Stray Review – Cute Little Cat Adventure in a Cyberpunk City

In a post-apocalyptic world, a city full of robots must find a way to the surface to see the sunlight for maybe the first time in their life. How will they do that? With the help of a kitten that stumbled into their world by complete accident. Let’s take a look at Stray!

Note: We played the PS5 version of the game. We’ll take a look the various versions of the game in a later section of the review.


Meow

You’re a Little Kitty…

Despite appearances, this is a very story-heavy game. We recommend going in as blind as possible for the best experience. Even this section will cut off at about 15% of the way through, so we don’t spoil anything important.

The game starts off in a dark cave during a thunderstorm. In this cave, there are 4 kittens, including the one you get to play as. This is a great area to experiment with the controls, as well as have some cute interactions with the rest of your feline friends.

Once the rain clears out, the 4 of you go out into the world and it’s revealed that humanity is pretty much gone. It’s never explicitly stated what happened to them, but you’ll be able to put the pieces together throughout the game. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

… in a Big World

While out on your walk, your kitty doesn’t quite make a jump and falls down a very deep chasm. You eventually make your way into an underground city populated entirely by androids who, for some reason, lead very human lives. After befriending a drone called B-12, the two of you resolve to get back to the surface.

If you were hoping the story will be exclusively about the cat, you might be a bit disappointed. Once you get paired up with B-12, the focus of the story shifts to that of the inhabitants of the city. It’s still an interesting story, and one that’s worth your time. But the fact you’re a cat is more of a novelty, and the disconnect might rub some people the wrong way.

We’ll stop here with this section. If the revelation that the cat aspect gets pushed to the side discouraged you from checking the game, we still think the experience is worth it. A quick tip: don’t be afraid to explore when the world opens up. It’ll help greatly once you decide to follow the story missions, and is how you’ll find aspects of world-building.


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Press O to Meow…

Gameplay-wise, Stray is a mix of a few genres. In terms of how you control your kitty, it moves normally with the analogue stick and can run while holding R2. You can also meow at any time with the circle. The triangle is your interaction button, and the square is used to talk with various robots with B-12 acting as a translator.

Your cat can jump to various platforms with X, but it only works to get you on and off platforms, you can’t freely jump. You see a prompt by default, but you can turn that off to improve immersion and the game is fully playable like that. There’s some platforming in the game, but the challenge will mostly come from figuring out where a certain path is, and not in traversing it.

While the story doesn’t really benefit from you being a cat, the gameplay absolutely does. You can go into small holes and run at high speeds simply because you’re a cat. There’s plenty of places where you can scratch surfaces to sharpen your claws, which is used in a few places for puzzles.

The Dualsense controller does a great job at immersing you with its haptic feedback. The triggers emulate your catness really well, like the aforementioned scratching, or the purring of your kitten when you rest on various spots across the map.

… L1 to Use the Ultraviolet Lamp…

The game world can be split into two types of levels, called chapters. Each level has a few secrets, and it’s recommended to try and find them all, as you can’t return to a previous level outside of a chapter select.

The first type are more linear, where you must go from point A to point B. These also come in a few variants. Before meeting B-12, you’ll use your cat abilities to traverse the environment. You’ll do some puzzle-platforming, but for the most part it’s about figuring out how to get where you want to.

After meeting B-12, the game changes drastically. You now have the ability to talk with the inhabitants of the world, and have an inventory system that’s used for the levels discussed in the next section. From here, those linear levels can be split into two variations, depending on how far you are in the game.

In the first half of the game, you face waves of small enemies called Zurks that can attach to you and kill you. You either run away from them, or use an ultraviolet lamp to fight them. Near the end of the game, there are some stealth sections where you try to avoid drones.

… and X to Knock Off Books

The other type of level is open areas where you can explore freely and solve puzzles using items in your inventory. The main gameplay loop is actually very reminiscent of point-and-click adventure game, in the sense that you have an inventory with a number of items and need to figure out what to do with them. The only other non-point-and-click game I can think of that does this is the original Psychonauts.

The puzzles are quite straight-forward, but you’ll need to know where to look. Here’s an example of a puzzle:

  • You have to fix a transmitter, but the robot who does this is too cold to work, so you need to find a poncho.
  • There’s an old granny robot that can help with that, but she needs electrical wire.
  • The wire is at a merchant, but he wants a bottle of detergent in exchange.
  • The detergent is in a laundromat, but they won’t open up.
  • There’s a couple of robots throwing paint buckets between them right above the laundromat.
  • Meow to distract the paint throwers -> Laundromat opens door to clean up -> Get detergent bottle -> Get wires -> Get poncho -> Get tracker fixed.

Pretty easy, right? Thing is, the game never tells you where any of these people are, so you’ll have to explore the world around you, talking with them to see how they fit into the puzzle. This is where the game shines, in exploring the world and interacting with its inhabitants.


Confused Kitty Conundrum

As you can see, the game has a bit of an identity crisis. It constantly swaps between playstyles, not being entirely sure what it wants to do. This is also felt in the tone of the game, switching from outdoors exploration, to cyburpunk dystopia, to H. P. Lovecraft survival horror, to a prison escape.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean the game is bad, by any means. It’s just some jarring tone shifts that you wouldn’t really expect, and which might make or break your enjoyment of the game if you’re not aware of them.


Technical Purrformance

The game is available on PC, PS4 and PS5, with the latter being the best option for playing the game. The PS4 version is also playable, but it’s locked at 30 FPS and 1080p. The PC version seems to have some performance issues when it comes to shaders. This video from Digital Foundry should give you a better look at each platform.

There’s also a few bugs. Some players had their cats clip through assets and fall through the world. We’ve also encountered a bug where , when trying to get off a pipe to the floor, the cat would teleport back on the pipe. That said, these seem to be a very rare occurrences, the game running smoothly otherwise. Something that happens far more often is the physics engine throwing objects around when you interact with them, but it’s nothing game-breaking.


Shut Up and Take My Meowney

Something we haven’t really mentioned is how the game looks. Visually, the game is gorgeous, with a lot of amazing shots. This makes the exclusion of a photo mode quite baffling. Same goes for some sort of catracter creator, letting you make your own kitty to play as (most players would love to have their own cat in the game). Hopefully these get added either in future updates, or in a potential sequel.

Before we talk value, let’s talk length. Stray is a short game, with most players clocking it at about 5 hours, while we finished it in 5 hours and 40 minutes. If you’re going for 100% completion on your first run, it’ll take you about 8 hours to complete.

The game is available on PS Plus with the Extra tier. Otherwise, you can get the game for 30 USD or your regional equivalent. That’s a little steep for such a short runtime, but, if the premise sounds interesting to you, it’s totally worth it in terms of quality.


Feline Verdict

Good news: This is the last cat pun in the article!

Stray is a bit of a confused game. The story flips between multiple genres and playstyles, few of which actually have anything to do with you being a kitty. If you’re here for a cat simulator, you might be a little disappointed.

All that said, we recommend the game. It’s a unique experience, and the inventory puzzles are something we wish to see more outside of point-and-click games.


Did you give Stray a shot? Would you like to see more games in this style? Let us know in the comments below!

Neon White Review – Platforming (in) Heaven

Every year, a group of sinners are brought up from Hell to fight for the chance to live permanently in Heaven. The competition? To see who can defeat the most demons as fast as possible all whilst platforming through Heaven. Without further ado, let us jump into our review for Neon White!


The main goal of Neon White is to traverse a level, eliminate all demons, and reach the finish. Each level is usually around 20 to 50 seconds and has 5 different medals to reward the player. Every level has what what are essentially two different objectives: Finish as fast as possible and find a hidden gift. These two objectives compliment each other very well as both require you to learn the ins and outs of each level. A fast finish requires the use of shortcuts while still eliminating all enemies, while finding the gift often requires stockpiling guns from different parts of the level. Speaking of which…


Gunplay and Platforming

Neon White’s bread and butter is the mix of its combat and platforming. At the start of a level the player only has a katana, which is about as strong as a butter knife. As such, finding a weapon to properly dispatch enemies is often one of the first things done in a mission. The weapons have two main purposes, the first being to shoot enemies, with each weapon having a different type of projectile, and the second and more interesting function is discarding them. Discarding a weapon grants you a movement ability, at the cost of losing the gun. The abilities range from a jump, a sticky bomb that can launch you into the air or a grappling hook.

As a result, choosing when to hold onto a gun for clearing enemies or move throughout the level is vital. The interesting part is that certain enemies drop guns and that you may only carry two guns at the same time. This results in the ability to chain together picking up weapons, defeating another demon, then immediately using their weapon to jump/dash/grapple your way to the next part of the level.

Chaining together using weapons for movement and defeating enemies is the core of the game.

Something else that is important to note, your character is very floaty. While incredibly jarring at first, levels are designed around taking advantage of the floatiness. The floatiness also adds another component to focus on when aiming to get good times on certain levels.


Speeding Things Up

One major feature that Neon White lacks but is present in most other speedrun platformers is tech. For those unaware, tech is stuff like animation canceling actions into each other or using a weapon for unintended purposes. As a result Neon White is significantly more accessible for newer players to the genre. Having a good leaderboard time is more of a focus on game sense and understanding the level instead mechanical skill.

This lack of tech also results in several weapons being easier to use, but also in a less fun way. Something like the sticky bomb can only launch you upwards. This prevents the player from using it to gain large amounts of horizontal speed, lowering a possible skill ceiling. Overall though, the lack of tech makes failed runs happen from miscalculations in planning instead of mechanical skill.

Using two sticky bombs for a higher jump is about as far as tech goes in this game.

Interesting Dialogue…

Despite the great gameplay loop, Neon White also has some… interesting dialogue to say the least. The game will often bounce between being a gritty story of an undead assassin trying to remember his past life to what I am going to call “haha so quirky” humor. The underlying story of the entire game is fine, but is difficult to take seriously when in between every major scene there is some cringe dialogue. I love games with that type of goofiness, but as the story progresses, the comments become more annoying than funny.

I am a sucker for wacky dialogue, but that does not stop these moments from distracting from an otherwise serious story.

A similar thing occurs in the main hub, where your character will learn about his previous relationship with one of the characters, then go on to not acknowledge it whatsoever the rest of the game. The characters for the most part are clichés, but that did not stop me from enjoying the side dialogue between them and the main character. All of the side dialogue is cheesy and dumb, but it does help flesh the characters out into a generally likable crew.


Final Touches

As for some last finishing touches, the game’s music is done by Machine Girl and is great. Despite spending upwards of 20 minutes mapping out some specific levels to get good times, the soundtrack never felt stale. The UI can be clunky at times, like when delivering gifts to people, which feels like it takes too long. Fortunately, this clunkiness is not present in levels, where you will be spending most of your time playing.

While there is some post-story content, it is mainly just reprising pre-existing levels in the game and turning them into gauntlets, with the only new bit of content being a gauntlet of all the story levels with a twist. The game also has quite a few achievements on Steam, some providing a decent challenge, but never feeling unfair. However most of the replayability comes from beating other players’ times on the leaderboard.


Despite its shortcomings with storyline and post-story content, Neon White’s core gameplay is enough to keep you coming back to keep improving your time. I would recommend checking the game out if you enjoy rock-solid platforming and competing with your own personal bests.


Have you tried out Neon White? If so, what is your take on it? Was the allure of the crisp platforming enough to power you through the more questionable parts of the dialogue? Let us know in the comments below!