DThe video game Stray, shown exclusively during the PlayStation Showcase in July 2021, immediately left its mark: a concept in which the player camps out as a surviving cat in a dystopian future free of humans. Created by a very small Montpellier-based studio, Blue Twelve, the enigmatic project has piqued the curiosity of gamers due to its eye-catching art direction and a sure eye-catching premise for lovers of little fluffy buns on their feet. The title is now finally available, and we discover that underneath the cat-rmant (sorry!) idea lies a breathtaking narrative adventure, doubling down with a watermark of rather scathing social critique. In Stray, the story begins when a cat you play as a third person, living peacefully among its kind in a lush environment, suddenly finds itself all alone in dark basements, pursued by many small creatures that are as fast as they are aggressive. Mischievous and agile at the same time, cute enough to eat with his beautiful spotted red coat, now the stray cat is on a journey to try and find his way back to his home.
Luckily, you won’t be wandering around alone for long, as you will encounter B-12, a small AI-equipped drone that has lost most of its memory. Despite this, the B-12 will serve you best, sometimes serving as a torch, translator, and even a repository for your discoveries. This incredible duo spawns many interactions that sometimes resonate with bleakness, like when your mustache-wearing avatar traverses the last vestiges of a lost civilization. The places visited consist of often dangerous underground areas, but also semi-open areas that you can explore at your leisure by starting small quests to unearth here and there a relic of the past, an important note, or a piece of a lost memory from your life. companion drone. On your way, you will encounter robots that seem to mimic the behavior of people who have now disappeared, wearing clothes and doing things as varied as knitting, working at the laundry or bar. These machines even seem to have feelings such as fear of an external threat, a search for comfort, or even an obsession to stay active no matter what in this universe of ruins and flashing neon signs. Touch.
Atmosphere between Love, Death + Robots and WALL-E
As such, Stray is defined as a narrative adventure game that emphasizes atmosphere and exploration (with lots of items to find) punctuated by simple puzzles, such as discovering the strong’s code, or a way to get a robot out of your house to recover objects: however it’s not a platformer in any way, the “jump” feature is fully directional. Therefore, you can only jump from one ledge to another if the “jump” button appears on the screen, thus avoiding falls that can be fatal. Some will no doubt find this principle too dirigiste, but rather it should be seen as a representation of the innate ability of the feline, whose instinct would rather be to find the best path. This research gives the player the opportunity to experience the undeniable pleasure of having the kitten run over roofs, pipes, and other beams with cat-like ease.
During your journey home, you will also have to avoid at all costs strange small, very fast larvae-like creatures that will jump at you in packs to devour you: then you will have to show speed and agility to avoid certain death. These encounters will lead to racing phases where you’ll need to quickly dodge their attacks, and others where you’ll have the ability to manipulate the environment to avoid as many attackers as possible. Their origins will be gradually revealed through the scattered information that you and B-12 will collect throughout your adventure, which will lift the veil on the past of the places visited. So, of course, except for certain areas to search, the title is pretty linear: you’ll have to progress to find your way while trying to survive the dangers and obstacles that stand in your way. Like a cat, you can jump, meow to get noticed, scratch doors to open for you, drop objects… So, a typical example of a coping challenge, you can throw an object at the blades of your car propeller blocking your access to the tunnel . But the possibilities are not endless.
Therefore, Stray is not a game with big problems, but in truth it doesn’t matter: simply exploring these strange, even unsettling places to find your fellows provides enough twists and turns to guarantee an exciting score of the game. adventure. Croquettes on the Cake: This cute little hero’s walk through the wasteland gives the game a post-apocalyptic Wall-E vibe. Thanks to the presence of androids recreating the world before in the slums without a sky, the player also thinks a lot about “Three Robots”, one of the most popular episodes of “Love, Death + Robots”, the famous animated anthology from Netflix. We have seen worse as a benchmark. In fact, this is an uncompromising view of the authors of “The Tramp” on the potential future of human civilization, which especially resonates with our ominous environmental news. Criticism contained in the exact cause of the disaster, explaining the flight of people: especially the all-consuming threat that you will discover during your wanderings. In short, a sweet story, at the same time as a fable about whistleblowers, in the form of a game with a lifespan of about 7-8 hours, to be experienced from the point of view of this little furry creature on four legs, trying to survive in a hostile environment with its strong and weak points.
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5 – Genre: Narrative adventure with exploration and simple puzzles. Currently only available as a download on Steam and PlayStation Store, ca. €30 (PS5 boxed release scheduled for September). The test was performed on the PlayStation 5 version.