I wonder to what extent a game like ‘Stray’ can be attractive to someone who is not interested in cats, but in any case, you will have to look for that person and ask them, why (by way of disclaimer) I confess myself devoted to felines, their fascinating history, their magnetic behavior, their overwhelming appearance and its possibilities as a narrative engine. ‘Stray’ had me won from the first trailer, and maybe someone wants to consider that for this reason my opinion is not entirely valid, but in any case someone who doesn’t adore cats will say it, so you don’t have to pay much attention to it either.
Jokes aside, the truth is that ‘Stray’ is a really cute independent game that you can try right now on Steam, but also on Playstation as a gift if you’re at the highest levels of the new PlayStation Plus. It’s a quiet, contemplative title that will present little to no difficulty for hardened gamers and will be looked down upon by more than one seasoned player because it presents no major challenges and virtually no chance of getting stuck. What matters here is something else.
And that other thing is that ‘Stray’ offers the possibility of controlling a curious cat through the streets of a future and isolated city, almost a bunker, where humans have been replaced by artificial intelligences. And a large part of BlueTwelve Studio’s effort has been in creating a perfectly realistic cat not only in its movements, agility, the possibility of reaching apparently inaccessible areas or falling from great heights, but in the small details.
That is to say, the possibility of meowing in a thousand different ways, settling down in any soft place to doze for a while, doing your nails on doors, sofas and carpets. Or that hilarious blankness, which implies that cats take any inconvenience with that passive charisma that drives us humans crazy. Details from which hours of observation and understanding of the felines are deduced and that are worth more than any ostentatious display of means, because it implies a devotion to detail that is where the heavy weaponry of independent games is, and where Annapurna knows that it leads the ones to win
Don Gato and the humanoids
With these ingredients a game takes shape whose other great asset is the construction of a world of a certain depth in terms of its lore (where are the humans, who are the invaders, where exactly are we?) and that never resorts to leaden infodumps to immerse ourselves in history. The cat’s eyes, carefully chosen pieces of information and a scenario design that brims with a story between the lines they are more than enough to launch us into a narrative infinitely more sophisticated in its simplicity than that of many Triple A.
For everything else, an accessible game, with very basic controls, which does not need any type of HUB beyond a couple of inventory menus so simple that they are almost typical of a mobile game, but that dazzles as the magnificent movements of our cat on the rooftops of the city. Challenge does not provide any but a few emotions, a good story and a very careful graphic section, in abundance.
And in the middle, some surprise. For example, occasional stealth sections, or very simple action in which you flee from avalanches of enemies. Also surprising, in the initial section of the game, is the discovery that the semi-open areas, which can be explored in sandbox mode and attending a secondary mission to spice up the plot, are broader, labyrinthine and vertical than they appeared at first. Later the original impact feeling is lost, but the vibrations of the first hour of play are very interesting.
‘Stray’ is fun for a couple of afternoons, and won’t keep you up at night with convoluted puzzles and visual showmanship. But its graphic exquisiteness, the ingenuity and the originality of its many details (the purr in the Dualsense, authentic balm for the soul) make it a must for cat owners and, eye, also a must for those who seek alternatives to the tiresome panorama of the usual blockbusters. So are cats.
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