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How Stray balances the light and dark elements of his story

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strayed has become a gem of a game, receiving rave reviews from critics and fans alike with its uncomplicated and compelling avatar: a cat. Developed by BlueTwelve Studio and published by Annapurna Interactive, strayed, tells a story about a cat who falls from the outside into a walled city below, where he tries to find his way back to his family. It’s a simple story, but it opens the door to an exploration story that isn’t predictable.

Released in July 2022, strayed is incredibly captivating through its beautiful art and colorful graphics, but its steep immersion in what it’s like to play as a cat is what sets it apart. What cleverly unfolds is a story that many can sympathize with, a story that traverses humans and cats and shows us the world from a different point of view. But beneath the fun and foolishness of a cat is a charming, light-hearted tale that balances with a dark tale.


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A charming cat avatar

Creating a cat protagonist to explore spaces, from very open roads to holes in the wall or fence, is a unique approach to a game. Pitching the idea on paper gives a new perspective, but it can fall apart if it can’t be created accurately. Happy, strayed succeeds on almost all fronts. Amusingly referred to as the cat game before release, strayed allows players to get as serious or as playful as they want, with a special meow button, the ability to scratch carpets, sofas, walls and curtains, or jump from dumpsters to window AC units to rooftops. And this really brings the game to life in a fun, light-hearted way.

It doesn’t ask or require much of the player in terms of leveling up or fighting. It only takes that you explore the beautiful world around you through the eyes of a cat and interact with that world as a cat would. But through that exploration, Strays dark elements reveal a tragic story of what happened to humanity and its successors. strayed may take the emotional blow from these discoveries, but the use of a charming avatar keeps the players grounded and able to balance the story.

B12’s memories in Stray

As players progress through the various chapters with B12, their droid companion, memories are unlocked that help paint the history of the city and humanity. This unit is perfect for balancing the hard, emotional beats with the lighthearted ones. The fact that some memories start off calmer also reflects the game’s narrative pace regarding the lighter and darker elements. Their short length also works, as it prevents the oversaturation of dark elements, but provides enough context to understand the broader initiatives.

Further on in the main story, more of the darker features of humanity’s past, linked to the surviving robot inhabitants of the walled city, emerge. What starts out so charmingly in how they mimic our culture and behavior is soon buoyed by a sense of tragedy as players realize that the humans are completely gone. While others strayed memories require off-road exploration, players can consume a balanced approach to world history at their own pace.

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Robotic behavior and culture

After a calm but tense intro as the cat protagonist falls into the walled city and arrives at strayedIn the slums, players soon discover that robotic residents inhabit this communal space. These burgers are incredibly well conceived and at the same time express simplicity and complexity, even though they lack advanced features. In this part of the main story, players learn about their purpose, characteristics, behavior and culture while seeing how close they are to humanity.

The disappearance of humanity in strayed shows how the game can balance the lighter and darker elements of the story. The fact that the robots are not murderous, have superiority complexes or are responsible for the destruction of humanity is a fresh take that lightens the tone. It enables creative and expressive ways to show how robotic counterparts aren’t always sinister instruments of destruction.

Exploratory story, realism and soundtrack

The framework of strayed‘s exploration story is deftly intertwined with the B12 cat’s goal, who is invested in regaining their memories. The sense of realism helps keep the trajectory focused and explore the different methods the cat usually works with. What also makes the balance of the game interesting is that the cat protagonist is a regular cat, not an upgraded, mutated, alien.

That balance of realism, combined with the art for assets, environments and characters, makes it possible strayed to broaden the branches of his exploration. Even getting B12 is done in a way that requires only a little suspense of faith. Combined with the lack of a scavenger hunt log and map, the game asks the player to think outside the box.

As players immerse themselves in a cat’s world and discover strayed‘s walled city for freedom, they are also invited to the game’s soundtrack Characteristics. The music has no lyrics but evokes many emotions: relief, happiness, charm, tension, fear, sadness and hope. Each piece is almost designed around these facets in a balancing act that offers fans a new rollercoaster ride.

Blue Twelve Studios’ strayed is an exciting game that initially has a simple story about going home, framed by an exploration story. At its core, however, the game unfolds a story full of light and dark moments, a story of hope and tragedy, charm and sadness. Through the use of a cat, the memory system through B12 and the robot characters who respect their ancestors, strayed makes a lively nuanced story.

strayed is available on PC, PS4 and PS5.

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