From the dog of Dog’s Life at Okami’s wild wolf passing by the goat Goat Simulator, the games proposing to direct an animal are legion. But, until strayfeline references were rare. In this video game, a quadruped roams an underground city populated by humanoids and strange creatures. Using a drone, the tomcat must solve a series of puzzles to get back to the surface.
Leading the best releases of the year, according to a ranking of the Steam platform, and rewarded with an average of 83/100 on Metacritic, stray is available on Playstation and PC. “We made this game with a real passion for our companions”, explains to AFP Swann Martin-Raget, producer at BlueTwelve, the French studio behind this production. A large part of the team owns a cat and he himself shares his home with two furry housemates, Tao and Litchi.
If some critics regret a simplistic adventure, most praise its graphic qualities, its dreamlike atmosphere and above all the satisfaction and the feeling of freedom that it gives to embody a cat. One of the major challenges of development, says Swann Martin-Raget, consisted in creating a realistic animal. For the visual aspect, BlueTwelve was inspired by Murtaugh, a stray cat adopted by the studio’s co-founders. And Oscar, the sphynx of one of the team members, served as a model for the animations.
The felid of stray purrs, curls up for a nap and takes malicious pleasure in damaging the furniture. A button even makes it meow. “You couldn’t play a game with a cat without a couch to scratch on,” having fun Swann Martin-Raget.
On social networks, photos and videos of cats intrigued or hypnotized by the mustachioed hero in the television are numerous. On Twitter, the account “Cats Watching Stray” (“Cats Watching Stray”), which lists the most zany reactions from cats observing the adventures of the mustachioed hero, already has more than 37,000 subscribers.
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“Every time I play, the silhouette of his two ears blocks the bottom of the screen”, tells Curtis Amrein about Bebe, his short-haired companion. Hobbes, 8 years old, him, “gets particularly curious when the cat in ‘Stray’ meows and I change the camera angle to zoom in on her face,” describes its owner, Enzo Yaksic.
Reactions that can be explained by the realism of the hero, said animal behaviorist Joanna Puzzo, from the British shelter Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, in an interview for the specialized American site Gamespot. The creators of the game “captured many of the cat’s natural social behaviors, such as grooming or group rubbing”, observes the expert. “They also added subtle details like his pupils that dilate when he’s alert, his ears that fold back and his defensive posture.”
The phenomenon delights the developers who claim not to have anticipated such a craze. “When the studio cats started reacting to what was happening on our screens, we thought we were headed in the right direction.” remembers Swann Martin-Raget. “But you never imagined that so many cats would try to jump into the TV.”
Another sign of enthusiasm for stray : fans of the game have created mods, these computer modules that allow you to change the appearance of the main character. Garfield or Marie (the Artistochats’ kitten) are among the options. To satisfy the greatest number, it is also possible to transform the hero into an adorable puppy.