Stray review: This sci-fi cat adventure is a whole vibe

the main cat from stray looking into the foreground with cyberpunk buildings behind him

“Stray delivers on its adorable cat adventure premise, but its excellent atmosphere and strong sci-fi storytelling are what elevate it.”

Pros

  • Creative cat gameplay

  • Excellent atmosphere

  • Intricate level design

  • Impactful sci-fi narrative

Cons

  • Limited interactions

  • Some undercooked ideas

I was lying on my couch playing Stray when my cat, Mirah, jumped up next to me. As I controlled the game’s digital orange cat, Mirah climbed onto my legs and lay down with her face pointed towards the screen. I could feel a gentle rumble as she purred, not dissimilar from the vibrations my DualSense controller’s haptic feedback was giving off. It’s perhaps the only moment I’ve had while playing a game where the natural and mechanical felt perfectly in sync.

Stray explores that very intersection with a sense of cat-like curiosity. Developed by BlueTwelve Studio, the adventure game imagines a not-too-unbelievable future where humans have destroyed themselves, leaving overgrown plants, animals, and sentient robots to take charge of the Earth. Much has been made about the game’s adorable feline lead since the game was first announced, but Stray isn’t just a cute gimmick; it’s a forward-thinking science-fiction game about our increasingly complicated connection with technology.

Between its clever (though limited) gameplay ideas and weighty social commentary, Stray is a special experience that works best as a futuristic mood piece. And a really darn cute one at that.

Press O to meow

Stray has perhaps the easiest selling point in the history of video games: Live out your ultimate fantasy by controlling a totally normal cat. The game’s orange hero isn’t some anthropomorphized, talking tabby running around on two legs. It’s your everyday pet that naps and scratches couches. That premise allows for some creative gameplay decisions that are always a delight to discover.

a cat sits at a bar with androids in stray.

Separated from its family after dropping into a walled city full of sentient robots, the furry hero has to use its unique skills to solve puzzles and escape the mysterious slums. BlueTwelve Studio has a blast here figuring out how standard cat behaviors can twist into navigation tools. For instance, scratching a door might cause an annoyed robot to swing it open, allowing you to dart inside. A stealth section had me jumping into boxes to hide from patrolling drones. Even totally optional interactions, like finding a good book nook to nap in, are joyfully clever.

There are limits to what Stray’s able to do with its feline setup. By the end of my journey, it felt like just about any non-platforming puzzle was solved by scratching or knocking something over. Some of the charm gets lost in those moments, as I’d almost forget I was controlling a cat altogether once the adventure game auto-pilot kicked in. There are a small handful of traditional puzzles that require brainwork, like using written clues to figure out safe combinations, but Stray doesn’t quite find as many ways to utilize the few skills players have as well as, say, Untitled Goose Game.

It’s the authentic feline moments that make the game special …

To widen out the list of actions players can do, Stray gives its cat hero a drone companion that handles the more basic adventure game tropes like trading items with NPC