Stray Review - Nine Lives
It's rare for a game to offer a new perspective to experience a familiar setting, and rarer still for one to so confidently have all of its mechanics designed around this. Stray, an adventure puzzle game where you play as a cat, manages not only to delight in its presentation but also in the many ways it eschews common puzzle mechanics to focus on the abilities and limitations of its protagonist. It's a consistently satisfying adventure with a charming story about companionship that rarely misses a beat across its well-paced runtime.
You play as a stray cat that is quickly thrust into an entirely new world underneath your own after a mishap that occurs in the opening minutes of the story. Alone in a new, neon-soaked city underneath a giant, unmoving dome, you quickly befriend a small drone that becomes a trusted companion throughout your adventure, and vital translator for all the other sentient robots that inhabit the handful of regions you'll visit. This drone, called B-12, also gives you more options to interact with the world around you, such as being able to hack doors to open them, kill dangerous flesh-eating aliens with a beam of purple light, or illuminate dark and dreary avenues as you explore them.
Outside of the assistance from B-12, however, Stray fully embodies the abilities that being a cat would afford you in this situation. You've got a lot of mobility to get around, with contextual button presses on reachable surfaces letting you effortlessly jump up, down, and around pretty much anywhere you'd like. This approach allows each leap to look incredibly good, too, with detailed animation work making your movements look as natural and ballet-like as most cats do when navigating their environment.
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