Stray Cat Crossing is a retro, narrative-driven adventure in the same vein as To The Moon. With almost no fail states, this short story lays out its whole eerie tale of amnesia, loss, and family, in around two hours. Providing, you can work out its various puzzles.
And, while I may have to put my discovery of Stray Cat Crossing down to a PewDiePie video, I can’t deny the fun I had with it.
Cats crossing paths
The story of Stray Cat Crossing has you play a young woman who meets a girl named Cat. She's lost and cold, so you wrap her in your scarf and walk her home. Arriving at her house, Cat heads inside before you notice she still has your scarf – the winter-ware means a lot to you, so you head inside to reclaim your clothing.
So begins your strange tale of trying to get your scarf back, while learning more about the young Cat, the house, and yourself.
Every time you enter a room of the house the door locks behind you, leaving the cast of bizarrely eerie inhabitants set you puzzles to solve in order to escape. From the odd head-switching father and son to the ram faced Sphinx, each feels uniquely unnerving, as do your conversations with them.
The puzzles are all reasonably taxing, and don’t hold your hand as you struggle to work them out. Unfortunately, four-way controls, a slow pace of movement, and frequent back tracking can make them drag on long after you have figured out the solution.
That must be an amazing scarf...
On the few occasions that Stray Cat Crossing demands faster and more accurate movement, the fiddly controls become even more of a bind. This is particularly problematic as movement is bound to the arrow keys, with no option to rebind to wasd.
As the plot unfurls, it becomes clear that your attachment to the house – and the scarf - began long before the game. The result is that every time you find yourself outside you plunge, counter-intuitively, back in. A frustrating but narratively necessary mechanic.
The beautiful pixel art and evocative soundtrack work perfectly with the story. It is reminiscent of titles like Square’s classic Secret of Mana, only set on the far smaller scale of a single house. This is mirrored in the tiny windowed resolution of the game which, even at full resolution, sits lonelily at the center of the screen.
Alongside this pixel art, on occasion you are treated to jarringly disjointed cut-scenes, these effectively establish the tone and gently help nudge you towards the truth.
Scary, short, and sweet
Stray Cat Crossing is an engaging two hour short story, with a clunky but visually effective game hung around it. With a demo to get you hooked, and a budget price, this is certainly worth giving a go – if only for its fantastic design.