I was in love with strayed from the moment I took part in a recent 30+ minute hands-off preview of BlueTwelve’s upcoming feline adventure. Idle on the screen before the demo started, Stray’s pro-cat-onist sat waiting for the player, pawing at something in the air, stretched out to get comfortable, and, well, generally behaved like a cat.
Fortunately, the demo showed me more than just a napping cat, although I did see more of that later on, and I’m quite intrigued by the impressive world on display, and the many surprising ways BlueTwelve has made playing like a cat look like. see so nice. More importantly, it showcased a beautifully designed world and some inventive ways to incorporate a cat’s behavior into the gameplay. The developers are silent on much of the story players can expect, but the many bits of life I saw promised a potentially cat-tacular good time.
Stray Sample Screenshots
Stray starts from a relatively simple premise, but finds ingenuity in how strange it actually is the moment you start exploring it. It is an adventure game through a cyberpunk world where you play as an unnamed cat, who has fallen in this unknown cyber city full of robot citizens. As the unnamed protagonist of the cat, you explore the world, trying to make sense of the world and make your way through it to reunite with family, and maybe help some robots along the way.
Exploration is a big part of what you’ll be doing in Stray, whether it’s through more authorized locations, pushing you along the main trail or forcing you to avoid trouble, or through wider hubs that slow the pace down a bit to really let you immerse yourself in the world.
Something very striking about all this, especially if you’ve seen footage of Stray, is that you’ll see his main cat hopping around the world, up and down machines and architecture to move from one place to another, but during our session, the developers made it clear that Stray is not intended to be a platformer. Spots to jump to, such as from one barrel to another, or even down the side of a building via air conditioners and fire escapes, are marked on the screen with a prompt. While there is a challenge for Stray, in testing, the developers found that people often missing jumps or not finding the right paths didn’t quite feel like a cat’s experience.
So your bum will jump with a little more certainty, but that ethos of translating how you’d actually expect a cat to behave is ubiquitous throughout much of the gameplay. (And there will be multiple paths to specific points, for those who are concerned the experience will be too easy.) You have a special meow button because how could you not, but you will also find little interactions or puzzles that related to expected cat behavior. In one puzzle I saw, the stray bottles could hit off a ledge, which in any other situation would be a typical mischievous move of a cat. But here it teaches you to knock a can of paint through a window so you can drop into the apartment below and move on.
By acting like a cat, you can also show how much of the world is designed to allow you to get to places the robot inhabitants couldn’t otherwise reach, such as climbing thin branches of a tree to find unreachable places. You can sleep in designated spots when you need a cat nap, which seems to be more of a fun novelty than a playtime requirement, and you can even scratch different surfaces. Sometimes that scratching is just to tear up a couch like any good cat would, but other times it can be a helpful mechanic, like when you’re scratching a door and a robot in it opens the door to inspect the inside . disturbance. And while I haven’t experienced it myself, BlueTwelve explained that using DualSense on PS5 will simulate the feeling of scratching as you control this mechanism through the adaptive triggers.
One thing we didn’t see was a lot on comcat… sorry fighting, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be without tension in your quest. BlueTwelve showed one chase scene against hordes of mouse-like enemies that conjured up Crash Bandicoot-esque moments of running toward or away from the camera (running away from the camera in this case), as well as hints that stealth is required by hiding out of sight under objects like lying cardboard boxes.
But most of what I saw in my demo, and what caught my attention the most, is the impressive world BlueTwelve builds around Stray. The small team’s use of light, color and dense detail to build its new world is stunning to watch, and they’ve found surprising variation in what could have been an otherwise homogeneous world. Dilapidated and dilapidated alleys give way to community hubs full of robots finding their way through life, while others formed a community in The End Village, a unique city built on top of a pile of garbage from which the robots extract the resources they need.
Stray — State of Play 2022 Official Screens
I also glimpsed a high-end city location, with dazzling lighting fixtures and impressive statues and fountains dotting the city streets. BlueTwelve’s world design is cohesive at the same time, but offered enough definitive spaces that I’m curious how it all comes together in an experience that the developers say doesn’t promise anything (except short reloads after a death in a possible chase sequence, for example). And those locations are meant to be explored – the team has tucked away a handful of collectibles, some relevant to progress in the story, others just letting you learn more about this unique civilization. En route is B-12, a cute little robot that comes in a backpack that your cat will find early in the adventure. It’s a tool for exploring and interacting, storing bits of data known as memories, collecting items for you, or helping to actually translate what these robots are saying or what characters are saying. (Cats are smart, but this one doesn’t just inherently have a robot!)
I saw a few glimpses of this in my gameplay demo, when the stray and B-12 hunted for clues and led them from one robot of interest to the next, but BlueTwelve purposely kept much of the actual story for me hidden so as not to ruin the surprise of his trip. I’m certainly curious about what that actual 7-8 hour journey will be, but I’m confident in the love and care the developers have for cats, and in translating that into a journey worthy of them. BlueTwelve’s world and exploration of mecatnics – sorry, mechanics, I promise this is the last – looks smart and promising in ways that leave me scratching banks aimlessly until I can get my hands on it.
Jonathon Dornbush is IGN’s Senior Features Editor, PlayStation Lead and host of Podcast Beyond! He is the proud dog father of a BOY named Loki. Talk to him on Twitter @jmdornbush†
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