Annapurna Interactive’s latest title Stray started catching people’s eyes the moment they revealed it to be a feline adventure. Walk around as a cute kitty in a cyberpunk land and partake in some catty shenanigans? In the immortal words of Mortimer “Morty” Smith, “You son of a b*tch, I’m in!”
Like every game, Stray has a bunch of stuff that makes it stand out as a great game, and then there are some things that I can’t help but complain about. So I’m going to stop beating around the bush and get to the point. Here are five things we absolutely love about Stray, and another two we don’t:
Things we love about Stray
1. You play as a cat
It’s that simple (but not really). You see, a lot of attention and love has gone into making this game, and with each action, the experience feels more authentic. Little feline idiosyncracies like rubbing your back against a pole to scratch it, or randomly knocking things off of tables and shelves make it a wonderful journey. You can even get your head stuck in a paper bag!
2. There’s a “meow” button
Speaking of authenticity, it wouldn’t feel that realistic if you couldn’t meow as a cat whenever you wanted, right? Thankfully, the devs are aware, and they’ve included a dedicated button to let you do just that.
3. The Ambience
Stray’s atmosphere does an impressive job of pulling the player in. The painstakingly crafted environments are a joy to explore and every element of the design and art points out the meticulous efforts of the team. It creates a much more compelling world for the players, while ridding the game of intrusive overlay HUD elements and markers that lead them in the right direction. Who needs an annoying waypoint when the game’s visuals themselves are designed in a way to encourage organic progression?
4. Not a single wasted moment
Over the last few years games, in general, have become a lot bigger, easily demanding over 20-30 hours for completion. Some even go on for over 100 hours, padding the story with repetitive and unnecessary quests that sometimes feel like a chore. That’s why, when a game like this comes along, packing everything it has in a 6-hour experience, not only is it a refreshing change of pace, but it’s also a lot more fun because it doesn’t feel stretched out just for the sake of increasing the playtime.
5. Non-guided Guidance
Modern games tend to lean one of two ways; either there will be excessive hand-holding, telling you exactly what you need to do and how and where and when and why (looking at you, Ubisoft). Or, it’ll be a complete opposite where the player is supposed to figure out pretty much everything on their own while dying every 30 seconds (hello, FromSoft). Stray, however, takes a much more subtle approach and it works out swimmingly. As I said earlier, no HUD markers or mini-map guide you. Or a control scheme that’s always on display telling you what buttons to press to do a certain action. Instead, you explore and figure out the way forward by interacting with various robots you meet on your journey. These characters have been carefully designed to give them a certain uniqueness, and there’s minimal use of text to tell you the story. The environment does that work by itself.
Things we hate about Stray
1. No Xbox version
I’m aware that some folks like to get off on the fact that a good game is available exclusively on a platform that they own. But let’s face it, the only one who benefits from that is the million-dollar company that owns the platform and continues to make more millions while users fight over which box is the best. Hence, I say that good games should be available to everyone on every platform and people can buy whichever one they like more. But as of now, Stray is only available on PlayStation and PC. So, Annapurna, get on it, we need an Xbox version of the game ASAP.
2. It’s too short
Yes yes, it sounds a little self-contradictory, thank you for pointing it out. But here’s the thing. Who wouldn’t want to spend more time frolicking about as a kitty cat? There’s always more stuff to knock down, and more balls to play with! And and, what if we ran into Tweety bird?