From heartwarming moments to tearful goodbyes: The enigmatic cyberpunk world of Stray

From heartwarming moments to tearful goodbyes: The enigmatic cyberpunk world of Stray

I book it across a stark concrete expanse that screams ‘unfinished high-rise project’, ducking and weaving like a pro to avoid a ravenous tide of Zurks. These things are the stuff of nightmares – think rodents of unusual size with a piranha’s appetite for flesh – and they’re really hungry for a bite of me. My eyes shoot up to the agonizingly slow ascent of a construction elevator, my golden ticket out of this concrete jungle gym, but it’s creeping along as if it has all day to save my skin. With the grace of a seasoned platformer hero, I leap like a madman, turning the tide of these Zurk fiends toward the brink, watching them plummet like lemmings – but the catch? Their numbers double faster than a respawn. It’s starting to look like game over, and my bag of tricks is running low.

Then, out of the blue, salvation! The elevator reaches my level, and with a few nimble jumps that would make a parkour champion proud, I’m in the safety of the elevator’s metal embrace. Talk about nailing a high-stakes escape and dodging the final boss’s fatal blow. Safe from becoming a lurker’s snack, I can move on to the main quest: rigging a radio receiver to the broadcast tower that crowns this urban monolith. The elevator grinds skyward, and I have a moment to take in the view of the sprawling cyber-metropolis below, bathed in a kaleidoscope of small lights and vast shadows in the belly of the beast.

A vibrant neon-lit urban alleyway at night, filled with various illuminated signs displaying Asian characters. The scene is tinged in shades of green, orange, and pink. Multiple overhead wires crisscross the scene, and a cat perches on a sloped rooftop in the foreground. In the distance, a silhouette of a person can be seen standing in an illuminated doorway. The atmosphere is reminiscent of a cyberpunk setting.
Cats always land on their paws, so we are not afraid of heights and sometimes climb dizzying ledges to get a better view.

Where danger and agility collide in a cat’s tale

Let’s dive tail-first into Stray, the indie sensation of 2022 that catapults us into the paws of a wayward kitty who tumbles from the sunny upstairs into a gaping abyss below, all while just trying to have a good time with the alley cat crew. This is no ordinary yarn chase, though. The game cocoons us in an environment so richly detailed, so narratively compelling, it’ll make our gamer senses tingle with delight. Created by the new kids on the gaming block, BlueTwelve Studios from the south of France, and hitting virtual shelves thanks to Annapurna Interactive of West Hollywood, Stray is no garden-variety adventure. It’s got a shadowy, enigmatic vibe, with a hint of dystopia and a dash of cyberpunk – think Kowloon Walled City’s long-lost digital cousin. It’s a tapestry of undefined Asian motifs, where bright neon buzzes over holograms and narrow passageways, where bazaars and watering holes beckon – a setting so immersive it swallows us whole. Stray rubs elbows with some of the most evocative titles around – recalling the pioneering vibes of the original S.T.A.L.K.E.R., the underwater allure of the first Bioshock, and the haunting space corridors of 2016’s Prey.

From the moment our paws touch the underbelly of this sprawling game world, it’s a non-stop thrill chasing the elusive kiss of sunlight, navigating a shadowy labyrinth that glows with eerie artificial light. It doesn’t take long for us to realize that our tumbling arrival hasn’t slipped under the radar – there’s a presence in the darkness, a mysterious force reaching out, itching to guide our path. But don’t be fooled by the tranquility of this subterranean ghost town. It’s full of dangerous secrets, with unseen eyes watching, waiting, ready to snuff out our nine lives. But as the feline embodiment of agility, we blitz through the decrepit concrete jungle, leaping over gaping crevices with such fluidity that it feels like a high-octane dance with danger.

Flying solo? Not a chance. Enter B-12 – this bot may look like it just rebooted from a glitch, but it will quickly become your right-hand drone, helping us hack terminals, open doors, and lighten the shadows. B-12 has an encrypted vault of knowledge about our dilapidated digs, and its name is a cheeky nod to the developers at BlueTwelve, which is a bit on the nose, but hey, it works. B-12 is the brains to our brawn, leading the way through the urban wasteland, and guess what? This mechanical marvel also wants to have its circuits set to the sun. We’re a team, slicing through the shadows until bam – we’re face-to-face with humanoid bots who’ve carved out a niche in this desolate abyss, complete with their own tin-can culture. These robots seem to have lived here for ages, and know of the sunlight only by hearsay at best. Anyone who tries to go there is a fool; a few have tried, but no one has ever made it back alive. It’s time for us to change that and prove the inhabitants of this dark world wrong.

Some in-game screenshots

Unraveling mysteries with a feline twist

We’re not just passing through; we’re a cat on a mission, soaking up stories, solving puzzles that don’t make us want to quit, and forging unlikely friendships that make us think twice about what it means to be human. Or a robot. As we delve deeper, we’ll meet other robotic denizens and begin to piece together the puzzle of this world’s past-a tapestry of plot twists, mind-bending revelations, and moments that will tug at our gamer heartstrings.

Stray throws us into a world where our only companions are steel-clad sidekicks, but don’t let that fool you. There’s a chill in the air that’s more than just the absence of warm-blooded allies. We can’t shake the feeling of oppression that hangs over the city like a final boss lurking in the shadows. Every corner we turn is a cry for the people who once called this urban jungle home. From the eerie silence of abandoned apartments to the desolate streets that rise like monolithic planes, the ghost of humanity hangs heavy. Everything has been left behind – furniture, teacups, tomes of lore, cars, spray-painted masterpieces, and gadgets – each with its own story, frozen in time, worn down by the years. But here’s the kicker: no peeps, no pooches, not even a bone to pick with. Just us, our feline agility and B-12, those bucket-of-bolts buddies, and the gnarly Zurks itching for a scrap. What happened on that concrete playground? Has everyone left the surface world in a rage? What secrets lurk in the depths of this dystopian dungeon? Was it a sanctuary or a high score bust? And seriously, what’s up with the Zurk invasion?

These mysteries come to us as we parkour across the rooftops and through the desolate streets. And believe me, the more we think about it, the more we realize that this game has layers, like the best adventure books. It’s a head-scratcher, full of little twists and turns. Stray has the feel of the latest console drop – it seems one way at first, but flip the script and it’s a whole new game. And each question feels more loaded than a save point before the unforeseen plot twist. Stray promises to be a game as much about exploration and story as it is about the thrill of the chase.

Luckily, we have the purr-fect escape from the mundane thrill, diving into cozy pockets of serenity where the game’s ambient beats create a cozy cocoon around us. We can chill out in the nooks and crannies of the game, snatching a few z’s to the sickly atmospheric tunes, all while a smooth camera pan glorifies us and our chill spot. And that’s just the beginning. This kitty’s got claws for days, ready to give any piece of furniture or rug the ol’ one-two punch. What about playtime? We’re all about that – batting balls, knocking pots and bottles off their perches. And when we’re feeling cuddly? We’re all over those humanoid robots, hugging their legs and basking in their pure, unadulterated joy. But hey, we’re not always the cuddly type – sometimes we’re the prankster, throwing ourselves in front of these wandering tin cans on legs and watching them stumble. Total cat move, right?

STRAY | Release Date Trailer

Blurring the lines between gaming and cinematic artistry

Now let’s talk immersion: Stray nails it like few other games have. Maybe it’s because the “cat game” genre isn’t exactly overflowing, but more likely it’s the insane attention to the nuances of feline life. Our feline gaze is fixed on the action, our ears perk up at the slightest whisper, and we inflate like a blowfish when we’re shaken. A strange shadow over our head? We’re out, backwards. And when it’s time to show off? We’re all about acrobatic finesse, jumping into crates, screaming on cue (gotta keep those bad guys on their toes), and parkouring through the urban jungle with a fluidity that makes us purr with delight. It’s crystal clear that the developers behind this gem have a soft spot for our feline friends and have poured every ounce of their cat-centric expertise into the gameplay. And I’m not kidding – just take a look at the end credits. The tally? A few “production babies”, but the real MVPs? A whopping 23 cats, with a modest pack of 4 dogs trailing behind. As a certified cat lover, I’m all about that ratio.

Stray isn’t just a game we fire up and blast through; it’s a digital journey that deserves our full, undivided attention. Sure, we can nab that speedrunning achievement by dashing to the end credits in a brisk sub-two-hour session, but there’s also a nod to the chill gamers who revel in catnapping – yes, an actual achievement for clocking an hour of in-game Z’s. Stray is about soaking up the ambiance, clawing up and down neon-drenched alleyways as the environment whispers its secrets, revealing tantalizing tidbits of the city’s cryptic lore that would completely pass us by if we just sprinted to the finish line. It’s an open invitation: sit back, let your eyes wander, and unleash your inner feline gamer to explore every nook and cranny.

Visually, Stray uses Unreal Engine 4 as its playground, squeezing every ounce of juice out of the technology: top-notch global illumination, sneaky indirect lighting, slick reflections, and shadows that play the stealth game as well as any real-world prowler. The attention to detail is purrfect – something rarely seen before. We’re talking scene after scene that could double as frames in a high-budget animation movie or hang as masterpieces in the most prestigious art galleries. Hell, some spots are so spot-on they could pass for digital twins of the crowded streets of Tokyo or Hong Kong. Dive into this game and we might just forget what’s real and what’s rendered. When the credits roll, it’ll take us a minute – or a few hours – to come back to reality after such an immersive dream dive.

Even more random screenshots

A masterpiece begging for a sequel

This game is more than a hidden gem; it’s a double-A treasure with layers upon layers of depth. It’s the kind of stunning debut that only comes along once in a blue moon. And it leaves us all longing for a sequel steeped in the same universe, perhaps following the events of the original or spinning a fresh yarn from the corners of its rich world. Fingers, paws, whatever you’ve got – cross them. And for those who have yet to grace their screens with Stray, whether you’re a canine, feline, or rodent team, don’t sleep on this one. Grab it for PC (Windows & macOS), Xbox One & Series X/S, or PS4 & PS5 while you still can. Immerse yourself in the shadowy, whiskery world of this fur-tastic adventure. Trust me, it’s worth every penny. Meow, indeed!


Stray at a glance

Personal rating:
BlueTwelve Studio
Annapurna Interactive
Release date (Steam):
19 Jul, 2022
Adventure, Indie
Where to buy:

Hero image: Screenshot from Stray – Teaser Trailer | PS5 on YouTube.
Screenshots: Taken by me.

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