“Press ‘CIRCLE’ to meow”; that’s the first thing you need to know about PlayStation’s latest exclusive.
It’s every cat lover’s dream, but there’s so much more to Stray than meets the cat’s eye.
I was already sold on the idea of a video game cat-simulator, so anything else from this point was a bonus.
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There’s a deeper narrative to the game than just exploring as a cat — developers BlueTwelve Studio have created a futuristic world that’s not only plausible (in some ways at least), it’s categorically wonderful.
From the get-go, you’re placed into the feet of an adventurous furry feline. This nameless stray cat finds himself in a predicament while exploring with fellow strays, falling into the depths of an ancient, forgotten world.
Before I get into the depths of the game, let’s paws for a moment to compare how Stray reflects on the real cats of the world.
Put yourself in the mind of a cat for a moment and please tell me if these don’t ring true:
“Oh, that’s a nice rug — let’s tear it up.”
“I see a tin of paint on that ledge, I think I’ll knock it off.”
“That’s a nice game of mah-jong you’re playing there, hope you don’t mind me jumping on the table and destroying it.”
Stray has to have one of the most accurate representations of a cat in any game — ever.
I hate to generalise, but cats are, in better of a word, jerks.
But with evil comes balance, this stray cat is full of affection. Whether it’s falling asleep next to a guitar-playing robot, or rubbing up against the legs of a robot friend, there’s plenty of love to go around.
General cat activities can be felt through the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller, with resistance in the triggers. Each meow can be heard through the controller’s speaker, adding to the immersion of the game.
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Not long after you begin your stray cat journey, you’ll step into a new world inhabited by robots and explore a forgotten land where humans no longer exist.
The rooftops of a the slums is one of the zones where I had the most fun. In the slums, and other little towns, you’ll find quirky characters with subtle backstories and a wealth of history from years gone.
There are eight musical note sheets to collect in the slums area, I recommend if you’re planning to complete this game in its entirety and get the Platinum Trophy, that you collect every single sheet.
You don’t just find music sheets scattered throughout, there are a couple of other collectibles needed to help you progress. Most missions will require you to have certain items or information handy.
Early on you make a friend, B-12, a robotic drone and throughout your journey you must piece together its mysterious story.
I’d love to mention more about B-12, but you’re best to just unravel it all for yourself — trust me, it has quite the tail to tell.
Conveniently, B-12 is (much like Star Wars’ C3PO) bilingual and will help you communicate with robots as you meet them.
Exploring is slightly limited, you can’t jump to every area, there are boundaries, and you can only jump when prompted. By looking in the direction you wish to go, an X icon will appear allowing you to leap across a gap or climb onto an air conditioning unit.
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The game is full of little puzzles, and I had quite a few “Aha” moments.
Interestingly the game’s protagonist was inspired by a real-life stray cat, owned by the game’s developers. While the cat in the game remains unnamed, the developers drew inspiration from their own cat named Murtaugh.
Stray has its therapeutic and peaceful moments, but these moments are quickly interrupted by chaos (in the best way). Running from a herd of other-worldly parasites is thrillingly terrifying, as is escaping deadly drones and navigating laser tripwires.
Eventually, you learn ways to combat these parasites, aka Zurks, but under no circumstances did I want my cat to die.
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It’s funny how when playing a game as a cat I cared about its wellbeing more than, say, a human character.
But death in Stray isn’t total carnage, you’re actually rewarded after dying a certain number of times — cats really do have nine lives.
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It took me just under six hours to play through the main story, add two more hours for a particular trophy, and an extra hour on top of that for another trophy.
Stray is a short game in comparison to the next PS exclusive, but its quirky and emotional story, beautiful world and creative gameplay make up for lack of time played.
It may not be the most technical game in recent years, but everything dished up was close to purrfect!
Out of 10, I’d give it an 8.5.
Stray is out on July 19 in Australia, it’s also one of the first day-one releases to appear on PlayStation Plus.
A physical version of Stray is also be available at select retailers, it comes with a six piece art set featuring characters from the game.
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9News.com.au was supplied with an early access version of Stray by the developers for the purpose of this review.