Tuesday, August 9, 2022

A Purrfect Adventure Through A Neon Dystopia > NAG

First things first, I’m not a cat person. Partly because they all seem to hate me and not accept my pets or cuddles and partly because I’m allergic. However, that being said, if there was ever a game that would make me change my mind about the little feline devils, it’s Stray. I don’t know if I want to replay the game or if I want to go out and get enough cats to declare myself a cat lady, but it’s how I feel, and it says a lot about the game that Stray is.

For a change in a review, I can talk about the story of Stray because unlike many other story-focused games I’ve reviewed here, the overarching story isn’t the important part – instead, that is reserved for the history uncovered through playing, the relationships crafted through lending a helping paw and by simply being a cat.

You start the game in a sort of “cat-topia” if you will, a lush green place filled with countless other cats. But before long, tragedy strikes (as is want to do in these types of games), and you find yourself plummeting into the abyss, all alone and separated from all you’ve ever known. You now find yourself in a much less “idealistic” place; in place of the green lushness from before, there is trash, and instead of a plethora of other furry friends, there are robots and things called zurks who want nothing more than to eat you.

Stray - A Purrfect Adventure Through A Neon Dystopia

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Stray is a game about wanting to go home but also about finding humanity in a place stripped of it. Before long, you’ll find yourself teamed up with a sentient AI called B-12, who will join you on your adventure and help you navigate this alien world.

Most of your time in the game will be spent exploring and traversing a world that seems to be bursting with life, even though technically there isn’t any, and talking to the various robots that roam this strange underground world. By getting to know these robots, you will learn about the humans of before, and by helping them out, you will start to build relationships through that mutual reliance.

But don’t get me wrong, unlike many other games, the robots don’t just exist as forgettable quest-giving NPCs. Instead, each forms part of the supporting cast for the game, helping to move the story along and give it life. Within just a few short hours, Stray manages to capture the small nuances of both cats and robots, creating a world and a story that feels believable and memorable and that, on its own, is a triumph.

Stray - A Purrfect Adventure Through A Neon Dystopia

Stray

BOTTOM LINE

From beginning to end, Stray is an absolute joy of a game. Throughout the 6-10 hours of playtime, Stray never lets itself become overly complex, and the controls don’t require you to grow extra fingers to master. The difficulty also never even comes close to threatening your nine cat lives. Instead, Stay is a game that remains consistently entertaining, engaging and immersive – something many other games could do well to emulate.

PROS

Immersive and atmospheric

The price tag and attention to detail

The relationship building story

CONS

The price tag. Indie game developers need to start evaluating their work more and pricing their games better – at R195 on Steam, the game is undervaluing itself by a mile

No accessibility options to change the size of text etc. which is essential considering how much reading is involved

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