Stray review – Cyberpunk, director’s cat4 min read
Announced in a rather clever way by Annapurna in a period of video game scarcity, Stray has been eagerly awaited by PlayStation players since its announcement. Indeed, the scarcity of PS5 exclusives has allowed this indie title to get noticed much more easily than if it had been released opposite a God of War, for example.
Add to this the failure of the start of Cyberpunk 2077, which suddenly positioned Stray – also having the context of a dystopian universe resembling Blade Runner – as a less buggy alternative, and the magic ingredient: the cute potichat . Everything was there to make it a success.
If the first images let us imagine an open-world, it is finally nothing, on the contrary even, in the bottom as in the form. Our stray cat (“stray cat” in English, hence the title) finds himself stuck in a city under a bell, deprived of access to the outside.
We quickly learn that something outside, at one point, went wrong, and that society took shelter in this huge complex with an artificial sky. An initial situation already seen (at the cinema, for example, in THX 1138, the first film by George Lucas , but also in La Fuite au Paradis, The Island, or even 10 Cloverfield Lane…), but which here is enriched with a new element: humans have completely disappeared; in any case of the environment of the game.
A little Nier: Automata feeling, bolstered by the fact that like in Yoko Taro ‘s game , the androids that now populate the city nonetheless continue to ape human life in a sort of vain, disembodied puppet theater. The other little twist, and not the least, is that we embody here a cat, the only representative of a living species, and as such the very symbol of hope.
“Me wanting to be a cat…”
The hero of the game will also be the main argument: anyone with even the beginning of a weakness for felines can only rave about Stray . Its main character is crying out for truth, crying out for life at all, even.
The animation is particularly neat, and we immediately recognize this unique way that cats have of curling up to take a nap, then stretching, front legs stretched out in front of them, hindquarters raised, when they wake up. His gait, when walking or running, or even the way of progressing cautiously on surfaces too thin to accommodate him, and even the little clumsiness of the animal with the injured paw, everything is extremely faithful to reality, and incredibly well done.
And to add to the “cat porn”, all the kinks of our friends with mustache (say “vibrissae” to make pro) are in the game, from the most endearing to the most annoying. We will push with light kicks, centimeter by centimeter, the pots located at the edge of tables and balconies to make them fall; we will scratch the carpets or sofas; we will throw ourselves into all the boxes within our reach and we will purr and rub against the legs of certain characters as a sign of affection…
Clearly, the same game, exactly, but with a small robot instead of the cat, would not have had the same impact . It might even have struggled to exist.
“…’Cause you’re a cool cat”
Because in terms of gameplay, we have a lot of fun controlling the little cat, but Stray remains quite classic, and timid in its proposals . If the first images let us imagine an open world game, or at least a 3D platform game, we are finally closer to a cinematic platformer à la Limbo or Little Nightmare: we control our ginger cat well in 3D, but the progression is in a straight line.
Following a rhythm faithful to the genre, progress will be regularly stopped by phases of environmental puzzles, action scenes (often flight scenes, a little infiltration as well), or moments of exploration. None of these three gameplay elements will really slow down the player. The game is easy, a bit too easy perhaps, but still satisfying.
The level design is sufficiently well thought out so that we understand at all times where to go, and still has some less visible corners for completionists who would like to discover all the secrets. Count also barely more than 4 hours to finish the story, and 2 hours more to search the levels in search of memories. Some will consider this to be too short. Others, on the contrary, will be satisfied with an adventure that can be completed without too many demands in terms of time.