The release of BlueTwelve Studio and the brand new IP Stray from Annapurna Interactive is fast approaching and joins a host of games coming out in July, such as Bear and Breakfast, Digimon Survive and Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Stray is different from many other games on the market, throwing players into a superbly realized futuristic world populated by robots that they see with their eyes cats. This premise represents either everything a player has ever wanted from a video game, or a slightly bizarre gameplay setup that needs to be persuaded to give it a try.
During the recent State of Play, Stray received an exciting release date, as well as confirmation that it would be a free PS Plus download for higher subscription levels. If any of the players doubted the game, this is a great opportunity to take it when it comes out in July and see what Stray is like. But if they are just expecting a game that will allow them to wander around and look at things from the cat’s point of view, then they may be surprised.
Exploring a futuristic setting
Initially, Stray was a demo called HK_Project, in which a cat wandered through the beautifully lit roofs and streets of Hong Kong. It has evolved into something much more complex, though still focused on exploration as players navigate through a neon-lit cityscape and encounter a variety of urban projects. Although the game has many different areas with open-world elements, the basic aesthetics and focus of the game allow players to explore a cyberpunk city full of intelligent robots in their daily lives.
There are other aspects to the gameplay of Stray, but part of the fun of the game is the delight in the design of the world. Players will be able to plunge into the sci-fi atmosphere, appreciate the artful construction of streets and buildings and explore the colorful surroundings from a completely new perspective. After all, there aren’t many games in which gamers can take control of a cat, and this alone is a weighty argument in favor of Stray’s originality, along with its intriguing and luxurious setting and unique gameplay.
Puzzles and platformers
While exploration is the focus of Stray, the game is also a third-person adventure with puzzle-solving elements and platformer aspects with the acrobatic and agile movements of the titular cat. Players will be able to jump around the environment in scripted sections and instances with hints, but while this may seem a bit limiting in otherwise smooth movement, there are some sections where players will need to use these prescribed movements in a flurry of actions that better suits this mechanic.
The cat won’t be alone in his adventures either; he’ll be joined by B-12, a friendly drone that helps players collect items and helps them avoid pesky enemies called Zurkas that will swarm and attack the main character from the feline family. There is no combat in Stray, although it would be great to see a miniature cat fighting enemies. Most of the time, the goal is to avoid collisions, but later in the game, the B-12 can be upgraded to fight several smaller antagonist robots if the need arises.
Stray will also face a lot of environment-related puzzles, mostly based on physics, and the fluffy cat will be able to carry and hold objects in his mouth to help with them. Some puzzles will need to be solved when the cat and her robot companion work together, and the B-12 activates a switch and helps to get to things that the cat may not be able to reach easily. Stray will also include a variety of feline activities, including rubbing against the legs of robot passers-by, which should add realism to the gameplay in interesting (and charming) ways.
Stray is released on July 19 on PC, PS4 and PS5.