What happened to B12 and the cat?

A cat prepares to jump between two tubes in Stray.

Screenshot: Annapurna / Kotaku

Stray, a post-apocalyptic adventure game about a cat, is mostly excellent. Two of us a Kotaku recently fed through his puzzlesdevouring his dense and mysteriously post-apocalyptic environments and generally enjoys living away from home the power fantasy of playing a cat. Then we hit the credits. Of course we had to talk.


Ari Notis: John, we’re both done Stray. Tell me: has the ending arrived for you? Or did he drift away from what made the rest of the game so great?

John Walker: I knew we were just a stone’s throw away from a pun. No, I would say my experience Stray it was a straight diagonal line, starting at the top, then descending lower and lower to its absolutely terrible conclusion.

Ari: They are not quite the same, plus a really high plateau that fell precipitously off a cliff at the end, but I totally agree, that ending is terrible. I actually had to warn the IRL people: It’s so damn sad!

John: Still, I’ve had so many people to berate me so furiously suggesting that the ending completely forgets FOR ANY REASON TO PLAY. But I think a lot of this is a reluctance to admit that the cute cat sim had long since become yet another gray third person robot game, so the defenses against reality are already very high.

Spoilers for Stray.

A yellow banner prevents readers from accidentally seeing spoilers about Stray's ending.

Ari: Ah yeah, that blog rubbed some people’s fur backwards a bit, right? But yeah, the whole reason for playing Stray it’s pretty simple: you want to reunite the cat with his friends. And you go through all these adventures, including those robot shooter sections, that we disagree on the merits but in a way that I totally respect your opinion, only to have no idea that he will see his friends again. It’s a very strange ending to a game that is otherwise so worried about hope.

John: They aren’t even just friends, are they? They are brothers who love each other. They are an abandoned litter of kittens, survivors of an apocalypse, and then one of them falls. This creates a game that, of course, is uniquely focused on returning to your brothers and sisters. But it is as if they had completely forgotten. They have become entangled in some ignoble sacrifice that is completely meaningless.

B-12 talks as he walks over a computer to Stray.

Screenshot: Annapurna / Kotaku

Ari: Yup! To be a game about a cat, it got too involved in the drama around a human being. Do you believe that B-12 is really the last living human being? And most importantly, did you think he suddenly turned his tail (sorry, sorry, I can’t help it) and decided, within minutes, that any trace of humanity wasn’t worth continuing?

John: Well, it’s a human consciousness trapped in a machine. This is a small city district, so as far as we know there may be millions of humans living happily elsewhere in China, or Sweden, or Bangladesh or Australia. And none of this explains the logic behind his apparent “sacrifice”. Obviously he loads his consciousness on the computer, so there is no sacrifice anyway, but beyond that, what was his purpose? To free a cat, a creature that has no interest in anything other than itself, out again, for what? What is the goal? If it was the end of humanity, as the game wants to imply, did he do it in order to … get the cat out?

Ari: Aw, man, absolutely not, the cat has definitely evolved beyond pure self-interest! (My cats should take note.) In the prison scene, for example, he’s running away with Clementine, and then says “Meow, meow meow meow meow, meow,” which translates, I think, to “We can’t leave yet. stage a risky operation and rescue my friend B12, who is trapped in this cage guarded by lasers and laser robots. “

John: I was very confused the whole time if I had to accept the cat by understanding what B-12 was saying, or how with my cats, just staring at where the noise is coming from and then hoping there is food on the way. I played it as a game where a selfless cat keeps accidentally hitting the right switches or bumping into the right person.

But that aside, I would have forgiven any amount of terrible, indulgent nonsense of mock sacrifice if, in the end, my cat emerged into the bright sun to hear, just off the camera, a surprised “Mew ?!” That’s all. This is all I needed. I didn’t need to see a meeting, to see them fall on each other. I just needed to know it was going to happen.

Ari: Exactly! And I realized what they were looking for, leaving an open ending so it doesn’t tie the story well for the audience. But he just needed the smallest hint that a happy ending could happen, which is what a little “meow” off-screen would get.

John: What’s even stranger is that they made such a “Maybe!” end. Only it was the damned human! We turned on the computer light, which I can only assume suggested the B-12 was still alive.

Ari: So what does that mean for the sequel? All starts as a robot shooter, no cute cat stuff?

John: I obviously hope they don’t follow up. They are a talented group, but Stray they revealed that they had absolutely no idea what to do with the idea they had. Either I want to see their next new idea, or just focus on creating the cat simulation everyone really wanted in the first place. God, those microscopic observations that showed near the beginning. It is the joyful moment in which the cat gets on the ridiculous saddle for the first time. We had to put one of our kittens in a protective sock after she was spayed, and she did exactly the same, collapsing like a building on top of her. Seeing those details so accurately crafted was joyful. Which makes for an ending to a boring robo-type who perhaps didn’t kill himself for the dumbest reason, some kind of disappointment.

Ari: Poor kitty! Please tell me you have photos.

John:

A cat wearing a jacket rolls on a carpet.

Photo: Kotaku

Ari: Awww. But yes, Stray it absolutely nails the feeling of being a cat, up to waltzing on a keyboard and screwing people’s chess games and stuff like that. And I think it mostly carries that feeling to the end. (Shooting segments toowhich flashed through my mind: I actually found myself wanting an extra chapter or two.) But unlike a real cat, the game didn’t land on all four legs.

John: Before we wrap up, and you’re still a little wrong about the shoot, let me tell you how the finale went at our house: Toby, my 7-year-old boy, had friends, as I was finishing the game on the living room TV. Toby had completely lost interest in the game once he stopped being a cat, but he wanted to be there for the meeting. As it was clear that the game was going to let me out, I said, “Toby, what do you think is going to happen?” He sat up, “The kittens!” And so we all waited for the inevitable, glorious moment … And there was just nothing. And we looked shocked. It was so patently awful. And Toby continued to complain about this oversight for days after. And when a 7-year-old criticizes the structure of your story, you know something is wrong.

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