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What The Critics Are Saying About Stray

"Stray" might be the only game in history to seriously flesh out what it would be like for a cat to be the protagonist in a dystopian action adventure. BlueTwelve Studio, a small indie team from France, first shared early looks at "Stray" as a set of gifs on Twitter. Then, when Annapurna Interactive took notice and reached out to the team, the devs took the opportunity to make it a full-on experience. 

"Stray" gets its name from its protagonist, a "stray" cat who's trying to find its way back to its family after finding itself into a post-apocalyptic world full of robots. There are no humans in sight, only robots and vague remnants of civilization. The cat, along with the help of robot companion B-12, must find its way outside of the city and back home. However, it isn't going to be easy to fend off aggressive, mutated animals and maneuver the complex Hong Kong-inspired cityscape.

The least that can be said for this game is that it's no cat-astrophe. Here is what critics are saying about "Stray."

Important: You play as a cat!

"Stray" developers spent hours analyzing cats' behavior (per Digital Trends), and it shows. Many critics praised how realistic the protagonist's behavior and line of reasoning was as a cat. Similar to the famed "Untitled Goose Game," "Stray" challenges players to charm robots by rubbing against their legs and strategically knocking over items to progress. 

Digital Trends reviewerJoseph Yaden fondly recalled a moment where the game's stray cat got its head stuck in a paper bag and he had to "invert" his controls to get it off. "Those often comedic touches gave me a momentary glimpse into my cat's confused little brain," he wrote. However, Yaden also noted that some of the gameplay felt repetitive, like how "it felt like just about any non-platforming puzzle was solved by scratching or knocking something over," even if it convincingly captured what it was like to be cat.

Similarly, GameSpot's review noted that the game's ultimate strength lies in utilizing the "unique perspective and capabilities of its protagonist." Reviewer Alessandro Barbosa stressed that the cat-inspired mechanics never feel gimmicky. Instead, Barbosa enjoyed how the developers designed the puzzles to work with the cat's limited moveset. Likewise, Kotaku's Ari Notis noted that the world's verticality — the fact that you can climb up onto buildings, pipes, and more — also fits the idea of a cat's playground.

But there's more than cat-inspired controls and world design to appreciate.

What Stray says about humanity

Many reviewers also noticed how the game had a nuanced view of humanity and its relationship with technology. Digital Trends dove into the idea in a portion of its review, where it highlights, "'Stray' understands that tech is often just used as a scapegoat to excuse the people who abuse it." In short, perhaps people blame too many modern problems on technology instead of the people abusing it. After all, the cat's main playground is a dystopian robot slum, which is basically a human tech dumpster.

Meanwhile, Kotaku noted "how blurry the line is between artificial and natural intelligence." Notis felt that the robots in the story were strangely relatable and human, despite being machines. It's also easy to become invested in the relationship between B12, the cat's robot companion, and the cat themselves. "I went into 'Stray' expecting a platformer about a cat. I did not expect a deeply profound meditation on what it means to be alive," he included in his review.

"Stray" launches for PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 on July 19, 2022. As an exciting bonus, it is free for PlayStation Plus Extra and Premium subscribers. Being a timed exclusive, it's not available for Xbox consoles just yet, but that could change in the future!