A lost feline becomes a cyberpunk revolutionary: Our Stray review explores the many twists, turns and cybercity collapse of BlueTwelve Studio through the eyes of a cat.
The Stray review starts with an acknowledgment of the hype surrounding BlueTwelve Studio’s small indie cat game. It’s a simple but compelling story about a cat who accidentally becomes trapped in an underground city of robot-inhabited robots. He must travel through the city to reunite with his colony. He will need to solve rudimentary platforming problems and uncover the mystery behind this narrative-driven adventure. This is a huge task for a creature who sleeps 12 hours per day.
BlueTwelve Studio is a game that makes you feel like a cat. With a simple nudge, your feline style can allow you to jump onto surfaces, send objects flying, tear apart upholstery and knock over paint cans. These feline idiosyncrasies may seem silly in a way they should be but they are also mechanics. Meowing can lure enemies away from key positions. Crawling at doors and hanging drapery allows you to access hidden areas. Stray will reward you for taking a nap on the couch with a few discarded cushions during quiet times.
Okay, that last one isn’t actually a mechanic but it is very cute.
BlueTwelve Studio may be able to provide animations for its tiny protagonist, but in order to fully interact with the Walled City and all of its inhabitants, you will often need to call your robot friend. The robot companion is located within the stray’s. Backpack B-12 is able to collect items, hack terminals and translate robotic language into cat language. B-12 is more than a tool. They are a character. Their mystery is theirs to unravel, and they are reflected in Stray’s gameplay. If you lose B-12, Stray will make you feel it.
Some might be disappointed to find that Stray’s Walled City does not exist in an completely open world. Each chapter of Stray’s 12 chapters takes place in its own part of the city and has its own class of robotic society. This approach requires focus and curation. It’s obvious that everything inside was designed to enhance the feline experience and encourage experimentation.]
This curation is especially evident in Stray’s exceptional environmental signposting. Stray’s environmental signposting is exceptional. Emergency lights and lanterns cast a neon glow that will let you know where to go. Billboards are often adorned with arrows that point to collectibles all over the globe. Signs are an integral part of every cityscape. The Walled City’s visual density means that they don’t feel too heavy handed. Instead, you will be gently guided to points of interest at a subliminal level.
Although they look like mere rustbuckets, the Walled City’s inhabitants are whimsical and strikingly real. They don flower power fisherman hats, and wrap themselves in blankets. Side quests in the game explore their familial bonds. One robot, known only as Grandma, knits woollen items in her spare hours. Another grieves his father’s death by propped up at a bar. Stray’s story is centered around robots that imitate human emotions and social structures within the Walled City.
Don’t worry if there’s trash
The cyberpunk narrative that lies behind the joy of being a small orange menace, and the pure joy of playing it, is what lurks beneath the surface. It reflects the worst and best of humanity as well as our inability to correct our mistakes. The Walled City is covered in neon and a lot of trash. Neco Corp is the corporate waste management company. Its logo is visible all over the city. In a world filled with trash bottles, tin containers, and bags after bags of garbage, their slogan, “Don’t worry if there’s trash!” rings hollow. As the Walled City’s dark mysteries unfold, Stray’s journey leads to a terrifying descent into dystopian horror. A lost feline becomes a cyberpunk revolutionary
Stray’s dynamic music deserves special mention. The game’s soundtrack is as integral as the visuals. It features an ethereal synth that alternates between being pleasantly optimistic and unsettling. Picking up an item or clue that will help you unravel the mysteries of the Walled City can often trigger a seamless transition to another track. This captures the parallel shifts in the narrative towards intrigue, mischief or menace.
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Stray is Annapurna Interactive’s latest golden feather. It embodies what we have come to expect from their games: a narrative-driven experience with an emotional core and thought-provoking core. The choice of a protagonist feels genuine rather than gimmicky and the world itself is compelling. Even more important, Stray is an important first appearance for BlueTwelve Studio. This raises the question: What’s next?
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