When it was announced, the adventure game Stray had turned the internet around. It must be said that the addition of chat + video game is enough to thrill the crowds. Enough to be unforgettable? This is precisely what we are going to see.
We therefore had the opportunity to test the long-awaited adventure game Stray, the latest creation from the French studio BlueTwelve Studio. Apparently, Stray already has all the cards in hand to seduce the public except perhaps ailurophobes (fear of cats). Because in case it has escaped you, the title simply allows you to embody a cat, and not just any, an adorable red feline.
Wanted: Little red cat lost
As the name in English may suggest (stray) Stray’s screenplay is based on a cat that has become stray against its sandstone. Yet everything seems to start for the best of worlds for our four-legged hero. Indeed, when the narration begins our cat lives a peaceful life in the midst of his family, cuddling or playing as he pleases with his hairy fellow creatures. But very quickly during a routine getaway, our cat will find himself alone and separated from his family… This is where the great adventure begins to try to find our family and very quickly we will realize that the environment that seemed so peaceful is actually more hostile than it seems.
Cyberpunk feat le petit chat
When we think of Cyberpunk science fiction, we immediately think of implants, robotics, human dystopia, but very rarely of cats. And yet this is where the first idea of the BlueTwelve studio shines, which wanted to present us with a totally dystopian world or more precisely a city where the human no longer exists. In this city that seems abandoned by all living creatures, robots are kings. It is therefore all the more interesting to confront the coldness of this world where the machine reigns supreme with the warm side that a cat can inspire in most situations. It was also the wish of the developers, to offer a world full of contrasts on the side of the scenario. A contrast that is also found elegantly via the magnificent artistic direction which gives pride of place to warm transitions of orange tones while passing through greyish environments without life. An artistic genius not afraid of words, who serves both the scenario and the gameplay itself.
A real feline life
Making the player embody a cat is a risky bet when it comes to telling us a story since naturally it is totally deprived of speech. However, the BlueTwelve studio manages to hook us from the beginning to the end of the story, captivating us by pushing our mind to imagine ourselves being a cat. Everything is done to never get too far out of the role. Thus, it is possible during our journey to scratch on a tree or on a carpet, meow to warn of our presence or even lap up a puddle of water to quench our thirst. If this is often of little interest for the rest of the story, these small events are there to bring credibility to the story and make everything more immersive.
We could describe the game as an adventure title in which we alternate between platform phases and puzzles to solve. If sometimes it is enough to let oneself be carried away by the environment and follow the natural path that is offered to us, it is often necessary to make our neurons work to succeed in continuing our path, hampered by a door or an area that is too high to access. The gameplay will not revolutionize the genre and most of the time we agree to see what we have already seen elsewhere. But the game has the merit of offering a different approach through the eyes of a cat and not of a human or an “intelligent” humanoid being like a certain… Crash Bandicoot. To quote you our favorite marsupial is no coincidence since in many aspects we find if not winks, a big source of inspiration. In particular in all the phases that use mouse robots (we will come back to this) and generally in the level design of certain levels where you have to go from point A to point B while avoiding being “caught” as much as possible. by the enemy.
When the mice chase the cat
Very quickly our tomcat will realize that this dead world is particularly hostile towards living beings and you will have the bitter experience of it yourself from the first hour of play. This is where the famous mouse robots come in, again once a clever contrast to playing a cat. For some obscure reason that we begin to understand as the scenario progresses, the city is populated by little robot mice who will not hesitate to kill you by jumping on you. Almost transforming the little feline ballad into a horrific obstacle course in which the machine wants YOUR death.
But the world of Stray is no more Manichean than ours and there too, we can find allies at unexpected times like a certain B12. A small flying robot that will aim to guide you on your journey and give you valuable information about the world around you. Whether it’s helping you retrieve an object from a height or explaining to you how another robot works, B12 is your rare ally in this feline adventure.
If we take each element of the game independently, we cannot necessarily say that it shines with its imagination. No, what makes Stray genius is the way the puzzle is put together. The way to embody a cat, to move in space, to play with the environment to find a solution. That’s the charm of Stray. Make an epic and poetic adventure with a cat. What seems so simple and yet at the same time so complicated. Because we don’t just play a cat stupidly to simply embody the star animal of the internet. We play a cat who undergoes a trying story to the point that the player can identify with it. Stray managed to bring empathy in a subtle way without forcing the line and that’s why the bet is successful.
And then it’s hard to ignore the pleasure of moving around in the sets with our ginger feline, of knocking over pots of paint to break a window below, of kicking an object to make it fall… that the animation of the feline is entirely done by hand and that no motion capture was used. It’s simply stunningly realistic in the gestures and in general Stray in addition to being a nice little artistic slap is a real delight for the eyes in terms of technique. We played in 4K on a big PC with all the options turned on, but no doubt the game is also very fine and beautiful on PS4 and PS5. There’s not much to complain about except for a few collision problems and a difficulty that is sometimes a little badly dosed when it comes to chases with robot mice. Nothing dramatic or to spoil the party. Stray remains a wonderful adventure game with flaws but above all strengths and great qualities.