“Stray lives up to its adorable cat-adventure premise, but its excellent atmosphere and strong sci-fi storytelling is what elevates it.”
Creative Cat Game
Complex level design
Powerful sci-fi story
A few ill-conceived ideas
I was lying on my couch playing Wander when my cat, Mirah, jumped up next to me. As I controlled the game’s digital orange cat, Mirah climbed onto my legs and lay down, her face pointed at the screen. I could feel a soft rumble as it purred, not unlike the vibrations my DualSense controller’s haptic feedback was giving off. It’s perhaps the only moment I’ve had while playing a game where the natural and the mechanical felt perfectly in sync.
Wander explores this very intersection with a sense of feline curiosity. Developed by BlueTwelve Studio, the adventure game imagines a not-too-incredible future where humans have destroyed each other, leaving invasive plants, animals, and sentient robots to take over Earth. There’s been a lot of talk about the game’s adorable feline leader since the game was first announced, but Wander isn’t just a cute gadget; it’s an avant-garde sci-fi game about our increasingly complicated relationship with technology.
Between its clever (albeit limited) gameplay ideas and weighty social commentary, Wander is a special experience that works best as a futuristic mood piece. And a very cute one too.
Press O to meow
Table of Contents
Wander has perhaps the simplest selling point in video game history: live out your ultimate fantasy by controlling a perfectly normal cat. The orange hero of the game is not an anthropomorphized tabby who walks and talks on two legs. It’s your everyday pet that naps and scratches the couches. This premise allows some creative game decisions that are always a delight to discover.
Separated from his family after falling into a fortified city full of sentient robots, the furry hero must use his unique skills to solve puzzles and escape the mysterious slums. BlueTwelve Studio is having fun understanding how standard cat behaviors can be transformed into navigation tools. For example, scratching a door can cause an annoyed robot to open it, allowing you to rush inside. A stealth section made me jump into boxes to hide from patrolling drones. Even totally optional interactions, like finding a good reading nook to take a nap, are happily clever.
There are limits to what Wanderis able to do with his feline setup. By the end of my journey, I felt like almost every non-platform puzzle was solved by scratching or knocking something over. Some of the charm is lost in these moments, as I’d almost forget I was in complete control of a cat once the adventure game’s autopilot kicked in. There are a small handful of traditional puzzles that require intellectual work, like using written clues to figure out safe combinations, but Wander doesn’t find quite as many ways to use the few skills players have as well as, say, Untitled Game of Goose.
It’s the authentic feline moments that make the game special…
To expand the list of actions players can take, Wander gives its cat hero a drone companion that handles the most basic adventure game tropes like trading items with NPCs. These ideas help bring some variety to the game, although they can sometimes feel a little obligatory. For example, a brief part of the game introduces a combat mechanic that disappears before it can really develop.
It’s the genuine feline moments that make the game special rather than its video games. For me, the most memorable scene wasn’t when I was running from a pack of parasitic enemies. That’s when I got my head stuck in a paper bag, reversing my controls until I managed to shake it off. These often comedic touches gave me a momentary glimpse into my cat’s confused little brain. No other game I’ve played with an animal leash has truly captured this feeling quite the same way, but now I wish more did.
The world is your litter
Cat-centric gameplay is just a small part of what makes Wander work. The real star of the show is its distinct atmosphere, which turns the game into a truly transporting experience. From the game’s stunning electronic soundtrack to its detailed cityscapes awash in decaying neon signs, it’s easy to darken the real world as you wander into the digital world (i.e., at unless your real cat gets hungry and starts screaming into your headphones).
Wander gets that a well-designed world doesn’t need to toss candy bars in front of players…
Wander feels like a direct descendant of Icon. There’s an underlying sense of tragedy present in the lone robot world, but the game doesn’t have a depressing tone. The feline perspective allows players to see a potentially dystopian space through genuinely curious eyes. Dilapidated apartment buildings become cat towers with lots of ledges to jump on and nooks to explore. There’s a sad story behind it all, but it’s a game about a creature that finds a way to survive and thrive in whatever environment it’s placed in.
The navigation system helps underline this idea. Rather than giving players a jump button and having them struggle with tricky platforming puzzles, Wander takes an Assassin’s Creed-like approach to movement – call it purrkour. Players move from surface to surface by pressing the X button when it appears on screen. This allows the cat to perform precise and agile movements while moving safely through the architecture. There is no threat of death due to an untimely jump while exploring; the game wants to satisfy your curiosity and encourage you to snoop bravely.
It helps that the locations, inspired by the real-world walled city of Kowloon, are designed so intricately with lots of nooks and vertical spaces to play with. The first large area you will come across is a compact but open city that can be freely explored. First, I jumped as high as I could, slipping through the barely open windows of the apartment. Later, I jumped to the ground and wandered through narrow alleyways while chatting with the local robots that lined the streets. Even when there’s nothing to find in a hidden corner, I was content to stick my head where it didn’t belong (the more I write this, the more I begin to understand why my cat is so eager to stick it head in the refrigerator as soon as it is opened).
Where other games turn exploration into a chore with endless tasks to pursue, Wander gets that a well-designed world doesn’t need to toss candy bars in front of players to get them moving.
If you’re the type of person who sees Wander as a “meme game”, you might be surprised by the weight of its history. It delivers a socially conscious science fiction narrative that weaves a variety of modern threads. There is a clear environmentalist tendency, for example, to dig into how humanity is poisoning itself. This clashes with thinking about class inequality, as the robot city is essentially a slum that humans used to use as a giant dumpster.
Wander understands that technology is often used as a scapegoat to excuse people who misuse it.
The hero cat might be the character that gets the most attention, but the androids that populate the world give the story its heart. Using my drone buddy as a translator, I quickly immersed myself in the robot’s mysterious story told through collectible memorabilia. It’s a bittersweet story about heartfelt machines that wanted to engage with their creators and the uncaring humans who abandoned them.
It would be easy for a story like this to be cynical about technology, placing all the problems in the world on all those screens we watch. But Wander understands that technology is often used as a scapegoat to excuse people who misuse it. It’s telling that the closest the game has to the antagonists are the androids who recreated the idea of a police state by impersonating the wrong people.
It’s easy to see Wander‘s cities decaying like a dark dystopia, but I left feeling the opposite. He imagines a world where nature and technology have found a natural balance, undisturbed by the selfish chaos that humanity can often bring to the equation. We’ve always seen androids in science fiction portrayed as fearsome villains who will bring about the downfall of mankind; Wander posits that they might actually be better stewards of our planet than we are.
Our point of view
Wander is not a furry thing that is there for memes. Its cat-centric gameplay brings a new perspective to the adventure genre, emphasizing curiosity-driven exploration. Some of its gameplay ideas feel limited and underutilized, but the playful interactions with the cats make for a warm and fuzzy experience from start to finish. Come for its lovable furball hero, but stay for the socially conscious sci-fi story about how human beings are the architects of their own downfall.
Is there a better alternative?
Not really! WanderThe feline gameplay of is a bit unique for a game of this scale.
How long will it last?
The story took me about five hours, although I missed a few collectibles. 100% completion should be closer to six or seven hours — eight if you go for the “nap for an hour” achievement.
Should I buy it?
Yes. Wander is a truly unique (and adorable) adventure game that’s so much more than its central selling point.
Wander was tested on a PlayStation 5 connected to a TCL 6-Series R635.