Stray won’t show you the cat’s asshole (probably)
If there is a cat in your house, how does it usually roam? With its tail pointing up, probably – you know, like any normal cat. But the feline protagonist of Wander is a bit more modest: it mostly keeps its tail down, at least based on gameplay footage seen during a streaming preview event with no intervention in the presence of Kotaku.
In other words, no, you probably won’t see much of the cat’s asshole in Wander.
Wander, an adventure game to be published by Annapurna Interactive for PlayStation and PC in July, is the debut of French developer Blue Twelve Studio. It is largely set in a futuristic city devoid of humans, mysteriously occupied instead by iPod-like robots. While most games with such a setting would put you in the sturdy boots of a soldier in combat armor, Wander puts you in the softer, infinitely cuter, arguably deadlier (hey if you know, you know) boots of an orange tabby cat. The game drew a ton of buzz when it was revealed in a 2020 Sony showcase, and was originally slated for release in 2021 before being delayed to this year.
Throughout the preview session, I couldn’t get rid of a feeling: Wander is not an adventure game in which you play as a cat. Wander is an adventure game in which you are a chat, down to the things you do in the game.
Swann Matin-Raget, producer at Blue Twelve, played about 20 minutes of Wandernarrating several segments of a selection of levels throughout the game. (Yet Wander is partially open-world, it will also feature more traditional, seemingly linear stages.) Much of the quotes gameplay revolves around an extremely typical feline behavior. You can push bottles and jars off counters. You can disrupt a board game played by two robots, sending pieces of wood scattering in a flurry.
There’s also a legit mechanism where you scratch anything that cats like to scratch: the carpet, the couch, anything that frays easily and is close to your heart. By alternating the right and left triggers on your controller, you can sharpen your claws on a litany of in-game objects. (On the PlayStation 5 DualSense controller, you’ll feel Return-force feedback style.) It’s not just cosmetic either. At one point, Matin-Raget clung to a nondescript door in a neon-lit alley. A few seconds passed. A robot opened the door. This is how you progress in certain inaccessible areas.
“I’m doing something very unrealistic here [in] that I enter immediately,” said Matin-Raget. “You know, any cat would probably wait 10-20 minutes before doing that.”
It makes sense that the folks at Blue Twelve are so well-positioned to ably capture what it’s like to be a cat, considering many of the studio members have their own cats. For purely crowd-pleasing purposes, here are a few:
In fact, even the cat you play with is partly based on one of those cats: the orange tabby (pictured) is named Murtaugh and lives with the studio co-owners. Matin-Raget noted, however, that Stray’s the player character has no name.
Before you ask, Murtaugh didn’t serve as a motion capture actor for Wanderthe lost protagonist. No cat did. It’s going to be hard to believe, I know, but apparently it’s not that easy to get a cat to wear a motion capture suit and follow the instructions in the scene. In place, WanderThe protagonist of was entirely hand-animated, which presented its own set of challenges.
“It is more difficult to animate a quadruped in general than a biped. The center of gravity is really different and the fluidity of the overall animations has to be very high to be convincing,” said Matin-Raget. “Also, when you’re trying to animate a human, you can easily film yourself doing anything to use as a reference. But when you want to have something very specific with a cat, you have to extrapolate material you may be able to find or create.
More than “cat stuff”, the core gameplay of Wander focuses on platforming with light puzzle elements. You’ll automatically complete every jump in the game, always landing on your feet, and take no damage while exploring and moving. Progress seems mostly blocked by environmental puzzles. At some point during the preview, Matin-Raget came across a spinning industrial fan. To stop it, he ordered the cat to take a nearby bucket into its mouth, then roll it toward the fan. He wedged himself between the fan and his vestibule, stopping the blades to open a path to the next room.
Like most third-person adventure games, you see your character from behind. Obviously, this, uh, poses a potential problem. (Since Wander does not support character customization, you cannot, for example, equip a Twinkle Tush.)
“We didn’t take any specific measures to prevent the players from having to see the buttocks for the whole match,” Matin-Raget said. Kotaku in a follow-up email. “But we did a lot of work on the tail animations in several different situations, and that helps a lot.”
One thing struck me here: throughout the preview, Stray’s the protagonist kept the tail down. I have two cats. Many of my friends also have cats. (Welcome to journalism!) Most of these cats walk with their tails in the “flagpole” or upright position. According to Matthew McCarthy, DVM, the founder of Juniper Valley Animal Hospital in Middle Village, NY, it’s an invitation to social interaction. It’s an indicator of a cat’s “desire to make a connection,” McCarthy said. Kotaku.
“Fearful cats will create a smaller figure,” McCarthy said. This can mean squatting, pinning its ears, or yes, lowering its tail. “Out of sight, out of mind. Hopefully.”
It’s sad, but WanderThe protagonist of has a lot to fear. When Blue Twelve first revealed the game, its rich, atmospheric setting – and, you know, the whole cat-like game – helped capture a lot of people’s attention. But there wasn’t much information about what you really are do. The general consensus at the time could have been summed up as follows: “I am a cat? Am I walking through a city? Am I sitting at the bar? Great! Sold. Give me.
But a trailer released last summer showed an entirely different side to Wander. One scene showed the cat sprinting away from a horde of antagonistic creatures, doing its best to escape. It is accompanied by a floating robot drone. He jumps on a cart at high speed, dodges enemies and rushes into a chasm as if playing in Uncharted: Cat’s Fortune. It wasn’t the placid exploration game introduced the previous year.
The preview clarified a bit more what was going on there. According to Matin-Raget, the creative decision to feature intense segments was a pacing choice made near the inception of the game, which has been in development to some degree since 2016. The robot’s name is B12 (an obvious nod to the studio’s namesake). It serves as both a protector and a translator, because it is capable of language and you, a cat, are not. When asked whether or not you’re limited to nine lives, Matin-Raget hesitated and didn’t elaborate on exactly how health, damage, respawns, and more work.
Hands-on previews rarely offer insight into how good a game is. More often than not, they’re marketing charades – and even more PR-organized than hands-on previews, because you can’t even get a sense of what to expect. what the game is like. That’s why we usually stray from it to Kotaku.
That said, I came out of Wander buzzing with excitement to a degree I’m not used to. And that’s coming from someone who’s usually at level 1000 for game announcements, someone who’s (somehow) not yet spoiled by the cynicism that infects so many people who turn a hobby into a work ! Maybe it’s just the adjacent feline instinct, but I have a good feeling about this one. It will, if nothing else, be a welcome departure from the typical sneaky action fare that tends to clutter the summer release schedule.
Don’t expect butts.