Cat RPG Review: Stray

So because I love every kind of cat and I just want to hug every cat, I decided to get Stray on Steam as it got released this past week. In order to avoid spoilers I basically ignored all info about the game other than “Cyberpunk and cat” which put me in for an unpleasant surprise. ⚠️Warning: This review contains spoilers. As usual Kanade’s commentary is in blue.

The game starts off as you, a stray kitty, many many years into the future, in some sewage area with your kitty friends. Everything is adorable as hell, they have the most realistic meows (voice acted by actual cats rather than stock noises) and then due to a catastrophic accident, our hero orange kitty falls down super far below into an abandoned contamination shelter where there are no signs of human life.

Welcome to Nuke Automata, where the entire world is void of human life, with only robots left behind living the memories of their human creators without knowing why they are doing so.  If you’ve played Nier Automata, you may remember how there’s constantly this army of robots who attack 2B and 9S because the network tells them to attack all intruders etc. Well here we have something similar but more disgusting: Mutant bacteria. The tiny bacteria that existed in the human world, was mutated for composting reasons and to eat all the garbage in the slums. Unfortunately it multiplied and went out of control and now it basically eats anything and everything, including metal so even the robots down there fear it.

I was just kind of joking at first about Nier Automata since the music in the first scene sounds just like the opening title music in Nier Automata, combined then with it looking like some of the city ruins. But how little did I know just how correct my joke would be! Most of the game consists of talking to melancholy robots while your pod named 2B B-12 follows you around. Now the part that obviously is not like Nier Automata is that the game is about solving environmental puzzles rather than action combat, but still the vibes are there.

The only way to stop them of course is to give them some good ol’ UV rays but that’s not possible because the entire area is sealed off from the outside sunlight. All of this of course happened because humans destroyed the world with a pandemic (lol covid/monkeypox) and created an underground shelter running off into it but ended up perishing there as well. I guess nature finally healed and plants and animals started growing again which is why our hero kitty had his kitty family outside while there wasn’t a single living organism, except mutant bacteria, in the enclosed shelter. So now it’s up to our orange furry hero to work with his newly made robo-friends to get out of the shelter through a slew of puzzles, bacteria and killer robots from the Sewers, to the Slums, to Midtown and finally to the Outside.

As with most games that are big on exploring, there’s a lot of ~lore~ to be found through environmental storytelling. Fortunately it’s not as insultingly ham-fisted as you see in a lot of games where like, a skeleton will be posed in a dramatic position with an audio diary next to it. Instead you pick up bits and pieces as you go, usually narrated to you by the poddo about how there is some kind of pandemic which everyone thought could be contained simply by sacrificing everyone below them, which as you’ll obviously notice immediately was not the case.

So that’s basically the plot and now I will go into what I liked and disliked about the game.

Things I liked:

  • Adorable realistic kitty cats that you can make meow at will, rub against things, sleep next to or on top of robots, scratch things and as all cats, knock random things off tables and counters.
  • Beautifully designed graphics and world.
  • The puzzles weren’t anything like the hell in Abyss (though I did get frustrated at times but mostly at the awful scene of your cat dying when you failed a puzzle mechanic that I was sick of seeing over and over…)
  • A heart warming story of robots with emotions
  • The cool cyberpunk city feel with all the neon lights and random Japanese feel  items like vending machines, lanterns, hats, city areas etc.

I constantly make the “GRRRR THIS IS THE WORST KUSOGE I’VE EVER PLAYED GRRRR I’M SO MAD GRRRRR” every time there’s even a single puzzle in a game, but fortunately most of the puzzle design in this game comes from the Portal school of puzzle design where generally everything you need to solve a given puzzle is in the same room as the puzzle, and the tools in said room that you will use to solve said puzzle are generally very conspicuously displayed to the player.

Things I didn’t like:

  • The inevitable animal abuse because at the start of the game our hero of course falls down a massive crack in the ceiling and lands in a pile of trash while visibly injuring his leg. That entire scene just made me cry for like 10 minutes and I was crying on and off for the rest of the night thinking about how my baby’s all alone, and hurt and I want to reach into the screen and rescue him into my arms. (´;ω;`)
  • All the awful death scenes when you fail a mechanic, like being eaten by disgusting mutant bacteria and zapped to death by lasers (but at least I found out for the most part you can usually outrun those if you find a safety hiding spot or a box.)
  • On the topic of bacteria, I must say I found it to be so god damn disgusting. At first I thought they were just some kind of robotic rats and I’m like well ok, we had weird robots in Automata so I can deal with this. But after I got more information from the game informing it was bacteria my reaction was 🤢
  • Not being able to save anywhere and the check points being completely random so I had to keep checking the settings to make sure I had a recent check point so I could actually go to bed for the night. (;^ω^)
  • I had to download a mod for using a dualshock controller with dualshock buttons  on screen because it was giving me ABXY so every time I kept pressing X on my DS4 instead of the square button it was driving me mad until I installed that mod.
  • If you have a fear of heights, it’s a steep learning curve (pun intended) to not be terrified to make the kind of jumps kitty was making. Especially after the game begins with his failed jump, I was basically terrified of jumping for a really long time (until I finally mentally resolved to myself that you can’t actually fall off any of the ledges and you can jump safely wherever the game lets you.)
  • No photo mode for all the beautiful scenery (and kitteh) in the game.

I had one minor complaint with the controls in that it’s often difficult to figure out just where exactly you can go. I don’t think that the solution is object highlighting like a lot of games have because it would probably make everything way too obvious, but rather I think it really just needed target-able objects to have a little bit larger intractable area. This was probably most noticeable during some of the chase scenes where you’re moving very fast (and rapidly running out of space and time before you get caught) and desperately trying to hunt the pixel to allow the game to allow you to jump to safety.

And one final gripe I have is kinda with the ending? It felt very rushed at the end. I felt like they could have developed B-12 a little more, but it felt like the other robots that I left behind in the slums/midtown had left a bigger emotional impact on me than he did, even though he was with us the entire time. Also, extremely disappointed that in the end he was never reunited with his kitty family!!!!!! It just…he goes outside, the end. But muh kitty friends!!! 😭😭😭😭😭 I got all teary thinking there was gonna be some cute reunion scene, and honestly if there was, I probably would have started crying a river again…so maybe it’s good it ended on that note.

In my headcanon the baby nukos reuintes with all his friends uwu.

If anything this game made me want to finally replay my Nier Automata that I bought on sale ages ago. I never did play that Replicant DLC back when I was playing it on PS4 and I’m curious to see how much more polished graphics wise the game looks on PC so I may be playing that one again next.

If you don’t mind getting a peek of what Stray is truly about check out our reaction video here. No story spoilers or ending spoilers but you will get a decent look of what happens inside the game.


4 thoughts on “Cat RPG Review: Stray”

  1. I’m also waiting on this one called “Little Kitty Big City” which is essentially this game but more on the cutesy side and less on the horror mutant bacteria side 😂

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