Cat lovers in particular are thrilled by the subtle, programmed mannerisms that bring your playable cat character to life.

Developed by the French BlueTwelve Studio and published by Annapurna Interactive, the new video game Stray was released on July 19 in Japan for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation, and PC. Since then, it’s generated quite the buzz among Japanese gaming fans online, so we were curious to see what has everyone so excited. Its basic premise is that, as a cat, you must solve puzzles and interact with the environment to escape the abandoned walled city that you fell into, all while evading robots and other futuristic threats with your drone companion. That unique combination of elements certainly sounds intriguing and hard to fit into one boxunlike our favorite real-world cat companion with a penchant for squeezing himself into tiny spaces.

When you first start up the game, the scenery evokes a slightly mystical, otherworldly feeling. There appear to be some kind of ruins among the overgrown vegetation, and it’s all very fantastical and breathtakingly rendered.

▼ Welcome to this magical land of cats.

▼ You have become the tabby cat protagonist, viewed from a third-person perspective.

With just a slight touch of your controller, you can make your cat character act in incredibly catlike ways, including meowing and nuzzling up to other nonplayable characters. By meandering around the world, you can even butt into other cats’ business, drink water, or sharpen your claws. These little additions aren’t there to move the story along but for pure enjoyment. Who would ever want to leave this mystical cat paradise?

▼ The little water pawprints are an adorable touch.

It appears that we spoke too soon. Suddenly, you find yourself falling into some kind of dark, dank, and smelly human ruins all alone with an injured paw. You begin traversing narrow alleyways filled with dirty and crumbling buildings.

▼ These lit-up letters spelling out “HELP” don’t seem ominous or anything…

From this point on, you now have to search for clues and items that will allow you to eventually escape back to your mystical cat world, all while escaping from enemies that are out to get you. While it’s possible to black out, even relative gaming novices should be able to pick themselves up and figure out a way forward after just a couple of tries. We’ll leave the basic gist at that so as not to share any spoilers.

For the most part, you’ll be moving forward along a specified path, but make sure to take your time so that you can explore every nook and cranny to admire the gloomy and degenerate but somehow spellbinding visuals as well.

An interesting development fact is that the game’s aesthetics were directly inspired by the now-demolished Kowloon Walled City in British Hong Kong, which the creators viewed as a perfect environment for cats to utilize their agility and inquisitive nature while exploring.

▼ Ghostly buildings are no problem for felines.

More than anything, we think you’ll be delighted by the sudden movements of your cat character. You can jump back in fright, scratch doors you want to open, and even type a line of jumbled characters on a keyboard. If you don’t touch your controller for a while, your character will automatically make certain movements as well while waiting. In addition, there are bonus “achievements” with funny names that you can unlock if you complete certain requirements, such as one called “Even cats fall out of trees.”

▼ An instruction telling you to click the button if you want to meow

Stray has quickly earned an appreciative fanbase in the Japanese gaming scene since its release. Cat owners especially will spot all kinds of little mannerisms that you see your fur baby do in real life. Some net users have even said their pet cats have responded to sounds and movements on the screen while playing, with comments from satisfied gamers on Twitter including:

“Stray was even better than I’d expected. The world building is so good, with the cat, cyberpunk, and post-apocalypse elements all really well done.”
“I love the realism of how the cat will just suddenly decide to take a nap, or start scratching its claws on the walls or floor, even if it’s got nothing to do with the story.”
“The game has a relaxed pace, but the story is surprisingly deep. And the cat is cute.”
“Some people think this is a purely soothing game, but Make sure to read the product description. It clearly mentions that there are grotesque parts and violence too.”
“I don’t know if it’s a bug or not, but every time I play, my monitor desk gets taken over my actual pet cats.”

Perhaps more than anything, according to our Japanese-language correspondent Saya Togashi, who completed this test run, people love games that were crafted with love. It’s obvious from playing that the developers saw Stray as a true labor of love. The game is chock-full of loving details and they weren’t willing to make any compromises to achieve their vision of a game that they themselves would want to play. Supposedly they used their own cats as research models as well, dubbing themselves the “team with more cats than creators.”

Th full game is said to take about 6-7 hours, but searching for hidden items and making side trips will extend the playing time. Whether you’re looking forward to solving the puzzles or simply becoming a cat and all of that entails, Stray has a little bit of everything to please everyone. Who knows–if the game’s popularity continues, maybe someday we’ll even get a musical or or stage adaptation like the recently announced Final Fantasy X kabuki play.

Reference: PlayStation, Steam, Twitter
Photos © SoraNews24

Screenshots via Steam
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