Making a game about a cat is actually an impossible task. The essence of most cats does not lend itself at all to a game that you have to be able to control exactly.

Cats don’t listen, do what they want, throw your things off the table or take a nap just when you finally have time for them. That’s not exactly a good foundation for a video game. It is therefore great that the French developer BlueTwelve Studio manages to capture the cat existence so well in his first game.

The beginning of Stray is perfect. As a red-haired cat, you wake up among your feline friends, who lick and cup you at the push of a button. You set off together, meowing happily at each other thanks to the dedicated meow button. Every now and then you drink something from a puddle of water. Then disaster strikes: your cat falls down, deep into the caverns of a city full of robots.

The attention with which your cat is made is exceptional. Never before have we seen such natural cat movements in a game. The way she walks, clambers and scratches looks lifelike. After her unfortunate fall, she briefly cripples in a way that melts your heart right away. Stray is the best cat game ever made in which you just play a normal and real cat, although there is little competition in that regard.

Jumping also conforms to the image of the animals: like a real cat you never miss a jump. You do not let your cat jump itself, but you see an icon appear that indicates the best place for her to land. It probably would also have looked weird if you could jump everywhere yourself as a player. Jumping wrong every time would break the illusion of the perfect cat.

But this solution also robs the game of its gameplay at the same time. You never miss a beat, so there’s no platforming challenge. Still, about half of the game consists of sections that mainly revolve around platforming, even if you as a player do not get any satisfaction from that. Stray tries to brighten up the gameplay here and there with an extra mechanic, such as sneaking past guards or dodging aggressive monsters, but this is all very superficially worked out. Fortunately, these gameplay variations disappear just as quickly as they are introduced, so they won’t annoy you for too long.

The other half of Stray is a lot more interesting because it’s where you explore. Your cat soon finds a robot friend who talks to you and understands the other robots in town. Your goal is to find a way out of the mechanically sealed city while unraveling where all those robots come from and where humanity has gone.

There’s plenty to discover in this deserted city, from sheet music for a robot with a guitar, to colored plants for a gardening robot. However, your cat is more interested in all the elements that have been put together especially for her. Everywhere you will find rugs or benches to sharpen your nails, paint pots that you can throw off a shelf or just a nice place to take a nap.

Here too, it is striking how well thought has been given to the unique perspective of a cat. It’s just a small creature, so you don’t always have the overview. When you enter a pub, you walk past the bar stools and robot legs, with your snout close to the ground. Only when you jump on the bar or a stool can you talk to the robots and take a good look around you.

The game is further filled with some puzzle work, but that is so incredibly light that it really shouldn’t have a name. For example, you look for a code for a safe, which is written a little further on the wall. Or you try to get into a closed store and see two robots unloading boxes. You hide in the box and are then carried inside. They are very simple challenges that you probably won’t have to think about for more than five seconds.

In a game that has so little to do with gameplay, the atmosphere is one of the most important pillars. A game like Inside is not particularly challenging, but is still special because of the oppressive environments. Fortunately, Stray is fine: the robot city is beautifully displayed. The lighting in particular is exceptionally good, with neon lights giving the inhabited areas a warm glow and chilly street lamps spreading their bright light over deserted streets.

There are also interesting story elements here and there. For example, the robots continue to perform human actions, even though humanity has long since died out here. They take care of the plants while they do not need the oxygen and emulate restaurants and bars without the need for food themselves.

Unfortunately, the overarching story lacks emotional impact, precisely because you are playing with a cat. Your robot friend discovers quite a few astonishing truths about himself, but of course that doesn’t bother that cat at all. He just goes to sleep after an exciting reveal, or knocks over another beer bottle. The story has absolutely no impact on its protagonist, so it doesn’t quite land with you as a player.

Stray also has little replay value. After about five hours we had finished the game and found almost all optional content. That’s not necessarily a downside, but it’s good to know if you have a tight wallet and want more hours of play for your money.

Stray is a unique game that captures a cat’s life almost perfectly. Mediocre gameplay sections spoil the fun a bit, but thankfully never stick around for too long. The world is beautifully designed and a joy to explore, especially as you will find opportunities to unleash your inner cat everywhere. Cat lovers see something every five minutes that makes them say ‘ahwww!’ yell at the TV. What else do you want?

Stray is available now for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC. PlayStation Plus Extra and Premium members can play the game for free. For this review, the game was tested on a PlayStation 5.



+ Plenty to explore
+ Many cat things to do
+  Our freindly neighbourhood  cat moves very realistic
+ Beautiful world and atmosphere

  • Not a high replay value