Video game "Stray": Finally be a cat
Blue Twelve Studio
The little red cat jumps elegantly from the roof to the ledge, balances on narrow ledges and slips through a window grille.
Inside, towers of books are stacked up, potted plants are thriving and a television is flickering on.
Outside is a narrow labyrinth of streets lit only by neon light, which not coincidentally reminds one of the exotic lanes of Hong Kong's long-torn mega-slum block of the Kowloon Walled City.
But something is missing.
What's missing in Stray, a recent cat-hero action-adventure, are people.
They've been extinct for decades.
What is left are their robots, which in a mixture of perplexity and nostalgia have taken on the roles of their vanished creators.
Now they inhabit the underground cyberpunk slum like a museum, or rather like a prison.
This world is a huge bunker, our task is to escape from it.
»Stray« is the surprise hit game of the summer.
Released in July, the debut of a southern French indie studio has catapulted itself to the top of the sales charts on the PC gaming platform Steam.
On the day of its release, more than 63,000 people played it simultaneously there alone.
»Stray« was also tried out frequently on the Playstation, and it is available to some Playstation Plus subscribers at no extra cost.
The Post Apocalypse Cat
The most important reason for the success of the indie game is obvious: It's fun to explore a fascinating, beautifully designed world as an acrobatic furball.
Especially because there are no annoying skill tests here: the cat can neither fall nor jump, the gentle challenge lies in finding the right path.
In addition, there is the solving of mostly simple puzzles and the completion of individual escape passages.
A good mix that leaves room for the story that gradually reveals the tragic fate of humanity.
Impending apocalypses are increasingly a topic in current video games.
So far, however, hardly anyone has dealt with the complete disappearance of the species Homo sapiens sapiens.
The fact that »Stray« isn't depressing is thanks to its cute main character.
And, with all the joy in the game, also a certain superficiality: The cyberpunk setting ultimately remains just a backdrop, because the neon aesthetics of this robot fairy tale is more of a decorative end in itself, including techno-orientalism.
Nevertheless, the four or five hours that you spend here with the cat fly by and in the end – one can hope – a cat's life again in a natural setting free of people.
You can't really imagine much more contrast to another current game with an animal protagonist.
A fox family's struggle for survival
"Extinction is Forever" is the dramatic subtitle of this other game.
»Endling« is a survival adventure in which you control a vixen who is running for her life right from the start.
A devastating forest fire similar to the ones that are currently devastating the homeland of the Spanish developers of this game in reality forces them to flee.
In her new shelter, which she has finally reached, the fox gives birth to four puppies;
you have to take care of their well-being in the following four hours of play.
»Endling« comes across beautifully in its hand-drawn cartoon style, but unlike the cat adventure, the mood here is dark.
On nocturnal excursions into a world that is increasingly being destroyed by people and machines, the goal is to find food for the young and traces of a fox baby that was kidnapped at the beginning.
In addition, the remaining little ones have to be taught something;
how to climb or jump for example.
If one of the boys starves to death because the player doesn't bring enough mice, fish or other food home, or falls prey to larger predators, it's heartbreaking.
The world of "Endling" may seem more apocalyptic than reality, but the destroyed nature and the burning forests are close to reality.
By the end of this century, scientists warn, humans could have wiped out up to half of all the animals on the planet by destroying natural habitats.
The people you meet again and again in »Endling« are not just faceless villains in the game.
The hunter who kidnapped the fox baby just wants to feed his family.
If there is a fundamental evil, as »Endling« suggests without words, then it is the system of corporations and all-consuming capitalism that drives people and animals into the abyss.
Ironically, the survival game with the vixen, which arrives without any neon nostalgia, is closer to the warnings of the highly political science fiction niche of cyberpunk 40 years ago than »Stray«, which borrowed its aesthetic.
As different as the two games are, they complement each other well and serve as a reminder that at the end of the path our civilization has taken, there is probably extinction.
Not bad proof of the potential of the medium of video games to serve as a seismograph of the present.