This week, two of the most exciting online communities - gamers and cat lovers - have fallen out over the release of a new video game in which you can play as the adorable orange tabby cat.
„miss', created by independent French games company BlueTwelve Studio and published by Annapurna Interactive, was released on Tuesday for PlayStation 4 and 5 and PC. It quickly became an online phenomenon,delightful peoplemimatching cats.
We had to know: was it really the cat's meowing? So we gave it a try ourselves and paid $30 to download it onto a PlayStation 5. It quickly became clear why "Stray" appeals to gamers (who like cats), people who like cats, and real cats. It has nice animations and offers a break from the usually noisy and action-packed video games. Playing with a cat is also unusual and fun. You can even call it meow.
While the game's dystopia, which mostly takes place in a city falling apart, can feel sad and lonely, the adventure (and choice of main character) served as a welcome distraction from some of the dystopian headlines we've witnessed in our world . himself: While we played, wildfires and heatwaves raged across continents, but for a while we were just an orange cat wandering through a strange town.
Yes, there is a "meow" button
The game begins in a beautiful, peaceful wooded area that looks like the remnants of urban infrastructure. You control the main character who is quickly separated from her cat family and falls far below in what appears to be a deserted town.
From there, "Stray" gets a bit confusing. It's clear that a major, disturbing event has taken place in this city, and the game focuses on solving the mystery of what happened and returning home. As you soon discover, the city isn't entirely deserted: there are no humans, but there is a little robot named B-12 that will help you read the signs and understand what's happening in your new environment. humanoid robots with heads shaped like old desktop computers; and tick-like creatures called "Zurks" who will occasionally attack and try to kill you.
While most of the game's time is spent wandering and exploring, you'll occasionally need to outrun "Zurks".
In addition to a regular rush of excitement, you spend most of your time exploring like a cat: figuring out what surfaces you can jump on, what objects you can pick up or drop, and what types of feline behaviors you can perform. There is, of course, a special "meow" button.
What struck us about the game is the balance between having specific quests or objectives and allowing users to explore freely. One of us doesn't play video games while the other is a bit more familiar, but Stray suited our interests and abilities. Overall, it was fun to figure out, although it took some time to perfect our gameplay.
"The intent was to have what was necessary, but to make sure that everything was there to make sure the game was still accessible," BlueTwelve producer Swann-Martin Raget said in an interview with CNN Business. "You get it naturally without thinking too much and without necessarily being part of a... quest or challenge list."
Laine Nooney, an assistant professor at New York University who studies media and video games, attributes Stray's sudden popularity to several qualities: It's a compelling story, it's well crafted, it's fun to play, and it... includes the "unofficial mascot". ".
"If we play like an animal, there's some way we can still our human brain," Nooney said. "As we attempt to navigate this cat through a terrifying world, the stakes are low and manageable, a welcome relief from an increasingly chaotic news cycle."
Fortunately, we actually feel a little more relaxed during the game. That's partly due to its pace, which is only as fast as a cat can weave through a desolate cityscape, stopping occasionally for a drink of water or a nap. It was also the result of small, careful details in the game: Just repeatedly pressing the "meow" button on the hand control, scratching a tree bark or petting other kittens was reassuring.
The real cat behind "Stray"
Why should the main protagonist of the game be a cat? According to Raget, the decision was motivated by several factors.
The first was the nature of the universe in which the game takes place. The dystopian city "Stray" is inspired by itWalled City of Kowloon, a settlement in Hong Kong that was considered the most densely populated place on earth before it was destroyed more than two decades ago.
But while Kowloon Walled City was inhabited by humans, the two co-founders of BlueTwelve, both artists, "began to realize that it really was the perfect playground for cats: the number of little corridors, the new vantage point the world offered, the they were building,” Raget said.
Perhaps most importantly, the BlueTwelve team is obsessed with cats. The studio's southern France office has two full-time in-house cat managers ("Sometimes they shut down our computers when we want to put our work away," Raget said), and most of the studio's staff own and love the cats. 🇧🇷
In fact, Stray's protagonist is largely based on Murtaugh, a stray cat that the BlueTwelve co-founders found and adopted a few years ago.
Murtaugh, the inspiration behind the protagonist of Stray, seen here (we think) giving orders to his humans.
Humans aren't the only fans.
Consumers share BlueTwelve's passion for cats, who have adopted Stray as their catnip. belongs to theThe most popular games on Steam, one of two platforms on which it is available: almost 50,000 people played it on Thursday, just two days after its launch, and more than 21,000 of those who bought the game on Steam abandoned it.extremely positive"Evaluations.
"If you want to be a cat, playing Stray is the next best thing," says one review.
Sony's PlayStation, the other platform where Stray is available (and where we bought and played it), didn't respond to a question about how many copies of the game had been sold to date, and BlueTwelve declined to share dates . Sales. . 🇧🇷 (When asked about sales through its platform, Steam told CNN Business to contact the game's publisher, Annapurna Interactive; Annapurna Interactive declined to comment.)
Even though the game has one mission, there's always time to stop and say hello to the robots.
BlueTwelve, which was founded just over five years ago with the express aim of making this game, has yet to think about what its next project might be.
Right now, Raget says, they're "blown away" by the reaction to "Stray."
Humans aren't the only fans of the game. Ever since Stray was released earlier this week, it has been social mediafull of domestic catsintrigued by its orange counterpart on screen. (It remains to be seen if any of them pressed the button on their paws.)
BlueTwelve realized early on that Stray could have that impact thanks to her inner cats, Miko and Jun.
"Once the cats in the office started responding to what was happening on our screens, we felt like we were moving in a good direction," Raget said.