The review embargo has been lifted on BlueTwelve Studio’s quirky new PlayStation title Stray — yes, the game where you play as a cat — and so far, the impressions are pretty favourable.
It’s sitting kitty with an 84 Metacritic rating for its principle PS5 edition, with reviewers touting its “beautiful visuals and endearing characters” that offer an experience that “delights in every way”.
Lamentably, EZIYODA was not offered a review code for Stray, despite the fact that this is the cat-themed gaming website that everybody is talking about. The potential reasons are plentiful, ranging from the many enemies I have made in this industry to an undisclosed hush order preventing me from ever offering a tangible opinion on artistic endeavours of the digital variety.
Most likely, however, it is because we never asked for one, nor possess the clout to be provided one in the first place. I don’t even own a PlayStation 5. I do have a PS2, but they are yet to reveal the relevant port for that platform.
Regardless, it is a major release that stars a cat, and as such, I feel I must weigh in on its merits. Henceforth, the eponymous Stray will be referred to as Samantha, for ease of use, and so that I can pretend he was named after my cat. Perhaps he was, I haven’t played it, after all.
The first thing I note is that gameplay screenshots have shown Samantha doing various catlike things, such as walking on high ledges, taking naps and rewiring electrical devices. These are all very exciting activities, which leads me to believe that, were I to play this game, I would develop a severe case of “sidequestitis” — that is to say, mucking about instead of paying any particular attention to the major goal required for progression.
It seems that this goal is to escape from the neon city of robotic excess. It presents similar technological dystopian themes to other recent releases such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Detroit: Become Human. Please do not point out the fact that these games are collectively six years old, that is still considered ‘recent’ in my brain.
Also, I have not played these games, either.
Is Stray a commentary on the downfall of society; a populace hardwired to rely on constant gratification from our devices? Are we truly the robots at the heart of it all, barely existing beyond the commercialisation and commodification of modern media? This is something you must ask yourself before you play Stray, while you are playing Stray, and even after you finish Stray.
Of important note, Samantha is orange. Is this an aesthetic choice, as it evokes memories of Garfield or Puss and Boots? Or merely a practical one, making the character stand out more from the environments? I asked one of the people behind Stray, but he remained mum on the subject, saying simply, “why are you holding this game in front of my face? Are you going to buy it or not, sir?”
Seeking more clarity, I then asked some of the people in front of Stray. They were even less forthcoming, though in fairness, they may still be adhering to an NDA.
I estimate that, were I to play Stray, my playthrough would be well in excess of 100 hours. Not only is this due to the aforementioned dithering about I would engage in, but the fact that I would put the control down and walk away for at least two hours to see if Samantha would still be there upon my return.
Cats are fickle creatures, after all, and he may just as likely wander off in my absence. This would not be preferable from a game design perspective, only a cat design perspective. I would give it an additional ten points. Actually no, 11 points, because you see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten… Where can you go from there? Where?
With all of the above considered, we are proud to anoint Stray as EZIYODA’s Game of the Year for 2022. This is bold, as we are only halfway through the year and most other outlets would lack the courage necessary to hand out awards to games that they have never played. This didn’t stop me from dubbing Elden Ring the worst game of the year back in March.
Also, just in case the relevant PR company is looking to quote me for the subsequent trailer where they display all of the positive things someone has said about the game, I offer the following:
Stray is a tactile, nubile experience unlike any other. It made me laugh and cry in equal measure, and I look forward to discussing it at my next workplace conduct meeting. If Stray were a person, I think it would be Michael Cera, and that’s not too bad at all.
Phew! Now to simply wait for the publishers to come a’running with free games, free methamphetamines and perhaps, even, a free kiss on the cheek.