A woman is walking alongside the road when she comes across a young girl named Cat. She’s lost and cold, but our protagonist is a good samaritan, giving her her scarf and walking her home. Unfortunately, Cat’s walked inside her house with the scarf, which is a big deal to our protagonist, for whatever reason. What’s more unfortunate is the strange baby-faced man that she meets inside, who refuses to let her leave…
Stray Cat Crossing is a horror RPG Maker game made by Jurlo and JetPackGone. Aside from an update to the game’s official blog a year ago about how some Korean guys sampled a Stray Cat Crossing song, this is pretty much all they’ve done.
Though it bills itself as a horror game, Stray Cat Crossing is a game that gets less scary as you proceed. The first act of the game is the most overtly scary, with a lot of reliance on creepy imagery, ominous music and jump scares. The second act however tones down the horror elements – in fact, there’s actually a few silly moments here. The last act ultimately has no horror to speak of, instead focusing on tragedy.
Thematically, I think the horror being phased out works in the game’s favor. As you progress, you get more bits of the plot and the protagonist learns more about the situation she’s in. The horror elements phasing out could be seen as the protagonist starting to see through the nightmare she’s in, getting a better grasp on what’s really going on and instead focusing on what’s important.
That said, the first act of Stray Cat Crossing winds up feeling bizarre in contrast to the rest of the experience. It’s the one area of the game where you’re subjected to the obligatory RPG Maker Horror Chase Sequence, with jumping mechanics that’s mostly unused elsewhere, with a tense rock song playing instead of the slow calm tunes and atmospheric noise that defines the rest of the game. Stray Cat Crossing is also one of the very few RPG Maker games I’ve seen that makes use of videos… and most of them are just concentrated in the first act for the sake of jumpscares; there’s only a few in the second act and there’s none of these videos in the last act.
It just feels really bizarre looking back. I feel that I’d have less of a problem if the game de-escalated its horror elements in a more natural way, or maybe threw in a few of those elements in the last act to not make the first act of the game feel so out of place.
As for the story, well, it’s kinda hard to talk about too much because this is a game that you can beat within two hours. I will say that the most important bits of the game’s imagery and characters are clear at the end of the game. Like, you’d have to be the Nostalgia Critic to not understand the main story, by the end. For a short story, it’s a story that works and tells it in a perfect amount of time – though, the character you talk to to save the game still feels kinda out of place by the end of it.
Gameplay wise, yeah, it’s one of those puzzle adventure RPG Maker games. The game’s lowest point is the hedge maze in the second act, which commits the crime of not just being a maze, but it also teleports you around. The high point is easily the central puzzle of the final act, which has you restarting events with you gaining items and seeking variations on the repeating loops. It’s an interesting puzzle and it’s one that I think works thematically, because it feels like the protagonist living through a bad day over and over, contributing to her ultimate goal of coming to terms with her past.
Stray Cat Crossing is also a very pretty game! The game manages to be pretty vibrant with color choices in comparison to a lot of other horror RPG Maker games, while still sticking to darker shades for that gloomy atmosphere. The devs made really good use of dithering to add details to the game’s art and it’s very nice to look at. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, this is one of the few RPG Maker games that uses video clips, which is neat, though, I’m somewhat disappointed that they’re solely used for jumpscares. Music is a good fit, it really reminds me of a lot of Miwashiba’s pre-1bitheart music. Well, the rock song that plays for the chase sequence is weird, but that whole sequence is weird in general.
Stray Cat Crossing is a short time, though it doesn’t need to be longer to tell the story it needs to tell. The first act comes off as bizarre and misrepresents the rest of the game’s experience, but overall? A pretty okay time. If you got some time to kill and want to go through an alright story with really good art, I recommend checking out Stray Cat Crossing.
And hey, I normally don’t push my Patreon too hard, but I’ve recently decided to start making Patreon only posts for stuff. If you liked me dunking on the Nostalgia Critic here, you’ll probably like my post on why his review of The Wall is bad.