an opportunity to scratch, but I am guessing I did!

The other one as mentioned is to finish Stray in under 2 hours. It took me almost 7 hours to explore and have a wonderful time, but I never looked for an ‘optimal’ path. I didn’t pay any attention to codes or make a list of required or optional puzzles. This is going to be taken care of with the run with Rabbit. The little explorations and pauses for notes will be good to go through with another set of eyes.

20220801 - Stray - Welcome Back B12
B12 is going to be saved a few more times in my house

Two more runs with unskippable cutscenes and forced conversations don’t phase me. That’s how much I am enjoying Stray. I can’t recommend it enough. If you get the chance, definitely check out Stray. There is so much to enjoy, even if you aren’t a cat person.