Despite the fact that it stars a cat, there’s no extra fluff in Stray. The game takes place under the dome of an artificial sky, in a futuristic city populated by robots and cut off from the natural world, and mechanically, it’s also perfectly contained. Every detail in Stray serves a purpose, whether it’s an environmental cue nudging players toward a specific path or the ability to meow at will, which is adorable, but can also distract enemies in combat scenes.
Stray is a cyberpunk playground where players are rewarded for trusting their instincts, and it offers a beautiful balance of exploration, puzzle solving and soothing cat activities. And somehow along the way, it manages to tell a heart-wrenching human story without any people at all.
Cat people, you’re going to love Stray, but there are also some scenes that are hard to watch. The game begins with a gang of four cats living their best lives in a lush, overgrown industrial park that’s long been abandoned by people. Players are an orange tabby, leaping across huge pipes and steel beams until one slip changes everything. As its friends look on, the cat falls dozens of storeys down a deep, pitch-black hole, landing in a broken heap on the concrete floor of a sewer. The cat is injured, making players walk around limping and woozy for a while before recovering normal mobility. The injury scene is tough to watch and even harder to play, even for a dog person like myself, but it builds an instant emotional connection with the tabby that carries through the entire game.
The bulk of Stray takes place in the neon-lit neighborhoods trapped under the dome and populated by anthropomorphic robots. Players explore while trying to find a way back to their friends