Cats seldom get the love and respect they deserve in video games, in my opinion. It’s pretty common to be able to pet dogs in games—in fact, there’s a whole Twitter account (opens in new tab) dedicated to it—but our feline friends are often overlooked. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla lets you pick up and cuddle the decisively giant kitties that roam the various lands, whereas in Fallout 4 you can only pet them with your eyes. Cat Quest offers a sweet bipedal cat adventure, but what about a game where I can actually be a cat?
Enter Stray, a fantastic new game from BlueTwelve Studio. This team of French cat lovers have designed a game where you play as a little stray orange kitty. While the cat in Stray has no name, he reminds me of my red son, Steve, so that’s what I’ll be calling him. Stray is a third-person catventure through a long-forgotten city inhabited entirely by robots. Here, you’ll need to use your cunning to solve an ancient mystery should you ever wish to find your way home.
A furmidable detective
As you are a cat, it’s rather difficult to go around solving mysteries with no opposable thumbs. Fortunately, you have a little robot buddy, B12, who can translate texts and speak with the robots on your behalf, making you the most hi-tech kitty in the world. Through B12 you’ll be able to access a range of tech and skills which you’ll need to solve puzzles and traverse this strange place. B12 even has its own backstory, as do most of the robots living here, which you can uncover by speaking to them, studying signs and messages and listening with those big ears of yours.
Of course, as this is a cat game, you can’t rely on B12 alone to do everything. To achieve certain goals you’ll need to think like a cat, namely, knocking shit off shelves, jumping and climbing over every surface, and scratching at doors to be let in. How long you wait before going in or leaving is up to you—you can’t tell a cat what to do, after all. If all that puzzle solving and jumping is too much like hard work, you can simply have a nap for as long as you like, pretty much wherever you like. Or you can interrupt a chess game and piss off a few robots if you’re feeling especially pesky.
You’ll never miss a jump in Stray, as its design means you’ll always land on that sweet spot and by default won’t take any fall damage as you’ll never miss. The only time you can die is during particular action sequences, where a mistimed step can result in you losing one of your nine lives. You’ll be able to replay these parts until you succeed, but you might want to consider not wasting those precious lives if you’re going on an achievement hunt.
I’m feline good
The red cat is the star of the show, obviously, and there needs to be a special nod towards its design. During the preview, we were told that the cat’s animator, Miko, created all of its animations by hand rather than using mocap. Mocap of cats running, jumping and rolling around inspired many of his animations, but it makes Stray all the more special knowing that it was one guy who brought this red boy to life. Who’d have thought watching cat videos would have led to Stray being made?
It was said during the preview that the BlueTwelve team love their cat overlords and it’s very plain to see in Stray’s design. The cat meows and prbbbts (this is the official term, I’m sure) as he climbs and jumps, and he has varying meow sounds you can use to yell at robots and be very annoying. If you’d rather not be a constant source of irritation, you can wind yourself around their legs and be an affectionate lap cat—all the top-tier cat behaviours have been included in Stray, letting you be the cool cat you’ve always dreamt of.
As happy as I am to spend hours doing extremely normal cat things, Stray is promising plenty of quests and adventures to find. Many of the robots will have tasks for you, some pertinent to the story and some just for fun, and the local barman is always bursting with gossip if you need a tip. Curiosity isn’t going to kill the cat this time.
I’ve often wondered how my red sons see the world and I’m pretty sure Stray is going to bring me one step closer to understanding them better. Unfortunately, I don’t think either of my cats will let me put a little backpack on them and I value my life too much to bother trying. In the meantime, I will be practising napping and yelling loudly at half-empty bowls of food until Stray releases on July 19.