Stray Review: Improve adventure games by transforming into a cat


Stray Review: Improve adventure games by transforming into a cat

Stray has a lot in common with other adventure games. You must solve puzzles, navigate a dense urban environment, and use stealth to avoid powerful enemies. There are characters to befriend and things to collect. But there is a key difference between Stray and his contemporaries: You play as a cat. This may sound like a little twist or even a gimmick, but in reality the change of perspective makes sense Stray feel refreshingly new. You’re still in a big, complex world, but now you’re seeing it from the ground. It changes everything from exploration to puzzles. And along with a bittersweet story that oscillates between joy, heartbreak, and even horror on occasion, it’s one of the best games of the year so far.

in the stray, You play as an unnamed cat who is separated from her feline friends early in the game and plunged into an underground world populated by robots instead of humans. The goal is simple at first: Back to the surface. However, the search quickly turns into something more. Eventually, a cute drone named B12 joins you and the mysteries of the world begin to pile up. On your way to the surface, you’ll literally rise through the layers of robotic society, learning not only about their life and history, but what the heck happened to the humans. Then there are the Zurks, a mysterious swarm of bug-like monsters that seem to eat everything. These include the robots that confine the machines to various underground slums, as well as cute little cats.

The story also features a nice twist on the classic silent protagonist. Unlike, for example, Link from The Legend of Zelda, here it makes sense that your hero never speaks because it’s a cat. Occasionally you can communicate with your drone buddy via translation, but mostly Stray is a game where your actions do the talking. You can serve the robots by doing favors big and small – from helping a robo-granny knit a cozy poncho out of electric wires, to reuniting father and son by navigating dangerous, overcrowded sewers. StrayThe story of is relatively short – I beat the game in about seven hours – but it covers a lot in that runtime, with topics ranging from wealth inequality to environmental disasters, not to mention the all-important fate of the cat itself.

In terms of gameplay Stray spans a few genres depending on the moment. Much of your early life is spent figuring out how to get around as a little cat in a very vertical city. The controls are a little different from a typical third-person adventure: while you can move freely, the jump button is contextual, so you can only jump when you see an X on a ledge. It took a little getting used to – and it can slow things down when your life is on the line during an action sequence – but it also makes a lot of sense. in the stray, Getting around is often a constant planning process as you plan your course up or down a building or through a treacherous path. It’s like watching a house cat methodically climb furniture and countertops to get to the top of a refrigerator.

Getting around means not only planning the right route, but also solving some generally easy-to-deduce environmental puzzles. These might be as simple as knocking over a plank of wood to build a bridge, but often they’re more complicated, with multiple steps that can involve anything from repairing machines to startling robots with a well-placed meow. (There’s a button on the controller dedicated solely to meowing.) This isn’t an action-only game with a lot of skills at your disposal. Outside of a short section of the game, you don’t have a weapon. So you can only run, jump, meow and perform other contextual actions such as B. scraping a door or hitting something off a shelf. The experience is more about exploring this densely packed world, looking for clues and figuring out the best way to proceed given your limited kitty skills. And while some of these actions are present in other games, the mere fact that you’re a cat with limited options and a ground-level perspective feels very different in practice.

However, there are a few action sequences that, short as they are, add the necessary amount of excitement to the experience. Early on you’ll be dealing with swarms of Zurks, which means either running away or using a very limited weapon to destroy them. These moments can be terrifying – they’re reminiscent of the deadly rat swarms of 2019 A Plague Story: Innocence – but they can also be frustrating. I died repeatedly a few times before I could memorize the bugs’ patterns and plan a safe escape. It felt more boring than grueling, although those moments were rare and the game has a very generous checkpoint system, so you’re never forced to replay large sections. Later, the action shifts to stealth as you have to completely avoid robots to infiltrate different locations. (This includes hiding in boxes, of course.)

You move back and forth between these moments of action and adventure, and that’s perhaps the most impressive thing about it Stray is how to do it. I never felt like I was forced to spend too much time on one thing. Once a part of the game felt boring – whether it was running off the zurks or hopping across rooftops – I could move on to something else. The same applies to history. It starts out as a simple quest for Home, but as you progress through the different levels of the robotic world and learn more about this not unlikely future, the stakes – both personal and existential – become much higher. The ending is beautiful and tragic.

The experience is also packed with quiet moments if you choose. Stray gives you plenty of time to just be a cat. You can scratch carpets and sofas, completely mess up a running board game, or lie on a dozing bot for as long as you like. These actions are occasionally necessary to solve puzzles, but most of the time they’re just fun to play around with and help get you into that feline mindset. The first time the cat puts her harness on is one of the funniest moments I’ve experienced in a game.

Stray invites you to linger, but also does not surpass the welcome greeting. I went through the whole thing in two passes because I couldn’t put it down: I just did would have to know what happened next. When you mix this carefully planned narrative with gameplay that makes you meow on command, you have an experience that scratches an itch I didn’t even know I had.

Stray Launches July 19th on PS4, PS5 and Steam.

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