Stray is the best cat simulator since 1983’s Atari game, Alley Cat. And while that might not seem like high praise, cats have come a long way since the eighties.
As a Kat who is the owner of a cat, I might just be the target market for Stray. And so, my brief review of this game is to recommend it wholeheartedly. It’s a pitch perfect cyberpunk story reminiscent of Wall-E, Okami, and Beyond Good and Evil. But don’t ask me what I think. I consulted with my real-life stray, Momo, to discuss what he thought of the game.
Kat: Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. I know you rarely take requests from human media.
Momo: I have deigned to give this interview because of the cultural significance of Stray to cats everywhere. It’s quite the event.
Kat: Now you sat with me while I played Stray. What did you make of the game?
Momo: Stray is a masterpiece. Not just because a cat is the main character, oh no. Any old cat game could have been made. But this, this is cat art. The story is about how cats are the greatest life form on earth, and how they can save the day with their small, wiry bodies, flexibility, and mischievous cleverness. I will give the robots and the drone a little credit.
The story is ancient: a cat is separated from his tribe through terrible circumstances, and must journey home through treacherous situations, by using all its skills such as climbing, hiding in boxes, and causing chaos. Sometimes you even help people along the way.
Kat: You’re a rescue cat. In fact, you were saved from the streets of Werribee. How did it make you feel to see yourself represented in a game? Was it an accurate depiction of cats?
Momo: It’s clear that the humans responsible for this game consulted with a variety of cats. There’s a great deal of accuracy in the movements on screen. Jumping, purring, pushing things around, all perfectly done according to the laws of cat physics, which are very different to human physics.
The cat voice acting is a big plus. Having a dedicated meow button was an essential aspect of play. It’s not a cat game if you can’t meow incessantly at everyone you meet.
The low camera angle also brings a lot of awareness to humans about how cats see the world. It’s a different type of viewpoint than many of the games you humans regularly play, and I think it’s important to get a non-human-centric perspective.
I also liked that you could use the buttons to scratch or have a nap. People might not understand how important that is to us cats. People can learn a lot from cats, you see. All these robots running around, trying to get work done. But sometimes you just have to slow down and listen to the music on a big comfy cushion.
Kat: Was there anything inaccurate about the depiction of cats?
Momo: Cats don’t like wearing backpacks, but I think the cat’s response was fairly accurate.
Kat: Rolling around and trying to take it off?
Kat: And the world itself?
Momo: It was a very realistic and beautifully made futuristic cyberpunk world. There were times I thought I could walk through the big rectangle on the wall into the streets. But there’s some glass between us and them. It was like wandering around the paintings you humans hang around the place.
The biggest plus was that there were plenty of places to jump and hide. You could explore upwards on the maps, as well as in nooks and crannies. Also, I want a cat bucket installed in our house, so that I might travel down the stairs in style.
Kat: Now there was a bit of violence towards cats in the game. How did it make you feel?
Momo: Those bits were terrible, but I blame your lack of skill for the death of our on-screen friend. If I had been playing it, the cat would not have been hurt. It was not too gruesome, although some of the later moments were unpleasant. More to do with your terrible gameplay than anything else. I mean, humans just don’t have the stealth skills that cats do.
Kat: About that, the game progressively became more of a stealth platformer as it progressed, although the puzzles were fairly simple to work out.
Momo: You say they were simple, and yet you died more than nine times.
Kat: Pauses the interview to review her notes. So Momo, how did the game make you feel?
Momo: Cats have very different feelings to humans. I understand you shouted a lot about cute cats and robots with love heart eyes, and singing about making cat friends, but they were not the most exciting thing to me. To me, it was a sense of patriotism in my eyes to see our noble hero conquer the world.
Kat: And the ending?
Momo: I was very put out because you wouldn’t stop weeping. I needed snackies, and you were too busy crying. Very rude.
Kat: Well, it was quite moving and beautiful.
Momo: Your cat should always take priority over your feelings.
Kat: Is there anything at all that could be improved about this game?
Momo: The cat is ginger. I’d like it better if the cat could be customised to look like me.
I would also like to the developers to make teeny tiny PlayStation controllers so that I too can play Stray. Too often I have to rely on booping you to disrupt your play.
Kat: Should Stray win Game of the Year?
Momo: What kind of question is that? It’s the greatest cat game ever made. Let me ask you this. Can you play Elden Ring as a cat? No. It’s a sure-fire win for game of the year, but only if the developers bribe us with controllers. And snackies.
Kat: There you have it folks, a cat’s take on Stray. It’s an excellent game, and well worth the money on the PlayStation or Steam stores.
If there’s one thing I hope comes out of Stray, it’s a real-life side-quest. That many more abandoned cats can be adopted because of this game.