(Spanish CNN) — From its presentation, the “Stray” video game already had attractive and differentiating elements to attract the attention of players: its proposal and its aesthetics. A video game of controlling a stray cat in a cyber city of the future with a cyberpunk vibe. If we add to this that it was going to be distributed by Annapurna Interactive, which also took care of independent and different nuggets such as “What Remains of Edith Finch”, “Outer Wilds” or “Sayonara Wild Hearts”, the expectations grew. . And the end result confirms that the title developed by BlueTwelve Studio is a more than remarkable, satisfying work, with a great setting and with good ideas when it comes to posing puzzles and situations capable of making players smile (especially among cat lovers).
In “Stray”, players take on the role of a stray cat who must run and escape from a cyber city full of robots and strange creatures in which there are no humans left. In turn, you need to find out what happened there. To do this, he has B-12, a small drone that he meets during his journey. The adventure can easily be completed in around 6 hours with moderate exploration of the environments, but can take up to 10 hours for those who want to complete it all.
It is precisely in this idea of going around this futuristic city that lies one of the main strengths of the book: its playable mechanics are effective and well implemented to generate varied situations.
First of all, the movement of the cat stands out. The effort to make a realistic and recognizable animal is obvious to anyone who has watched these cats run, limp, jump, perch and even purr. When it comes to moving, it’s not only visually pleasing, it’s graceful and fluid. Instead of allowing the cat to jump when and where it wants, at BlueTwelve Studio they preferred to have it jump only on the elements that the game marks with a symbol. In this way, chaotic situations are avoided.
Along with this nifty movement mechanic, the cat is able to sleep, rub up against other beings, and meow. Yes, there is a meow button. And it’s not just there as a curiosity. It also has the function of attracting certain enemies. All of these elements promote the immersion of playing like a cat. Within minutes, it’s easy to feel nimble moving through the various vertical elements one would expect in a futuristic cyberpunk city. This is where another of the strengths of the title comes in: a very clever application of level design to create different puzzles in which the different movements and abilities of the feline are applied.
However, it is precisely in the design of the aforementioned urban and cyberpunk aesthetic that a bittersweet feeling is generated. The art style and setting of the setting where the game takes place is bright and attractive. There are scenarios full of nooks and crannies that tell stories just by looking at them. It is interesting to know more about the robots that inhabit this place and to know more about what is happening in this city. But, as with other video games that use similar futuristic scenarios, the cybernetic dystopian scenarios end up somewhat marred for being just an aesthetic mask. The continent is striking: underground world with buildings with illuminated signs and Asian fonts, hyper-surveilled areas… but it is useless to create a message or a reflection that would give more weight to the content. “Stray” sometimes seems to want to play with ideas about artificial intelligence, humanity, freedom… It doesn’t need it to be fun and satisfying, but it does leave that question of “what if… ?”.
The other problem is a plot where it can be hard to connect with its characters. The cat fulfills well what is expected of him: to be a curious being who moves for his pure survival. But the rest lacks “punch”. Some robots are charismatic, but the development of B-12 is seen as accelerated and sudden.
“Stray” stands out for knowing how to use its weapons well and for not wanting to be an overambitious title. In terms of movement, the variety of situations and in the exploration of this world, it’s magnificent. But it fails to be an exceptional or indispensable title because of the narrative and plot side. It doesn’t have to be that either. It just wants to be a fresh and endearing adventure. An ideal job to enjoy between deliveries of big and budget productions or to disconnect from such clone proposals.
“Stray” is available from July 19 for PS4, PS5 and Microsoft Windows.