The Indie Corner – Featuring: Stray

The best thing I can say about Indie games is that they always take the road less traveled. Cyberpunk 2077 had a multitude of issues. But do you know what its biggest issue was? Making a game that wants to set the bar so damn high. Don’t try to raise expectations. Looking back, there was a scene in which while waiting to do all the over the top stuff the game was apparently aiming for, a stray cat prompts a conversation about how there are like no cats in the future, and damn if THAT isn’t the story you want to explore!

The developers at BlueTwelve Studio clearly also had that same thought, and every bit of that curiosity went into their upcoming game, which is obviously entitled, Stray. In this game, you play as a mild-mannered cat that while minding your own business one day “accidentally falls into a weird, mysterious city and his journey to return to his family.” It’s something that I have no idea what it actually means, but it sounds intense as hell.

Seriously though, it gives players the perspective of a stray cat trying to find his way home in a city filled to the brim with robots that look like Canti from FLCL. Along the way, through this city, the cat will find himself platforming all over the place. This includes climbing buildings even though everybody is screaming at you to get down, jumping across floating barrels to stay out of the water because as a cat you hate water and want it to die, and sofas because unlike at home, here you are allowed on the furniture.

Along the way in the journey, the cat will eventually meet a floating robot ball named B-12 which is promptly swatted with his paw. This leads the two to team up, or at least team up as much as a floating ball bot and a cat that, unlike Garfield or Heathcliff, is just a cat – can team up. That is to say that some kind of cell phone back harness is put onto the cat so the two can work together. B-12 is then able to enter it and exit at will, which seems mostly to do as floating accomplices do and scream “Hey, Listen!”

Actually, B-12 has some useful abilities though in the context of the game. I am really not sure how in the universe this works. One of these abilities is to translate the language OF THE FFUUUUUTTTTUUUURREEE! I mean, the player will get this kind of stuff but I question what value this has to our protagonist. While the cat is… just a cat? I suppose the player is required to assume some intellect beyond, or perhaps the influence of all the technology gives him intelligence. Kinda like the Ice-T-voiced dolphin that appeared in Johnny Mnemonic.

From here, on top of the goal of eventually returning home, the cat will also dig deep into the mystery of the city and its inhabitance. While there is undoubtedly plenty to unravel from the perspective of the player, I am not really clear what a cat will do with that information. Furthermore, I have never met a cat that can unravel the mystery of its own tail, so if our stray does achieve this pretty impressive goal.

If you are concerned that the classic cat tropes are going to be lost in translation, then don’t be. The game will feature multiple nods to the fact you are indeed just a normal cat (or at least that is how their advertising it.) You can finally live out your cat fantasies by getting sucked into scratching up a couch instead of doing important stuff, though I doubt the game will let you utterly destroy said couch which is a bummer. On the flip side, he is smart enough to enter the code on a vending machine to get a diet sprite, a skill even I have yet to develop.

While stray cat and his robotoy are by far the stars of the game, you can expect the city to be bursting with personality. Even with the camera low to the ground, you get a sense from the trailers that the team behind the game has definitely thought out the journey. You can expect to see a large outdoor playground with graffiti-covered walls, aluminum roofs, and dirty streets. Indoor areas vary from houses filled with computers (and scratchable couches), underground subways and sewers, cluttered shops, and bars that seem to serve very little purpose when everybody has a screen for a face.

These screen-faced denizens will also offer aid in our cats’ quest for home. As stated above, B-12 can translate their language and this allows robo-chewthing to communicate with them. Through this, he is able to get aid such as opening big doors or even a boat ride down the sewer river. Honestly, I am a little unclear on if the cat and B-12 can communicate properly because for all I know that robot freeloader hitched a ride on our feline hero back and is leading him the wrong way! Doubtful that is the case I know, I am still gonna be unnecessarily angry about it.

While the game focuses on puzzle-solving, with players having to adapt to the cat in order to navigate their way around the city. That being said, the game will also have some action and fast-paced set-pieces as well. Mice like enemies will get together and try to kill you, finally having unionized after years of cat abuse. Players will get some form of UV light they can use to blast those mice like baddies all the way to oblivion. On top of that, players can expect fast-paced set pieces that will see the player guiding the cat by running and climbing to make sure he doesn’t lose one of his nine lives.

Stray is honestly everything I look for in an indie game. I have played plenty of science fiction and cyberpunk games but from the point of view of a cat!? That is just crazy enough to work and just crazy enough to be compelling! Stray is currently slated for 2022 and will be available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.

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