Culture Pick: New video game “Stray” allows people to watch the downfall of humanity through the eyes of a cat

Maddy Reda | @maddyreda1, Assistant Culture Editor

BlueTwelve Studio’s new video game “Stray” has been freely roaming streets everywhere since its release on July 19.

“Stray” allows gamers to play with furry, feline mischief as an unnamed orange cat amid a mysterious, post-human dystopia.

What starts as a simple, eerie trek through a dilapidated, overgrown sewer system turns chaotic when you are separated from your stray friends, only to find yourself as no more than a wee cat cowering in the ashen remains of an underground cyber-city.

Players must speak to the various robots still trying to make do in their ghost town and help them with tasks, all while stumbling across various hints and clues as to how humans met their downfall.

The game only gives a handful of hints to players, meaning the pacing of the storyline depends entirely on the player acting on their feline whims to look for clues.

In an interview with CNN Business, BlueTwelve producer Swann –Martin-Raget said the game was designed to have a natural flow rather than having a rigid list of objectives or tasks to complete.

Its leisurely pace made “Stray” an instant a crowd-pleaser amongst lovers of beautiful, serene video games like “Animal Crossing” as well as people who prefer high-energy combat games.

“It was an intention to have it minimal, but to make sure that everything necessary was there to make sure that the game was still accessible,” Martin-Raget said. “You understand naturally without thinking too much and without necessarily being part of a quest or a list of challenges.”

While the theme certainly capitalizes on the plausible mass extinction of humans as we approach eminent climate disaster in real time, the game is full of equally cute cat moments, such as the ability to play, prowl, make pawprints,and even use a designated button on the controller or PC to meow on command.

Perhaps the most vital aspect of “Stray” is the captivating stylistic choice of the game designers, who have managed to create a realistic image of a dead city standing on its last legs. While the city is clearly dirty and unkempt, its realistic textures, sights and sounds compel players to explore every inch of their surroundings, even if it puts them back in completing a task.

According to CBR, cats are acrobatic masters, known as the originators of parkour, so playing as a cat lets players climb and jump around with ease, leading to a vertical level design that traditional video games starring humans rarely achieve.

Such a unique design choice forces players to think about the game from the perspective of a cat— human-sized doors are useless to cats, so players must train themselves to look for open windows or dilapidated balconies to scale in order to enter a building. Likewise, things that players typically ignore in other video games, such as sewer grates, exposed pipes, scaffolding and dumpsters, are indispensable means for players to quickly jump across to get to a high vantage point.

The attention to detail is completely immersive and interactive, from the tiny, pattering sounds of cat footsteps to the random bits of trash littering the ground. Players can hit certain controls to scratch couches and rugs, run across computer keyboards, or even stop at a puddle to take a drink of water.

Alyse Stanley, a contributor at the Washington Post, said the game is as adorable as it is haunting.

“It’s adorable. It’s devastating. It unspools a haunting thread about humanity but also encourages you to lose a lot of time just running around doing silly cat things,” Stanley said.

Gamers who enjoy the beauty, serenity and attention to detail of pretty adventure games like “The Legend of Zelda” series or “Horizon Zero Dawn” will enjoy piecing together the downfall of humanity through the eyes of a heroic stray cat.

“Stray” is available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC.