BENGALURU: The crossover between the gamers and the cat-video Internet has made ‘Stray’ incredibly popular in the last week. And this makes me so happy. It is a sweet, tiny, beginner-friendly game where we play as a nimble cat, the only being that can save the world. I hope that there is a sequel. I want more of this. Stray starts with a cat nuzzling friends in what looks like a post-apocalyptic world.
Overgrown greens cover an endless mass of sewer pipes. We are inducted into learning the soft, but accurate jumping skills of a cat, and we deftly pounce across the map with the click of a button. However, misfortune befalls the cat as we jump into a hole that leads into a city filled with humanoid robots. Cat manages to secure a backpack that contains ‘B12’, a tiny flying droid, which now becomes our window into the wider story of Stray.
The game introduces us to the world of the humanoid robots, who are initially very scared of the cat. The cat reminds them of ‘Zurks’, the main enemy in the game: they look cute but are a lethal parasitic infestation that eats everything, even metal. We learn that the droids are walled away from ‘the Outside’, a mythical concept discussing the existence of a sky and a universe with humans in it. There are no humans here, and the droids collectively honour human memory by mimicking human habits and behaviour.
We learn all this through B12; the cat does little talking because it’s a cat. But as the cat, we somehow understand what needs to be done. And as an agile and stealthy animal, only we can make it happen. We need to find a way to get to the Outside. Stray primarily involves a complex form of traversal. There are hurdles and puzzles, which require straightforward environmental manipulation before we move ahead.
This is a source of light-heartedness in the game, because puzzle solving involves the cat knocking over neatly stacked books, hiding inside boxes, luring sentinel droids to their doom, and meow- ing at unsuspecting robots. And if this is much too tiring, the game has several napping spots for the cat. It’s sad that this is all over in 7 hours. The game is currently available to play on the PC and the PlayStation. I rate Stray a whole nine-lives out of nine, for comforting gameplay in a solitary universe.