We recently got to see a surprisingly large chunk of Stray during a preview event, and it's safe to say that this cat sim is shaping up really well. The demo that we witnessed was being played live, and was split across several different sections of the game — all of which had something new to show. This was the most we've seen of Stray by some distance up until this point, and to be totally honest, we can't wait to take it for a spin ourselves.
For those who may be totally out of the loop, Stray is a game where you play as a cat. Not an anthropomorphic cat or a cartoony cat, but just a normal, domesticated cat. He's an adventurous little ginger, stuck in a cyberpunk city that's inhabited by robots. An interesting premise right off the bat, with gameplay that revolves around...well, being a cat.
Stray's all about exploration, based on what we've seen. It's made up of both linear and more open environments — the latter asking you to find your own way through neon-lit streets and buildings. You'll be looking for ledges that can be leapt to, and small gaps or open windows that can be squeezed through. It all looks satisfyingly tactile, as your cat moves with all of the agility and precision that you'd expect from a real life moggie.
This isn't what we'd call a platformer, though. While there does seem to be a lot of running and jumping and considered navigation going on, Stray's approach to scaling walls and hopping across rooftops isn't freeform. Button prompts tell you where you can and can't go, so the challenge is finding the jump, rather than actually performing it.
But traversal is only one part of Stray's equation. This demo made us realise that the game's quite big on investigation; finding clues and getting answers from the local robots in order to continue your quest. We still don't really know what the story of Stray is about, but in the demo, you're trying to track down someone called Clementine.
Okay, we know what you might be thinking: how does a cat talk to robots? Well, this is where your trusty sidekick comes in. B-12 is a little drone who fits neatly into your cat's backpack. It pops out when you need to chat with citizens, translating their speech into a text box for easy reading. Okay, so how does a cat understand B-12? Er, we don't know, but he does. And to be clear, there's no voice acting here — although your cat can meow on command with the push of a button. Lovely.
Moving on, perhaps our biggest Stray takeaway is that the environmental design is seriously impressive. Even just watching 720p gameplay on our laptop screen, it's a real looker, and the setting just seems so detailed and intricately pieced together. It's absolutely the kind of dense urban jungle that you'll want to comb through, appreciating the sights and soaking up the atmosphere.
Oh, and Stray isn't without action — but don't go expecting your cat to get his claws out. As far as we know, there's no combat, but we did see a section of the game where packs of small robots chased our feline hero down an old waterway. There was a surprising sense of speed on show as the cat absolutely rocketed his way to freedom, tearing past the 'bots with all of the feline finesse that you'd expect.
Stray shows an awful lot of promise, then, but the jury's still out on things like the overall plot, and the quality of its character writing — the kind of stuff that can only be evaluated by playing through the full release. Again, though, we can't wait to sink our claws into this cat sim, and explore a strange world that seems so richly detailed.
Stray is set to release for PS5 and PS4 on the 19th July. It's also coming to PS Plus Extra on the same date.
Are you looking forward to Stray? Sharpen your own claws in the comments section below.