In its initial Steam Greenlight Trailer, Stray Cat Crossing melds top-down pixel art gameplay, anime inspired cutscenes, and melancholy J-rock straight out of Kingdom Hearts. As far as an artistic vision goes, the trailer nails a cohesion of mediums. I was sold from the get go. At least as sold as any trailer can make me.

The final product, in most ways, captures everything presented in the trailer. Stray Cat Crossing is a great bit of visual / tonal horror and has plenty of undertones of a more personal story, providing meaningful depth.

As an unnamed girl, off on a nightly wander, you stumble upon Cat. Cat is a little girl, who’d like to make it home but is too scared to walk alone. You offer to help, lending your scarf to keep her warm. Upon safely escorting her home though, she forgets to return your beloved scarf. Once you entered Cat’s home however, nothing is as it seems.

Mystery is very much at the forefront. Why is Cat’s house so surreal with Alice in Wonderland like characters aplenty? The otherworldly theme plays out in several different portions of the house. Even in the design, there’s something not quite right about the layout of the architecture. You enter what seems to be a small room, only for it to turn into a sprawling, creepy basement. In this basement, or whatever locale you happen upon, are a number of intrinsically designed characters. From a rhyming duo fond of riddles, to a giant hanging caterpillar filled with motherly grief, every bit is unique. Even though it may only take two to three hours to complete, the pacing makes playing in one go the ideal approach.

The Garden

In particular, I found the garden portion quite unsettling. It’s here you can find the aforementioned grief of a mother, which is something that I’ve dealt with firsthand. Though this specific character’s appearance may be brief, she provide a glimpse into what is frankly the most unpleasant sight I’ve ever seen.

As well handled much of the core themes are, the finale lacks the punch to drive it all to heart. There are several characters with appreciable arcs but the protagonist is too passive in her personality. She’s physically interacting with the world which resides in Cat’s house, but the emotional interaction comes late, thus feeling a little out of left field.

Horror is one of my favorite genres. The fight or flight nature it brings out in its character breaks them down to our purest form. Stray Cat Crossing’s message of not blaming yourself for happenings out of your control, especially the lose of loved ones, is an appreciable one. One that we all unfortunately have to come to terms with at some point in our lives. As someone who has had to accept the death of two close friends at a young age, there’s catharsis to be had here. Maybe not a tidal wave, but a small hint of knowing no one is alone in this experience.

The twins

Despite the heavy narrative, Stray Cat Crossing does posses a fair amount of gameplay in the traditional sense. Typically this comes by way of puzzle solving by means of finding the missing object and using it on the correct locale. There are some standouts though, most notably the final act where you put on a play. By picking the correct lines and actions you’ll progress the story. If not, then a Groundhog Day like reliving of the play will take place. This easily could be a frustrating endeavor, but there’s enough clues as to how to progress, so I never feel lost.

Where the failures do hit, they are brief. In one section you must outrun a giant baby while avoiding obstacles. Given the control scheme, WASD and Space, split second reactions aren’t so simple. It’s a small complaint but one which makes me question why the chase is included at all as it doesn’t fall in line with the rest of the game.

For the mere price of $2.99 it’s tough to argue against picking up Stray Cat Crossing. It doesn’t always keep in step with what it sets out to do, but the vast majority of the experience is an enticing bit of horror. Anytime a game manages to make me regret my actions for the similarities the results share to reallife, that’s an impressive feat. Even if only for the character designs and OST, Stray Cat Crossing is more than worth the investment.

About The Author

Jamison is the type of prideful weirdo who claims he enjoys all types of games. Not so secretly though, he literally only plays Hatoful Boyfriend several hours a day while hugging a Ryouta body pillow.

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