GAME ON: Meow, nap, or jump for your life as a lost tabby in short, engaging “Stray”

Cyberpunk puzzle platformer “Stray” isn’t the first game to have a non-human protagonist, but casting your character as a nameless cat might be a first.

And he’s just a normal cat, who likes to do standard cat things, like hanging out with his stray cat friends while exploring nature, which is how the game begins.

But then tragedy strikes, as our orange tabby hero falls into a deep, deep hole, eventually landing in a cityscape known as Dead City. Your mission ? Find a way to escape the city and reunite with your friends in the outside world.

The Dead City is inspired by the real Kowloon Walled City, providing our nameless wanderer with a dense, extremely vertical, neon-lit urban jungle to explore and traverse while jumping from trash cans to vending machines, passing through pipes, apartment ledges and air conditioners. like only a cat can.

“Stray” fully embraces the quirks of being a cat. Napping, scratching doors and walls, meowing, and dropping objects off ledges (among a cat’s favorite pastimes, of course) are possible throughout the game, and don’t always have gambling ramifications, though sometimes they do. Sometimes knocking over a stack of books reveals a secret, or stomping on a curtain reveals a new way forward.

My favorite example of this capture of cat behavior comes early on, when our stray finds a mate – a small, floating robot named B-12 who puts a backpack on our feline protagonist. If you’ve ever put a harness on a cat in real life, the stray does exactly what you’d expect: roll over, slide across the floor, and act extremely aggrieved.

The city is devoid of life — sort of. Lots of greenery exists as nature works to reclaim the city, but there are no humans and that hasn’t been the case for a long time. However, the guardian robots of humans survived and created a kind of society for themselves. They have their own language, and upon a first encounter, implore our feline friend to refrain from eating them.

Who doesn’t love robots with personality?

The goal of our stray cat is simple: to find his family, to return to what the robots call “the outside”. However, they say it is an impossible task that many have tried and failed.

There is another kind of inhabitant in this world, and it is not friendly. They’re called Zurks, and they look a bit like a cross between hairless guinea pigs and “Alien” facehuggers. They swarm in large numbers. The cat is faster and can shake them off, but if it takes too much damage, it’s game over and it’s time to reload from the last checkpoint.

The game is visually striking, perhaps beautiful in that “naturalia” sense of seeing nature overtake civilization. French studio BlueTwelve has created a wonderfully made and engaging game that, although quite short, offers an emotional and satisfying experience. (Expect to spend four to six hours to complete the game, or more, depending on how much you enjoy looking, exploring, and finding collectibles.)

Overall it’s a good game, and although there are some action parts when the Zurks are on the hunt, it can be very peaceful to explore; but that’s expensive for a game that only takes a few hours and has limited replay value.

That said, if you like it, you like it, and if it’s your kind of game, the price is right.

BONUS REVIEW

“Rock Life: Rock Simulator” is one of those ridiculous games that tells me the simulator zeitgeist might be going too far and trying too hard.

Have you ever wanted to be a rock?

Well, maybe, if you have seen the wonderful movie “Everything Everywhere All at Once”.

“Rock Life” puts you in a realm, listening to soft ambient music, living your best rock life, doing what the rocks do – which is nothing. You can change the type of rock you are (would you like to be more jagged? Or small and round?) and can change if you are in a meadow or a zen garden, and… that’s it. That’s the game.

Its saving grace is that it’s free and perhaps just designed for experimentation, but in a world where simulators exist for airplanes, trains, trucking, pressure washing, auto mechanics, farming , railroads, building personal computers, cooking, and even television, it seems like everything has become a simulation lately, and most of them are pretty bad.

My advice? If you want to look at a rock, get out. The graphics are much better.

‘Wander’

Platform: Windows (Steam), PlayStation 4 and 5

Cost: $29.99

Age rating: 10+ (animated blood, fantasy violence)

Rating: 7 out of 10

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