Stray - A simple and focused game in a world of games that go astray
Okay, this one may not technically be a “furry game”. If the late Fred Patten were to start this review off, he may have asked something along the lines that if you as a player moves around the world as a cat with a robot companion augmenting their ability to interpret the society around them, is that game actually anthropomorphic? Perhaps it’s more in line with transhumanism, but in this case more transfelinism, where your feline character is augmented by their technological companion.
And like Adam Jensen of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the cat you play certainly didn’t ask for this.
The opening of the game reminded me of Milo and Otis, an old movie of a dog and a cat that end up getting lost in the woods and need to make their way back home. Basically it was the predecessor of Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. In this case, the unnamed feline protagonist you play as is just catting around with other cats when you find yourself in trouble and are separated from your companions and fall down into a strange lost society of automatons.
You go on your own hero’s journey through this strange world that has established itself under what appears to be a giant blast shield facility. In order to return to the surface you’ll need to help your new robot friends, while avoiding the perils of an invasive species that has taken root in the darkness of this underworld.
While the game has been noted to be on the shorter side, it is very much a complete and contained experience. It has moments of tension and balances it well with a cathartic sense of discovery and exploration. I noted while playing that the designer definitely took inspiration from Valve works, and this includes their understanding of “Battle Fatigue”.
Things can work their way to a bit of an intensity when dealing with the headcrab like creatures that want to chew on your cat hide, but your moments of fleeing and fighting are spaced out where it doesn’t become fatiguing.
The world is fun and immersive and the robot characters are interesting. There are certain embellishments that were fun, such as a fully functioning pool table in the bars that you can bat the ball around with your paws. Desks are littered with items to knock down, though disappointingly it doesn’t cause frustrations if the owner of said desk watches you knock things off like the true feline you are.
I would recommend this game if you are a curious sort, you know, like a cat. You like to explore places and enjoy the story of a exotic society. If you’re the kind that likes a more visceral or reaction based game of skill, you may not enjoy it so much. Take your time and take in the environment around you and you’ll get the most out of it. Talk to as many folks as you can and do the tasks they ask of you to get the most out of it. Heck, you can even nap around and take in the world as the camera pans out. Because cats like their naps.
Not much to say, it’s a short game and it’s mostly the story which I can’t go into without spoiling things. It’s a nice and contained experience that should you enjoy its premise enough, you’ll come back to experience it again like a film or a book. It’s sometimes refreshing to experience a game that is a contained experience rather than one that expects to be a service it sells to you for the next decade.
To me, I would rather pay 30 bucks for a complete and enjoyable experience even if it is short, then to get it for free and go through a bunch of immersion breaking microtransactions. If that is too pricey for you for a seven hour experience, then you can feel free to wait for the price point to come down.