Stray review | I still have fond memories about Playstation 2 game Dogs Life. Also somewhat surprised about that game’s review scores but let’s not talk about that now. Dogs Life and Stray have something great in common, the game plays super fun because you are in control of an adorable pet. In Stray, you play with an orange tabby cat. You meow, you scratch on cardboard boxes and you jump back and forth. Just like my Loki cat or your sweet Simba, Tommy or Star Trek Data’s Spot. We had to wait a long time for this game, but finally Stray is on Xbox. It starts cute but soon you have to explore a dangerous and mysterious post-apocalypse city to stay alive. Let a feline playable character be just the perfect (and original) way to do that.
ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!
What we Liked!
- Recognizable for cat owners | I have always been a cat person and exactly a year ago I gave Loki a forever home. (See image, he’s cute right?) The similarities are there, Loki is also an orange tabby cat and is also full of mischief. Very soon it was as if I was discovering the city with Loki. Nice thing is that the game Stray allows you to be a cat…. you can drop bottles off a kitchen table or take naps in the craziest places. Touch up your claws on boxes or floor mats. Or annoy the local robot population with typical cat behavior. Best example of that is when a harness is introduced, our ingame cat is clearly not happy and doesn’t know what to do about it. The typical falling flat and the animations around it are brilliant. I think every cat or dog owner tries to put on a coat at some point. Hilarious to see the reactions then, to see this recognizable moment in Stray was really laughable. My greatest moments of joy came simply from being able to be a cat. The game elements, exploring the worlds, trying to survive during action moments or finding your way to point a to b is also fun but there is just something extra when you get to do typical cat behavior during dead gameplay moments.
- Visual identity | It is hard to put a name on it. The visuals are clearly inspired by cyberpunk, China and a futuristic post-apcalypse theme. As you look at the world through cat eyes it is immediately different compared to other games but developer BlueTwelve did some incredible work with game design. My ingame Loki looks beautiful. But the world is particularly nicely detailed, where the lighting in particular stands out. Grandiose urban environments or small apartments where you can do mischief. They have also been able to create certain atmospheres. Especially when you are being chased by creatures that want to kill our cutie. Whether you rush through the levels or take a moment to look around, any type of gamer will be impressed. Lastly, I want to emphasize how much attention has gone into the underground. Felines are much lower to the ground so it was necessary to pay attention to that as well. Lifelike is the result. Stray is not the most beautiful game on the Xbox platform but it positively surprised me, it is one of the most memorable visuals.
- Animations | As a playable cat, it is obviously important that the typical movements are recognizable and fluid. This is certainly the case, it is not 100% but by far the most realistic animations that I have seen for cats. Sprint away from enemies, jump to and from various platforms or take a nap on a comfy seat. It all looks very believable, as if my Loki motion-captured it all.
- Gameplay | Take away the unique perspective of playing as a cat and you still have a very decent platformer. There’s no actual jump button, that is done by moving towards a possible jump place and pressing A. Kinda like moving around in Telltale games. That works very fluently, especially during chase moments. It felt like playing a point-and-click game but with more control and possibilities. A cat always lands on its paws, that’s my only minor complaint. As the game dictates when you are allowed to jump there isn’t a risk in failing. That limits the platforming challenge a bit. You do have to think like a cat to solve puzzles and explore the environments to fetch power sources or keys. My favorite moments were trying to survive while cleverly maneuvering around the world and avoiding enemies. Stray’s best accomplishment is actually feeling like a ninja cat and doing all kinds of crazy jumps.
- Stray’s story | Our adorable feline is separated from other cat friends and tries to find her way back to the clowder. The first few minutes of the game act like a tutorial suggesting a peaceful and calm game. But that’s far from the truth! Stray is a complex game that even has some horror elements. After a short but emotional scene, you fall apart from your cat friends. None of them have names so I took the liberty to name them Garfield, Ta-mui, and Grumpy Cat. Things take a quick and unexpected turn from that peaceful gameplay, Stray turns into a darker and mysterious game. You make a new friend, called B12. A flying robot that helps you in your adventure. He’s not the only robotic life you come across. Friendly humanlike and self-aware robots now exist in the post-apocalypse city. I kinda wish they would be a bit more aware of our feline friend, but it is a nice touch that you can rub their metal legs or sleep on them when they are reading a book. Our tuna-eating friend has to deal with less friendly creatures too, Zurks for example… they suck the life out of Stray’s cat like a parasitic nasty tick. The story concept is unique but I still missed some depth. I also know that a feline cannot have the most profound conversations. With my own Loki, it is limited to me saying ‘ nammekes’ to which he meows enthusiastically. Or I have to say ‘no’ to which he mewlingly contradicts. The real interaction with characters is actually with B12, who uses our rascal to get where he wants.
What we Disliked
- Nothing! | An option to change your cat color? That’s the only thing I missed while playing Stray. I can imagine that cat owners would like to play Stray with a cat that is similar as their own house cat.
How long to beat the story | 6 hours
How long to achieve 1000G | 10 hours
You’ll love this game if you like these | Trifox
Stray is a fantastic platformer with unique perspective. It looks good, plays fun and you get to do cat mischief. What else do you need?!
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