On the outskirts of a concrete citadel nicknamed “the dead city”, in an environment where vegetation has taken over, a ginger cat stands on its paws. Head held high, he walks as if the world belonged to him and rushes nimbly from pipe to pipe in search of cardboard to sleep on or a few drops of rainwater to lap up. Accidentally separated from his family, he ends up finding himself in the middle of the dead city, whose thick walls do not allow daylight to penetrate. This cat, it is up to the player to embody it for the few hours that lasts straywhich releases Tuesday, July 19 on PC and PlayStation.
The settings in which the plot of the game takes place are inspired by the citadel of Kowloon, in Hong Kong, in particular known for having been the most densely populated district in the world before its demolition in the early 1990s. the dead city takes up the architecture in all verticality, the alleys lit by the pale glow of neon lights and the small makeshift shops.
In this place populated by robots, everyone has a story to tell: there’s Morgus, who was programmed to be a musician but doesn’t know any songs; Grandma, who boasts of having knitted the equivalent of 770 kilometers of poncho during her life; or Roshee, who spends her time caring for plants that can grow without natural light. None of these characters know the outside world, but all have an opinion about it: some dream of escaping to discover it for themselves, while others remain firmly convinced that the blue sky is only a myth. On the other hand, everyone fears the Zurks, species of tardigrades with shining eyes, which can gnaw metal and proliferate in the sewers of the city.
Do androids dream of electric cats?
The genesis of stray is based on a very simple idea: let the player explore a city at cat height, giving him the possibility of sneaking into any corner and jumping on anything that can act as a platform – whether he whether it’s a pile of dusty books, air conditioners hanging from the facades of buildings, or, as its attention-seeking feline DNA dictates, the computer keyboard of someone work.
For anyone who has ever dreamed of being a cat, stray is teeming with interactions as wonderful as they are useless: it is for example possible to drop objects with a distracted air as soon as you feel the urge to do so, to be petted by robots that our mere presence seems to soften or even scratching the armrest of a sofa.
Apart from these superfluous pleasures, certain interactions are necessary to advance in the game, the objective of which is to get out of the citadel and unravel its mysteries: scratch at a door while waiting for someone to deign to open it, meow to get an enemy’s attention, jump into a bucket to zipline across town, or tip a board over an obstacle. In his quest, our alley cat is assisted by a small amnesiac robot named B12, capable of translating the language of robots and acting as an inventory.
To good cat, good Zurk
Like the semi-open environments that the game gives us to see later, the first zone of the citadel is magnificent and full of details, sometimes nestled behind the boards of a barricaded apartment or in the mounds of rubbish that s pile up in the heart of a decrepit building. stray is a narrative game, which has a myriad of puzzles to solve and where exploration is always subject to conditions: it is only possible to jump when the corresponding key is displayed near a predefined platform. Even in its action and infiltration phases, it offers little freedom of approach, in addition to being relatively short: allow six hours to complete the adventure, and two more to complete all the missions.
But with its controlled art direction, its excellent soundtrack and its scenario which eye both science fiction and horror, stray is a success, if you take it for what it is: a narrative adventure, which is the very first from an independent studio, partly composed of artists who sign their first game there. If the developers have choosing to have a cat coexist with robots is also for technical reasons: humans were too difficult to model correctly for a small team. It is from this constraint that the strong identity of stray – which, for lack of human characters, nevertheless tells a story full of humanity.
- The beauty and attention to detail of the environments to explore, all in verticality
- The animation of the cat, its little meows and purrs that subtly vibrate the controller
- The story, which knows changes of atmosphere that it would be criminal to reveal
We liked less:
- Restricted Exploration
- The short lifespan and limited replayability
It’s more for you if…
- You have always wondered what it feels like to be a cat who arouses love and tenderness even when he is content to chain selfish and reckless acts
- Desperately searching for the missing link between blade runner and The Velveteen Spy
- You enjoy short, well-written narrative games
It’s not for you if…
- You believe that cats are detestable creatures that do not deserve the love of men (and even less that of robots)
- You dream of a vast playground where it is possible to jump on any platform without having to worry about the goodwill of the developers
- You don’t like being taken by the hand
Eight out of nine cat lives