Stray Reviews

Official Site Review

By Sean Lawson,

Stray is an absolute treat for cat lovers, platforming enthusiasts and horror fans. This adorable cat game has a lot to offer anyone who decides to dive into its beautiful, dystopian world on PS Plus Premium, Extra.

Are you currently unsure if you should jump into Stray when it releases onto PlayStation Plus Premium, Extra and joins the ever-growing PS Plus games list? Then maybe my review can help you decide if Stray could be worth your time. Please be aware that there will be spoilers ahead for Stray.

Stray surprised me with its underlying horror themes

StrayStray is an absolute treat to play

Right out the gate, I was already impressed. Why? Well, the answer is quite simple — I get to play as an adorable cat that is just the best and most goodest of kitties. In all seriousness, I was very hesitant when I loaded up Stray. Despite my initial excitement about the game's concept, playing as animals in other games like Away: the Survival Series and Tokyo Jungle has often been a clunky and at times frustrating experience. However, I can report that this adorable little feline controls incredibly, with movement and platforming feeling very smooth and responsive.

Within the first five seconds of playing, I discovered that the circle button gives me access to an endless supply of meows, and you best believe that I have taken complete advantage of this throughout my entire playthrough. The trophy called 'A Little Chatty' was the second one I earned, which is rewarded for meowing over 100 times. My first trophy was 'Missed Jump' which is story related and earned within the first five minutes of gameplay. So yeah, I meowed a lot.

Stray opens with our cute little feline and his cat family, consisting of three other equally adorable cats, exploring a desolate dam overgrown with plant life. As you explore, the game teaches you how to move, meow, and jump onto various objects. My initial thought was Stray was going to be a platformer — however, you can't actually fall off anything or jump to your death. The game gives you prompts as to when you can jump onto other objects, but until that prompt appears you can't jump at all. This begs the question if you can even call this game a platformer? I would say no, as I generally am not a fan of those styles of games and I never felt like I was playing a platformer.

Despite the cuteness, there is a strange overarching feeling of dread that I couldn't shake off, the music was incredibly ominous and left me feeling unnerved, which I was not anticipating. This all came to a head when our feline misses a jump and plummets down to the bottom of the dam. The imagery of this cute cat clawing and meowing with all his might to not fall is the saddest thing I have seen in a video game in quite some time.

StrayStray pulled on my heartstings more than any other game

It is here where the game truly begins. Injured, we slowly limp around, crying in pain, before we collapse on the floor. I honestly didn't know how we were going to recover from the fall, and it was also here I realised how much more I care about animals than humans. I can't remember the last time I was this concerned over a video game character's wellbeing, but for this little feline I was hanging on with bated breath. Miraculously, all it took to get this kitty fighting fit was to give his leg a little clean and it was as good as new. Who'd of thought it?

After the swift recovery, we move into the second level of the game called The Dead City. With a name as foreboding as that, I knew trouble wasn't far around the corner. The ominous music started to ramp up here as I explored the abandoned city, its streets overflowing with mouldy clothes and rundown buildings. Despite the tense situation, there was still plenty of time for cat hijinks, which involved a lot of knocking objects over the edges of tables and roofs. In one instance my mischief helped me to progress the level as I dropped a paint can through a skylight, creating a new path for me to explore. This brief moment of success was pulled right from under me when I had my first encounter with the enemies of this game, the Zurks.

Going from a cute little adventure filled with mystery and cat mayhem to a full-on chase sequence was not quite what I had anticipated when I loaded up Stray. These Zurks are a terrifying mash-up between a spider and the Face-Hugger from the Alien films. I ran as fast as my four itty bitty paws would let me, dodging the encroaching hordes of Zurks that were pouring out from every alleyway and window that was in my line of vision. It was both terrifying and thrilling and, as a horror fan, I enjoyed the cold chill these odd little creatures instilled in me. My main concern was this poor little kitty getting injured; I don't think my heart could take it if I got him killed. There is a trophy for not getting caught in this section, but unfortunately, at the time of writing this I have not obtained 'Can't Cat-ch Me.' However, I did manage to escape my pursuers and make it to the third level of the game, The Flat.

StrayJust avoiding all this fleshy bad stuff in my bucket

While a short level in itself, we discover our travel buddy here called B-12 — a cute little robot drone that will become our best friend on this treacherous adventure. B-12 has many abilities like being a light source, providing hints on what to do next, collecting objects out of our reach, housing our inventory, and just being a cute little robot companion. It is also at this level where I got my first horrific glimpse of a flesh-like substance that coats the buildings in these Zurk-infested zones. The substance moves and vibrates and has a human look to it, although I believe it is supposedly something that the Zurks use when creating their many nests. I left the level feeling concerned about what was to come — would I see more of this fleshy grossness?

The Slums comes just after The Flat and is the level that I spent most of my time in, probably around 3-4 hours in total, just exploring this little city and uncovering the many little secrets that lay within. I was also aiming to find as many of the collectables that were here as well as some of the random trophies that can only be found in this zone. I think The Slums is my favourite location in Stray — I enjoyed discovering and interacting with the many robot residents that reside here, the platforming elements were a lot of fun, and finding all the secret little bits and bobs was an enjoyable experience. I am someone who usually hates anything centred around collectables, but I think the compact and condensed area of The Slums stopped me from getting overwhelmed.

The music in the slums was also a welcome treat. After the chase and the fleshy images, it was nice to hear something that didn't fill me with pure dread. I felt like a little cat detective as I prowled the streets going about my business. I spent hours trying to find all the music sheets for the trophy 'Meowlody,' but alas, I am still missing music sheet #2 as of writing this review. I did find the other seven though, so I guess that counts for something. On top of this, I also searched every nook and cranny for B-12's memories, finding all seven of them throughout The Slums and unlocking some of the random trophies like 'Télé à chat' and 'Productive Day' in the process. After I was sure I had uncovered all that I could, except that darn music sheet, I decided to crack on with the main story.

StrayThe Slums was a fun area to explore

I had my first death at the end of the level called Rooftops. I had to pull a lever and wait for an elevator to slowly lower, and while this is happening, Zurks are flooding into the small surface area I have to manoeuvre. What followed was me running around in circles, slowly being swarmed whilst I waited for this elevator to reach me. Sadly, I died a total of two times here before I realised that the elevator actually arrives quite quickly — so fast in fact that I didn't notice that it had lowered to my level the first few times. On my third attempt, I managed to make a smooth getaway and made my way forward — or upwards, in this case. I was able to let out a little sigh of relief for completing that section, as I was convinced I was going to be stuck there for ages.

One thing I noticed was how fast I was progressing through the game — at about four hours in I was over halfway done. Stray consists of 12 chapters, and what dawned on me was how short these chapters are if you aren't searching every nook and cranny like I was. On one hand, I love this, it makes replaying far more accessible and way less chore-like. I have already replayed The Sewers level three times now in an attempt to mop up everything I missed the first time around. On the other hand, it was a shame that a game I was loving so much was looking to be over before I knew it.

StrayThe Zurks can bugger off

The Sewers level was surprisingly easy despite my self-imposed handicap of not being able to kill any of the Zurks, all so I could earn a beautiful little gold trophy. I died once in a room that was filled with Zurk eggs, which pop when you get close and unleash a small army of the annoying gits. This entire area was similar to the level in Alien Isolation where you have to power some generators to destroy the alien nest.

The aesthetic here was impeccable, with the flesh walls coating every surface — it was quite a grim sight that only got worse when giant eyeballs started to appear inside the fleshy walls. As I had suspected earlier, this means that these fleshy substances are indeed alive, a fact that, though definitely disgusting, is also absolutely awesome. I adored this level, it was so freaky and well thought out, with horrific imagery, incredible music, and intense chase sequences which were enhanced by my aiming for the 'Pacifist' trophy. Fabulous work was put in here.

Trophy Difficulty

I would say that the Stray trophies aren't too difficult to achieve. This is helped by the fact that once you have beaten a chapter you can jump straight back in an attempt to get any trophies you may have missed. This is especially useful for any trophies that require gathering collectables, such as B12's memories and badges. I managed to net a whole bunch of trophies with minimal effort during my initial playthrough of Stray, finishing the game with a total unlock rate of 55%. The remaining trophies were mainly collectable-based, so I just need to nip back in and try and snag all the little bits I have missed.

I would say the most difficult trophies that will cause a few issues for players will be the 'Can't Cat-ch Me,' 'I am Speed,' and 'Badges' trophies. Even then I don't anticipate much of a challenge for players; once you have attempted it the first few times, you should be able to get them with no issues. Or you could use the guide that we at TrueTrophies are working on — just a thought.
StrayStop looking at me!

At this point in the game, I was absolutely in love with the world of Stray. On one hand, it is an adorable little cat game and on the other, it is a freaky horror mystery game. It also dawned on me that the game it reminded me of most was Little Nightmares, or Little Nightmares II to be exact. The two games have a very similar aesthetic and vibe, both dabbling in elements of cuteness and horror.

Before I knew it, I was on the tenth chapter, progressing speedily through the game. However, my progression came to a bit of a halt, as the tenth chapter called "Midtown" was quite a large area to search in comparison to previous zones. Whereas before I felt like I could find my way around quite easily and discover all the little secrets without much of an issue (except that damn music sheet), Midtown felt strangely overwhelming to me. I didn't know where to start exploring and nor did I know fully where I was meant to be going to progress the main story. There was so much to see, yet I felt like nothing led anywhere productive. Midtown is probably my least favourite location in all of Stray. The zone just felt bland, crowded, confusing, and lacking. Midtown probably has the most story missions within it though, which thankfully were all pretty fun and helped to appease my disappointment with the zone itself.

Another disappointment that came out of Midtown was the new enemy — a drone. After the horrific sights I had seen in The Sewers, I was expecting to come face-to-face with some grotesque and terrifying monsters. So, to say I was disappointed with a security drone being my new archnemesis is an understatement. Midtown also marked the last I would see of the Zurks, who provided a fun challenge and were creepy in their own unique way. Stray has a total of two different enemies — the Zurks and the drones. I feel like we could have had a bit more variety with enemies, there was a lot that could have been done, especially with the strange fleshy walls with eyes in them.

After making a daring escape from cat jail, I entered the end-game phase; the final chapter. I was not ready for how this game would pull on my heartstrings, making me once again realise how I care for feline and robot life far more than I do human life. Even my partner who had been drifting in and out of watching me play this game was overcome with emotions witnessing the final moments of the game. I am not an emotional person — it takes a lot to make me truly sad and this game managed to do so with ease on multiple occasions. The game ends with a few questions lingering and the possibility of a sequel in the future.

Summary

StrayIt was amazing interacting with all the robot citizens

I had high expectations for Stray based on the fact I was a cute cat. I never in my life anticipated it to not only match my expectations but truly surpass them. This game blew me away with every new location I visited — well, maybe not Midtown. Even then, with a lull in the tenth chapter, it couldn't damage or take away from my overall experience. The gameplay was so smooth and fluid, navigating the many locations was fun and responsive. Discovering all the little secrets and collectable bits was also an enjoyable romp, something I thought I would never say.

The unexpected horror element of Stray was a welcome surprise — I love the horror genre, so seeing all the freaky imagery was a treat and added an extra flair to the game world. I was reminded of Alien Isolation at a few points in the game, which is definitely not a bad thing at all as that game truly understood tension and how to make an intimidating foe. Stray has pounced its way into being one of my favourite games of the year so far, and I can't recommend it enough. With Stray coming to PS Plus Premium and Extra, I can't think of any reason good enough to not check this masterpiece out! Stray releases on PS Plus Premium and Extra July 19th 2022.
9 / 10
* Sean played through the entirety of Stray during a heatwave that caused his PS5 to overheat every ten minutes, though thankfully Stray has many checkpoints, so his progress didn't get completely wiped every time this happened. Sean fell in love with the world of Stray, its adorable feline hero and his little robot bestie. Sean played Stray for over 11 hours, in which he attempted to garner as many trophies as he could, finishing with a total of 16/25 trophies. A review code was provided by the Stray PR team.
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