Stray and his adorable feline are finally ready to be released on PC and consoles. Here’s our verdict on one of the most anticipated games of the year.
It’s finally here, the first game from the Montpellier residents of BlueTwelve Studio has made thousands of players purr with impatience. Stray and his adorable ginger cat are available from July 19 on PC, PS5 and PS4. It’s time for us to guide a tomcat lost in the disturbing alleys of a cyber-city, on the trail of his home. Was the experience overseen by Annapurna Interactive worth the wait?
This test was carried out from a PS5 version of the game.
A cat in the city
Stray is the story of a nameless stray cat who finds himself inadvertently separated from his peers. Fallen from a high platform, our tomcat lands lost in a dead city cut off from any source of light. But there is still a bit of life in the faded alleys: a whole bunch of eccentric robots there seem to have been abandoned to their fate for several centuries. It is in this unusual context that our little mustachioed hero meets an amnesiac drone named B-12. This acolyte will serve as a tourist guide but also as an interpreter with the mechanical inhabitants of the city. The duo will have to find solutions to solve the enigmas posed by their environment and try to unravel the mystery that will allow the feline to find its way home. From then on begins an absolutely touching story, a quality that we expected from a game embodied by such a protagonist.
In this torrent of misfortune that seems to have descended on the city of robots, the plot is treated with a certain sweetness which should particularly delight the youngest. And in order to fully understand all the elements that make up this world, it will be wise to go and meow to the inhabitants to extract a few anecdotes from them. However, over six short hours of straight line play, the story remains relatively academic and lacks a certain dose of emotion at certain moments that are considered culminating. From then on, it becomes regrettable not to be able to appreciate real character developments, like that of Momo, the first key encounter in the adventure which is dreamed of outside the cyber-city. In short, Stray makes sparks, but hardly ignites a real fire on the scriptwriting level.
The main asset of the game undeniably resides in its hero, a small red feline whose appearance is directly inspired by one of the two cats of the co-founders of BlueTwelve. The French studio has often explained that animating a quadruped was one of the biggest challenges in the game, especially because the behavioral intricacies of it are incredibly precise. The animation work is very well done, the paw movements are graceful and the cat’s reactions are often believable. We should also add that it is very pleasant to handle. On PS5, your controller will make small whirring noises when it rubs against a robot’s legs or claws against a door. Obviously, the protagonist of Stray is a little more special than his peers, without having any particular personality to highlight. Understand that beyond his ability to perform feats, he remains an animal like any other and that is ultimately what makes him so charming.
Framed platforms and easy puzzles
If the first steps of our cat are in a fairly linear progression, you then have the possibility of scrutinizing each place as you wish, even if, let’s face it, these are never very spacious. It is good to inspect everything all the same to perhaps come across an object that will remind your B-12 drone of a memory of its previous life. The hero takes advantage of the verticality of the map during his walks: he can descend from an elevated space by climbing into a bucket pulled by a rope. And then of course he has the ability to scale a whole bunch of gutters that drape the walls of the city. Now note that each jump to a new platform is rigorously supervised. Missing a ledge is not cat-worthy according to BlueTwelve who explained that they “agreed to a compromise where all jumps will be successful“. While it makes perspective work easier, the strategy proves frustrating. As a cat, we would have liked to feel the freedom of movement of the quadruped even if it meant getting a few window sills in the muzzle. Instead, the player finds himself searching for available platform spots to perform his framed jumps. Shame. On a more positive note, on the performance side, note that the title runs at 60 fps on PlayStation 5.
Now what about game mechanics? Overall, the agility and speed of our feline will have to be put to the test. The levels are littered with some pretty cool chase sequences against the Zurks, tick-like enemies. Your discretion will have an equally important role to play during the adventure since it will sometimes be a question of passing under the field of vision of robots which will not hesitate to shoot you; and seeing the tomcat on the ground always makes your heart ache. There’s also item finding on the menu: items stored in your inventory can be presented to robotic dwellers to progress. For example, Grandma, who recycles spare parts to make clothes for the community, will ask you for some charms in exchange for a blanket. And then finally count on a handful of environmental puzzles based on obstacles to unlock.
If listed in this way, the program seems rather vast, in fact, the experience is quite simplistic. The puzzles and other action phases are very basic and clearly lack a great deal of difficulty, although they improve in the second part of the game.. We also think of these few offensive minutes against the Zurks during which it is a question of exterminating them with a sudden violet light; a singular moment but yet a bit too expeditious for our taste. Finally there are very few side quests on the menu, usually rewarded with a simple badge. In fact, the experience seems to us especially ideal for the youngest, who should find their account without problem.
The Beauty of Stray
Our cat does not speak, but he can meow at will and on command by pressing a simple button. If we have fun abusing it at the start of the game, it is clear that the feature has very little use during the adventure, apart from waking up a few sleeping robots. That our hero is speechless naturally adds a mystical aura to the game; at the same time, Blue Twelve has not been idle on the sound level which gives the adventure an equally special atmosphere. The music is composed by Yann Van Der Cruyssen, a chiptune specialist. We are then entitled to pretty synthesized melodies and catchy drum rhythms which stick perfectly with the universe.
Stray’s greatest strength lies largely in its contemplative aspect. The environments are particularly attractive and juggle between bustling city centers and more disturbing wastelands. The developers of BlueTwelve had earlier indicated that the sets were largely inspired by the citadel of Kowloon, a former Chinese enclave in the middle of the colony of Hong Kong. If they are renewed from time to time, the game generally retains the same visual identity from the dead streets to the neon capital, passing through a pretty village built around a huge reservoir. From the reflections in the water to the meticulous work of the lights, the dedicated care is very appreciable. How pleasant it is to slip through the window of the apartments to discover new corners of life, always immersed in very warm orange hues. There is an undeniable sense of detail everywhere and a real artistic coherence to underline. Add to the beauty of the image a slew of cutscenes that are a real treat for the retina.
- The adorable protagonist
- A wonderful universe to explore
- A very nice soundscape
- A pretty well done story
- Very basic puzzles
- Supervised jumps
- A short hair (6 o’clock in a straight line)
Stray’s main strengths lie in its adorable protagonist and its settings which are a joy to explore. Let’s add to that a nicely conducted narrative and a mystical atmosphere draped with beautiful synthesized melodies. There are still the puzzles, which are often too basic and the frustration of not being able to jump where we want, which prevent the game from reaching its full potential. Stray is nonetheless a very nice experience, perfect for the youngest and quite touching for adults.
Give your opinion on the game!