As cute as all of this sounds, Stray tempers the sweetness with dystopian background details. For instance, End Village is a community built on a sea of trash in an abandoned reservoir, with robots living in a makeshift tower sprouting out of the debris. The robots here are struggling but complacent, and the environment is in stark contrast to the neon lights and vending machines of the main city. In End Village, the cat can roam around, using dangling buckets as elevators and disrupting board games, and there’s a mission to collect flowers for a robot called Zbaltazar, who has knowledge to share about escaping the city.
“End Village is a very interesting example because it shows how we can really use the fact that we are playing as a cat to have fun in level design, in terms of verticality, for example, or types of paths that you can find,” Martin-Raget said. “You can still be, you know, annoying to everyone if you want to.” Because you’re a cat, it goes without saying.
There’s no fall damage in Stray, meaning every jump is a successful one, and dying isn’t a core mechanic (no, not even nine times). It is possible to be killed by the game’s main enemies, these pale beige blobs with glowing yellow eyes that chase the cat as a mob, but otherwise, it’s all about agility and the freedom to explore. Action sequences with the enemies are fast-paced, and the scene Martin-Raget showed off had the cat running and leaping down a long alleyway, the blobs close on its tail.
While Stray encourages exploration, the path forward is usually clear, with crates and ledges marked by splotches of yellow and graffiti-style arrows that try to blend into the scenery. Players are able to carry a flashlight and other tools in a small inventory managed by B-12, a cute drone that lives in a backpack the cat picks up along its journey. B-12 has its own backstory, according to Martin-Raget, and it’s the main way the cat interacts with technology and talks to robots. The drone also displays the current objective.
“I don’t want to reveal too much about this, but there are a few points in the story where B-12 is a bit more powerful than what I show you now,” Martin-Raget said.
And now some rapid-fire facts about Stray:
There are no customization options for the cat.
The cat doesn’t have to eat, drink or sleep to stay alive, but it can do these things because they’re cute.
The cat doesn’t have a name.
There are no laser-pointer mini games.
Stray exists somewhere between a futuristic survival game and a housecat simulator, with some machine-powered dystopia sprinkled across the entire thing. It’s about discovery and exploration, but mostly, it’s a game about being a cat.
“As you can see, even though all the jumps are successful, I’m still really free to move around anywhere I want to,” Martin-Raget said, the cat strolling by a can on a ledge. He swiped a paw at it and it clattered to the ground. “I have to make that fall because I’m still a cat.”
Stray is due to hit PlayStation 5, PS4 and PC via Steam on July 19th.
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