Silent protagonists are nothing new in video games, but Stray certainly pushes that concept to an interesting place. Part platformer, part traditional adventure game, this cyberpunk world full of neon-soaked robots transforms into a giant jungle gym from your perspective, which is just one foot off the ground. The concept of putting you in the paws of an average cat may be a silly one on the surface, but Stray uses that furry vehicle to tell a genuinely compelling story with some entertaining action along the way. Not all of its ideas land on their feet, but it was impossible to shake the fuzzy feeling it gave me right from the adorable opening minutes.
To be clear: you’re not a magic cat, not a mutated sci-fi cat, not some kind of sentient super cat – just a normal, cute cat, albeit one that displays the sort of intelligent awareness we all like to pretend our own cats do when we aren’t looking. The simplicity of that concept works wonderfully, especially because the fact that you are a cat doesn’t actually matter all that much to the artificial people you interact with or the things you are asked to do. The robotic denizens of this cyberpunk world generally talk to you like they would anybody else, and the only way it’s ever really relevant to the story or the action is because you can fit into tight spaces they can’t.
Verdict: Stray is a delightful adventure in a dark but endearingly hopeful cyberpunk world, and that’s thanks in no small part to the fact that you are playing as an adorable cat the whole time. Its mix of simple platforming and puzzles with item-hunting quests is balanced very well across the roughly five-hour story – and though I wished my movement was a little more nimble during that time, I still loved hopping across rooftops and scampering through back alleys to find its well-hidden secrets. The new ideas it introduces along the way help keep things as fresh as a new bag of litter, too, even if not all of those ideas work quite as well as others. But whether I was scratching at a carpet or curling up into a ball and taking a catnap, Stray does a great job of setting itself apart in a way that feels like more than just a novelty. 8/10
(link to the original review: https://www.ign.com/articles/stray-review)