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Stray PS5 Review

Stray PS5

Everyone seems to be talking about a particular feline-based video game at the moment. Twitter is flooded with cat-based screenshots of players (and their cats) enjoying Stray and its bright yet dilapidated world. I am more of a dog person myself, that being said I really grew to love this silent yet slightly mischievous protagonist. Stray is simple, Stray is short but there is nothing wrong with that and it was captivating to play something so unique in a world of cut-and-paste shooters, uninspiring RPG’s and open-world bloatedness.

A Narrative With Catitude

The first few minutes of Stray involve nuzzling other cats, frolicking and general catting about. Before you know it though and just as you are getting acclimatized to your new-found feline trappings, you fall into an unpopulated, horrible underground city. What are the chances? The whole game revolves around you trying to get back to the surface, along the way though you meet some very well-realized robotic characters, reveal what happened below the surface and it's all rather refreshingly candid.

You meet an AI who gets transferred to a little hovering robot called B-12. This little fellow will be your constant companion and used to work for a human from the city. I will not spoil the finer points of the narrative but I found it interesting, wholesome and it worked perfectly as a vessel to transport you to the end of this furry tale. It never got in the way, tackles some heavy themes and for someone who is not normally bothered about the story in games, I rather enjoyed it. It was light, trim and very focused on what it was. Purrrrrfect!

Stripped Back, Meow-velous Gameplay

Strays gameplay is so stripped back, so simple it's cathartic, some may even be put off by it. There's no combat and very little in the way of upgrades or unlockables but what you have is a simple exploration game with a few light puzzles and a smattering of collectables. It's very rejuvenating to play something so focused and not bogged down with needless waffle. Stray will have you jumping from pipes to windows, sneaking into androids' residences and completing a few little sidequests along the way. Nothing is too hectic, nothing is overly complicated and I really relished that.

The gameplay of Stray is littered with feline shenanigans. From nuzzling new friends you meet to scratching various sofas and carpets, being a cat had never been so well represented in video game form. All of these furry antics were perfectly captured too, thanks to the tech behind the DualSense controller on the PlayStation 5.

You Can Feel Every Purr

As I have stated before the tech inside the DualSense controller, when used correctly can really lift the gaming experience and that's very prominent in Stray. Meows resonate out of the controllers' built-in speaker, scratching objects feels immersive due to the adaptive triggers but most of all, every purr, snuggle and fall can be felt in great detail due to the haptic feedback. All these small but important features really add up to add a massive layer of immersion in Stray that I feel would not be possible with any other controller.

A Pawsitively Gorgeous, Yet Dank Setting

The underground, abandoned city you traverse, while being horrid and claustrophobic, is neon-soaked with beauty and light. The lighting on display here is top-notch, I was forever capturing screenshots and taking breaks to take in how well this dense undercity was designed. When you catch the light right, when neon signs shine through sewer mists and fog it looks tremendous.

It's the same story with the NPCs and the game's many metallic miscreants. For characters that don’t really say a lot or have much in the way of facial expressions, they manage to convey a lot of feeling, heart and human-like qualities. It was very enjoyable exploring this world, and its inhabitants, when it all looks this appealing, the game flows by so quickly and paired with such precise, no-frills gameplay, it's over far too quickly.

Catastrophically Short, But Purrrfectly Sweet

As I stated above, Stray took me less than five hours and that was with a lot of side-quests, exploring and general catting about. In fact, there is a trophy for speed-running it in under two hours, which I think is very doable. Stray is very short, don’t get me wrong but as with the stripped-back gameplay, it does not need to be a long game and it knows that. Not everything has to be a hundred-hour experience and Stray is all the better for it.

You can complete Stray, as I did in a few sessions but these sessions will be full of wonder, joy and not bogged down with needless systems seen in many modern games. When you finish you will feel happy about what you did, fulfilled with what you have experienced and that, in itself, is a fabulous thing.

In a world full of copies, remakes, remasters and microtransactions it is so beautiful to play something true, focused and aware of what it wants to be. More games like this please, more unique experiences are what we need. Yes, we still need shooty bang-bang games and sprawling RPGs, I love them but I also love to be surprised and shown something unique and Stray is certainly that. Right, I am off to mop up these last collectables, earn the last few trophies and I need and speed run this bad boy in under two hours. Later's furballs!