Stray

The Game

Stray developed by Annapurna Interactive is an adventure puzzle game that has been in the works for some time. Before you proceed, this review may contain some light spoilers – so if you want to fully fresh experience avoid the screenshots and maybe go play it first. Announced a couple years ago, the game really got cat lovers around the world hyped. The game lets you take control of an adorable kitty in a post apocalyptic world where humans no longer exist. After a misadventure with your fellow kittens you end up deep underground in a forgotten structure where you find some rather strange larvae (known as Zurks) and a hidden city of friendly robots. On your adventure you befriend a little drone, known to you as B12. The drone seems to remember a time when humans existed and the things they used to do. The robots in the city, known as Companions have adapted to the underground way of life, but some of them yearn to return to the Outside once more and to see the sky once again.

As you find out more about this world and the Companions you are tasked with collecting various items, exploring parts of the city and ultimately making your way to the outside. The core gameplay loop focuses on really satisfying puzzles that are delivered in a variety of ways: from jumping (parkour or is it catcour), to following cables, pulling levers, stealthily avoiding enemies or completing tasks for various Companions. The story takes you on a captivating adventure in a beautifully designed and crafted world with amazing attention to detail.

Worth it?

While it’s not the longest of games (first playthrough may take around 4-5 hours depending on how much you mess around and explore) the game certainly delivers in charm and story. The beautiful world, satisfying puzzles and amazing story will make you want to complete it while at the same time wishing it doesn’t end so you can explore and learn more. The game does also autosave quite frequently which allows for shorter play-sessions. The simple controls and short playtime also mean that you could hand it to a “non-gamer” and let them enjoy the experience (although they may need a hand with the Zurks). The game will currently set you back around £25, but I expect we will see it in some sales later this year, but even at this price it is worth getting. For PlayStation extra members it is included in the available games at no extra cost. There are currently some speculative rumours around an Xbox release, but it will be some time away with the earliest being October, some estimates even saying 2023.

Overall Stray is a beautiful game, with a captivating story and really satisfying gameplay. It goes above and beyond being simply a cat simulator (although it does that pretty well). It is a pretty unique game in terms of allowing players to see the world form the perspective of a cat which will make it a firm favourite amongst cat lovers (maybe also dog lovers alike). It is really hard to fault the game and it even has a bit of replay value in the music sheet or plant collection side quests and the memory collection element. The game also provides a solid base for the speed-running community and it will be interesting to watch some of those attempts as get better at it. I’d highly recommend checking this game out.

Tips

  • Follow red painted air conditioning units with orange streamers
  • Follow orange lights, cables, wires or arrows
  • You cannot go back for the music sheets after leaving the slums to go into the sewers
  • Hide in boxes to avoid sentinels, or in other areas where you break their line of sight
  • Scratch things when you can (pretty much anything that isn’t a carpet will lead to something)
  • The purple, yellow and red plants can all be found within Antvillage
  • Meow to distract/attract enemies
  • B12 can remind you of your current objective should you forget
  • Your backpack will light up if you can interact with nearby objects/NPCs
  • Interact with vending machines in order to be able to get all of the Barterman’s items
  • Talking to companions can give you hints or other objectives that will help you along the way

Useful Links

The Sea of Death

The Game

The Sea of Death is an adventure puzzle game developed by HoitStudio. The game has a nice pixel graphic aesthetic and features a large variety of puzzles as you embark on a rather mysterious journey in which you attempt to figure out what exactly is going on in this world. You start the game out on a ship during a storm, but after a rather mysterious turn of events you wake up in a strange and dark world and begin trying to piece things together and to find your way out of there. The slightly dystopian world seems to focus on doing various menial jobs and talking to some rather strange people.

The core gameplay loop gets you completing various tasks for people in order to progress “up” in this unfamiliar place. You take on various jobs which involve solving puzzles, collecting items and talking to strangers. The puzzles are all quite different and unique (the game has over 50 different ones) – some of them will really challenge you. As the story develops you begin to learn more about this world and how it works, its social class system and hierarchy.

Worth it?

Overall the aesthetics of the game are quite appealing and it does a very good job of creating a dark and sombre atmosphere. The puzzles the game offers are quite unique and there is a good variety of them to keep you busy for a while. The dialogue is ok, can be improved in certain areas grammatically, but the story does really make you wonder what is going on and figuring out how you ended up where you did.

The full game will set you back around £3.99, which isn’t too bad given that it will give you unlimited actions to continue your adventure. Prior to that the only way to get more than your initial 500 actions is by watching videos (each one gets you 100 actions). For those of you who enjoy a good puzzle mystery game then this one is worth checking out. The game works for both shorter stints where you just do an odd quest, but is much more suited to a mid to long term session as it allows you to engross yourself much more in the story.

Tips

  • Pay attention to what people say or their roles – these will give you hints when someone else mentions them
  • Use and pen and paper – as some of the tests get more complex or involve you keeping track of numbers or even doing some calculations
  • Tap on the text get the entire dialogue to print out
  • If you’re really stuck – hints do help

Useful Links

ISLANDERS

The Game

ISLANDERS by GrizzlyGames is a beautiful city builder for PC. It’s minimalist in its approach to the whole city building genre but the options and combinations will challenge you to think about layout and efficiency.

The game starts you off on an empty island and begins by giving you a choice of 2 building types. The one you choose will give you a collection of buildings, in the late game collections include some of your previous choices. You’re then tasked with laying those buildings out in a way to accumulate points based on their position in the world and their surroundings – some buildings boost each other while others can incur a penalty from being near others. Collect enough points and you level up and be given another choice if two building types. As you progress you’ll get new building types, eventually you’ll run our of space and you can pack it all up and move on to a new island to start all over.

The game is done in a beautiful low poly style and along with the chilled out music it’s a perfect relaxing experience. The game is easy to play and sucks you in as you keep plopping down buildings and before you know it you’ve spent a few hours creating the perfect island settlements and hopping from island to island.

Worth it?

The game is available on Steam for £4.79 and it’s even on sale occasionally. The game is worth it. While it’s not necessarily something you’ll be racking up hundreds of hours on it still offers and amazing escape for a few hours as you’re engulfed into creating the perfect island society. It would be amazing to see this game on mobile and with the fairly simple gameplay it feels like it would work amazingly (provided the game doesn’t get bogged down with gatchas, rather just a free and an add free paid version).

Overall it’s a very relaxing and aesthetically pleasing experience. Trying out different building options and combinations gives the game a decent amount of replay value especially as you get to the late game buildings – you keep wanting to have designed your island a bit better so you can now accommodate all these buildings – nothing to do but start over if that’s the case. It makes for great casual or even medium length play and is a must for any city builder fans.

Tips

  • You don’t need to use all your buildings before getting new ones and vice versa – you can use all your buildings before getting new ones
  • Some buildings benefit from houses, others from mansions, some from both – plan your city and neighbourhood layout accordingly.
  • Sometimes the order in which you place things will allow you to maximise points gained – for example if you place a lumberjack who gains from surrounding trees first, then build something that replaces the trees.

Useful Links

Really Bad Chess

The Game

Bored of the conventional chess format? Really Bad Chess is a game by Zach Gage that will make you rethink everything you know about this all time classic.

There’s not a lot to it, but essentially it’s chess with randomised figures – you can play a game where you have 3 queens or your pawns are on the back row, the possibilities are endless. The game features several game modes:

  • Daily Board
  • Weekly Challenge
  • Ranked Mode
  • Freeplay
  • 1v1

Most of those are pretty self explanatory. One of my personal favourites is 1v1 as it allows you to play with a friend in the same physical space – it will simply flip the board whenever it’s their turn. The game also has ‘undos’ which allow you to go back one turn – these can be useful in the ranked mode when you are close to beating an enemy, however often times you’ll find you need a lot more than one undo to get it right. The undos can be purchased or gained through watching videos.

Worth it?

A great time killer, especially when there’s 2 of you together. The game also allows you to customise and change the colour palette allowing for a more personalised experience. The undos aren’t really worth it, but can be a nice way to support the developer of the game.

Overall it’s a fun twist on an all time classic, very lightweight and a great time killer or way to have fun with a friend.

Tips

  • Think ahead
  • Know how to play chess

Useful Links