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The real stars of Stray are the robots, not the cats

Stray might be a game about a cat, but really it tells far more interesting stories about its other characters, all of whom only have two legs

Stray robots stars: The Guard stands guard of a iron shutter as a cat looks on

Stray, with its purring protagonist playfully platforming, is clearly a game about cats, right? Wrong. Lurking beneath the game’s Cyberpunk-inspired surface is a collective of better characters with far more to say and only two legs.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the cat with its big kitten-like eyes and minute meows. But Stray (which is arguably one of the best PS5 games this year) really kicked into gear for me when I met the residents of the neon-lit, rubbish-strewn Dead City. This city is far from dead; it’s just devoid of breathers, being that all of its residents are very eccentric droids.

I was immediately struck by how funny these robots look. With clumsy monitors for heads and rusting pistons, they’re like skinny silver Stormtroopers from a rough edit of Star Wars. Funny, yes, but also strangely endearing. I took one look at the majestic Guard and was a goner. Wearing an Ajirogasa hat, his blood red robe billowing, the Guard looked so incredibly stylish as he practised tai chi. And despite the obvious differences between him and well, me – the cat, the Guard was nice to me, making me part of the gang. Soon, I was racing around Dead City desperate to find his friends.

It wasn’t hard, droids are everywhere in Stray and they each look and feel so different to one another, creating a canvas for the lost word of mankind and a innate desire for individuality. Razinput, for example, rocks a big old puffer jacket, Ozi opts for leather, and Malo has their beads. Although it seems like humanity has been lost in this underworld, it’s clear the world of fashion hasn’t been lost.

But these looks aren’t there to give the robots some character, they’re there to help the droids express their feelings. And boy, do they have a lot of feelings. Maybe it was the thousand years of soft-ones cosplay, but the droids were so human it hurt. I loved how they hung out in bars dispensing wisdom. And when I gave them a leg rub and they looked like they’d fallen in love, so did I.

Stray robots stars: A robot crouches down to say hello to a ginger cat

Although the droids were happy to stop and chat, my presence never distracted them from their purpose. Because these droids had goals. Some felt more meaningful than others, yes, but every goal mattered. From the street sweeper wearing a traffic cone searching for their friend, to Doc the mad scientist’s secret experiments or Malo’s love for pretty flowers.

Other droids reminded me that life is full of simple pleasures. I met old friends in the middle of their 50,000th game of Mah-jong, droids who joyously chucked paint cans to one another above the streets of the Dead City, and a daydreamer who loved to look up in wonder at the star-lit sky above. Chatting to every single one of these robots reminded me there’s more in life than the job at hand and that in itself was more satisfying than trying to line up the X button with the next platform.

Stray robots stars: A ginger cat walks into a room where a robot waters some plants

By the time I reached the droid hubs of Antvillage and Midtown I was ignoring the game’s objectives, desperate to satisfy my hunger of befriending these lovable robots. They all had a story to tell – and giving them time to tell those stories felt just as rewarding as getting our feline friend back to the world he had been so unfairly robbed of.

Stray is a story about a cat, sure, but that story would be nothing without the robots. So much so that I hope Blue Twelve’s next adventure puts their story centre stage, rather than anyone else’s.