It Pays to Nap in Stray

Games Features Stray
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It Pays to Nap in <i>Stray</i>

Of all the cat-like behavior you can indulge in during BlueTwelve’s new game Stray, the sweetest is when your brave little kitty curls up and takes a nap. It is always adorable, and if it doesn’t make you audibly say “awww!” you might want to get your soul checked out. It’s more than just a cute moment or precious bit of levity, though: it’s the rare moment when a game lets you dictate the pace by choosing to relax for as long as you want.

You can’t sleep everywhere in Stray, but you can sleep almost anywhere it’s comfortable. If you pass a couch, a pillow, a wadded up blanket, or even a reclining robot, you can snuggle up and take a nap. If you’re napping near a robot, there’s a good chance their TV screen faces will change to a smile or even a big heart symbol as they just silently watch you sleep. The meow button even prompts a slightly different sound when you sleep, less a full throated meow and more the muffled, muted kind of meow you might hear from a cat as it’s dreaming.

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Like those robot companions, you can simply sit and watch with warmth as your cat naps for as long as you let it. The game never makes you get moving. No urgent catastrophe forces you to wake up and get to work. Dialogue and the chatter from robots might sometimes impress a sense of urgency upon you, but outside of a few action scenes where you have to outrace swarms of enemies, Stray itself never really pushes you forward with any strength. You can explore the robot settlements to your heart’s content before moving on—or you can find a nice, comfortable bookshelf to burrow into and sleep for hours.

Stray’s not the first videogame to let you just relax and hang out with no pressure, but it’s still rare enough to mention. The peacefulness of these cat naps recalls a celebrated scene from Starbreeze’s 2007 shooter The Darkness. Early in that game you can sit on a couch with your girlfriend, snuggling and quietly watching To Kill a Mockingbird. On certain platforms you can watch the entire movie in real time from that sofa and through your character’s TV set—two hours and nine minutes spent in game relaxing with the character whose upcoming death sets the revenge story into action. It’s memorable not just because of how unusual or immersive it was, but because of the emotional connection it helped you forge with a character who would’ve been barely developed and quickly dispatched of by most games of the era. By letting the player relax like a real person does, The Darkness added an unexpected amount of depth to a grisly shooter about a demon-possessed undead mob hitman. Even the slightest bit of realism can add a lot to a videogame.

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Despite being set in an ill-fated far flung future, Stray depicts its cat in a realistic fashion. That’s why the game has already fascinated not just critics and gamers but a wider audience (as I write this on its official release date, Stray has been the top or second-highest trending topic on Twitter for several hours—something that doesn’t happen with very many videogames). Those naps are just one of the ways in which it does that; as mentioned in our review, you can engage in a variety of true-to-life feline activities throughout Stray. As cute and fun as rubbing against legs or knocking over somebody’s board game can be, the naps show the extent of BlueTwelve’s commitment to feline verisimilitude, and their open-ended nature gives them an uncommon power. Watching this cat take a nap doesn’t just give you a moment to pause, relax, and think about your time in Stray and the world it’s created; it more fully grounds you in that world, and makes you care more about it and its robotic citizens, and also the brave little cat trying to help them all. By letting you control the flow of the game, these naps deepen its emotional flow, as well—and that’s crucial for a game whose hero has no name, no dialogue, and no overt thoughts or opinions.

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Senior editor Garrett Martin writes about videogames, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and anything else that gets in his way. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.