Stray Game Review: Nails Feline Experience as Cat Jumps and Slinkers Through a Dystopian World

Stray Game Review: Nails Feline Experience as Cat Jumps and Slinkers Through a Dystopian World

In Stray – released on Tuesday for PC, PS4 and PS5 – the humans are nowhere to be seen. They left for another world or perished as a species. You can piece together bits and pieces that Stray gives you in his narrative. Though the humans are gone, their fingerprints are all over the world of Stray, a cybernetic city surrounded by a giant dome that brought Zion to my mind from the Matrix. You are safe within your confines, but dangers lurk – or rather zurk. I’ll explain this in a minute – everywhere outside of it. And just like in the Wachowskis’ seminal film, the outside world, the one open to the sky, is considered uninhabitable in Stray.

Lost game duration

According to developer BlueTwelve Studio, it will take you around eight hours to play Stray in its entirety, and 10 hours at most if you’re a completionist.

The hours I spent on Stray were all spent largely inside the game’s dome world, which is inhabited by slender AI robots with screens for faces, which I imagine were also designed by the missing humans. They resemble their creators in many ways, whether it’s being cold, wearing clothes, or living in apartments that resemble our own. They even divided into various roles and occupations. There is a keeper, a weaver, a bartender, a programmer, a market vendor and garbage collectors. Others are happy to just throw buckets of paint from one roof to another. For all intents and purposes, the robots are the humans in Stray.

And in the middle of it all is you – a cat. If you didn’t already know / the cover image didn’t give it away, Stray puts you in control of an alley cat that somehow finds its way into the dome world. Early on, you’ll be presented with a B-12 floating droid companion who will help you carry an unlimited inventory of items, interact with gadgets, scan and translate text, and provide hints. With the help of B-12, whose memory has been corrupted, you – as the nameless cat – set out to unravel the mystery of the world of domes. What happened to it, how to get out of it, where did humans go and why the world seems devoid of all life.

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There’s a gentleness and solitary nature to Stray. For one thing, the cat doesn’t speak, except that it can meow at the press of a button (“O”, or circle, on the DualSense or DualShock 4.) And while you have a companion on the B-12, it doesn’t offer ongoing commentary. He just talks in beeps and boops when you ask him to do something. For most of Stray, you feel like you’re floating through the game’s world, as you figure out exactly what happened in your universe. AI robots, on the other hand, have little understanding of their 2.1 meter presence. When they first see him in Stray, they are scared for their lives, which makes absolutely no sense. Who’s afraid of cat?

Well, to be fair, there’s more to it than that. To robots, the cat resembles a zurk. In their size and how they are both four-legged. What is a zurk you say? I don’t want to spoil Stray’s story any further, so I’ll keep the description to a minimum. Zurks are, in a way, the main enemy in Stray. They are small, four-legged creatures that move in packs, can run at high speeds, shoot anyone who moves, and can latch onto you fiercely. They suck the life out of you – and so, like the cat, you must do your best to stay away from them. And if they grab you, press a button (“O” again, by the way) to throw them off and run to safety (“R2”, right trigger.)

Since a cat is smaller and more agile than humans and Stray’s robots, it has a better chance of taking on Zurks. In addition, its size allows it to get through nooks and crannies and walk through places where humans would not be able to, either due to its size or weight. Much of Stray is about traversal, as you go up and through levels, with the game literally taking you up. But climbing doesn’t come naturally – and you can only do it if Stray lets you. You must move until you see the “X” (or cross) button appear, after which you can hit it and make the cat jump. I would have preferred a more natural and freeform method, a bit like Assassin’s Creed where you push the left stick in one direction and the cat just goes up.

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stray ps5 game review zurks stray ps5 game review

Zurks chase the cat in Stray
Photo credit: Annapurna/BlueTwelve Studio

While I was pleased with Stray’s jump implementation during traversal bits, it can get in the way during combat sequences where you need to move quickly to stay alive. A precious second or half waiting for the “X” to appear could mean the difference between life and death. Especially when there’s a swarm of zurks behind you. It’s frustrating having to replay part of the level just because the prompt doesn’t appear. (For what it’s worth, the prompt-oriented approach makes Stray’s straightforward puzzles quite easy to navigate. Stray is a mix of traversal, combat, puzzle solving, and interacting with others, with most of the game devoted to the first and last bits.)

Lost game download size

On the PS5 – our system of choice – Stray was a roughly 7.5GB download. Steam says you’ll need 10GB of free space to install Stray on PC.

The much bigger frustrations though are the bugs, one of which more or less halted my progress. An NPC got stuck in the air, several meters away from where he was supposed to be. It didn’t help that they never interacted with the entrance they were trying to direct me to, and the fact that said entrance was shrouded in darkness. More annoyingly, even a complete Stray reset did not resolve the issue, with the bug apparently being saved as-is. (I wrote to the Stray developers, but didn’t get a comment in time to post.) I almost gave up on the game, and if it weren’t for a video walkthrough, I don’t think I’d want to go back to it.

I wish Stray didn’t get in the way of my fun. That said, kudos to the developers for recreating what it’s like to hide like a cat. From the gait to the jumps, Stray really nails the feline movement. Surprisingly, they didn’t go the mo-cap route, but good old hand animation. Stray also replicates beloved cat memes, including his love of sticking his head in a bag (completely losing any sense of direction and very funny) and jumping on cardboard boxes (used in stealth combat scenes). Like that spectrum, Stray veers between a variety of genres, from heartfelt anime to atmospheric horror and from sleepy backwaters to heart-pounding suspense.

While animals have served as human companions, attack assists and Easter egg distractions throughout video game history, Stray – which is rare – asks you to play as one. It’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s delicious nonetheless.


  • intriguing world
  • Balance of varied genres
  • feline movement nails


  • frustrating bugs
  • Traversal is not natural
  • Very straightforward puzzles

Rating (out of 10): 7

Stray launches on Tuesday 19th July for PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. Pricing starts at Rs. 749 on Steam and Rs. 1999 on the PlayStation Store. Stray is also available as part of the PlayStation Plus Extra subscription which costs Rs. 749 per month, Rs. 1,999 for three months and Rs. 4,999 for one year.

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