For about a year, I would be sitting in my van at work waiting on a delivery and the same stray cat would come by almost every night. There is no shortage of stray cats wandering the streets of Chicago, but this particular cat was easy to pick out of a lineup. He was black with a long white patch along his back. Every night, I would gently open the door of the van and call him to me. Every night, he would stop, look at me, and then walk the other way at an increased speed. This cat must have spoken with some of the women I have asked on a date, because I have seen that walk before. I would watch him cross the street and go into the bushes every night, hoping that tomorrow would be the day he would change his mind. In typical cat fashion, he never did.
A stray cat is about as iconic of a stock character as we have in our American vernacular, but yet the chance to play as one in a game is much rarer. Thankfully, BlueTwelve Studio is giving us Stray –a third-person adventure that has you take on the role of, expectedly, a stray cat, whose inspiration comes from that of Murtaugh and Riggs, the founders’ two very own feline companions. Swann Martin-Raget, a producer at BlueTwelve, says in his PlayStation Blog entry that Stray “tells the story of a cat who accidentally falls into a weird, mysterious city and his journey to return to his family.” This past week, BlueTwelve provided the first in-depth look into the game by way of a gameplay trailer.
As the trailer opens, we see our injured, stray cat protagonist limping through the streets of a dark, half-post-apocalyptic-half-cyberpunk city, running along ledges, leaping across oil drums, and doing other general cat things. Martin-Raget goes on to say that the player will “use the cat’s skills to solve puzzles and uncover mysteries along the way” as we watch the cat pick up a bucket and toss it into a spinning fan to jam it, allowing for safe passage through to the other side.
There is a brief clip of the cat drinking from a bowl of water on the ground. Whether this is purely aesthetic, or some branch of survivalist gameplay was not mentioned. Either seems plausible as Martin-Raget focused on exploration and environmental detail in the aforementioned PlayStation Blog entry: “Exploration is a key element and as we love to add lots of details to our environments, we hope players will enjoy looking for all the little bits of hidden lore that we’ve added across each level.” That sort of commitment to depth makes you curious (like a cat! Ba dum tss. Sorry.) whether this game is going to be overflowing with beautiful details that are there for nothing but their own sake, or if the details each have their purpose (puzzles, survival, etc..).
The trailer shifts direction about a minute-and-a-half in when it is revealed that Cat encounters a small, flying drone named B12. This drone –somewhere between R2-D2 and Fallout 4’s Codsworth—will allow for further interaction with various objects, as well as “communicate with the strange inhabitants of this secluded place.” The “strange inhabitants” are shown to be upright robots, a “forgotten community of humanlike machines.” Together with B12, Cat will seek to unlock the mysteries of this civilization. As B12 develops his relationship with Cat, the robot’s past story is “a key element to this adventure.”
But as Martin-Raget confirms, “a cat will always be a cat, and his adventures will be filled with friendly and playful interactions with his new world.” We see our feline hero scratching at the arm of a couch, brushing up against a robot for a little affection, and grabbing an energy drink for 2x speed from a vending machine.
As you might expect, this mystery world isn’t all fun and games. In order to reunite with your family, you must use all of the cat tools at your disposal to escape from the city. The swarm of enemies we see are a little difficult to pin down as to what exactly they are, but they appear to be some kind of rodent, called “Zurks” by the game’s inhabitants. After finding someone named “Doc,” your means of defending yourself expand beyond running fast, and general feline cunning. Now armed with some type of radiation wave, or laser, or whatever it is exactly we see annihilating waves of these Zurks, your strategy appears to change at different junctures. Martin-Raget makes note that while these are the only foes seen in the trailer, they “are not the only type of foe you may encounter.”
The final clip in the trailer shows Cat approaching a robot musician with a guitar. When the musician laments that he does not have any songs, we see the player navigate to an inventory menu and offer the struggling performer the “Sheet Music 4” item (“The Way You Compute Tonight” –*insert chef kiss*), which gives a nice bit of insight into the sorts of side quests we might expect. Cat then lounges on a pile of pillows, curls up, and goes to sleep while our reinvigorated musician begins his performance.
By the end of the trailer, there is a strong sense of place. While the details surrounding this world remain a mystery, and perhaps will remain as one, as it seems reasonable that this mystery may be a defining plot point, the world already seems to breathe life. Martin-Raget continues to lean into that sense of mystery, suggesting that “not everything will be explained clearly, so it will be up to the most attentive and insightful players to figure out what exactly this place is, who these inhabitants and creatures are, and the story and purpose of this beguiling world in which we are immersed.”
Fitting, I suppose, seeing as cats rarely feel the need to explain anything, while expecting you to do everything.
Stray is set for release on PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4 in early 2022.
Watch the full gameplay reveal trailer for Stray below.
Francis Lawrence will return to the franchise as director.
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