STAY (PC) Review

By Ofisil 23.05.2018

Review for STAY on PC

A conversation between a gamer and non-gamer will soon lead to the "You don't know what you are missing" argument. Developed by Appnormals Team, escape room-esque, adventure/visual novel STAY, clearly stands out as one of those very special titles that can be used in such debates, as it offers an extremely innovative, and deeply emotive experience, as well as commentary on issues of mental health, that no other medium can really hope to deliver... but it's also painfully disappointing. Yes, it's one of 'those' occasions where the execution ruins what could otherwise be a golden classic, and here's why...

You aren't the protagonist here. The one who is, however, would prefer that he wasn't, either. Thrown in a basement by a shadowy figure, Quinn's only hope seems to be a PC in the centre of the room, with which he will try to find somebody out there, and call for help - and that's where 'You' come into the picture, as you play the role of the stranger on the other end of the line. From now on, this becomes a conversation via a chatroom-like interface, as the only thing that can be done is to talk to him, and recommend the next course of action.

However, you aren't in control of the situation. Quinn is not a puppet, thus he won't always obey the player, and even if he does, he will probably be reluctant to do so. Sure, this plays a lot like an escape room title, where a clue will lead to a key, a key to a door, a door to a puzzle, and so on, but at its core this is mainly about the interaction between the player and the main lead, and since this dude-in-distress isn't just a videogame character, but a human being whose emotional balance gets affected by one's actions, this task won't exactly be an easy one.

Screenshot for STAY on PC

Whether a certain suspicious looking countdown is a bomb or a jack-in-the-box prank, it is Quinn's constantly changing mood that is the biggest enemy, not the ticking clock. Now, although anyone in his shoes would lose his cool, he isn't just everyone. Unstable, melancholic, and verbose to the point of annoyance, he is one of those unlikeable people who go on and on about how sad their existence is - and, you know what? He is awesome! After all, a great character is not one that you will like, but one who will make your emotions boil.

You will get angry when, instead of focusing on the problem at hand, he will start philosophising or making pop culture references; you will feel sad when he will get all defensive while you try to be pragmatic and helpful instead of "supportive" and sentimental; and you will facepalm your... err, face to death at his attempt at humour. Most of all, however, you will actually sympathise with him, taste his anxiety and hopelessness, and fear about his wellbeing - and, if that wasn't enough, time doesn't stop when you pause, or even exit the game!

Screenshot for STAY on PC

This is basically a Tamagotchi on steroids, as things don't "freeze" when ceasing play. STAY keeps on counting minutes and hours, and, upon returning, Quinn won't exactly be happy about any absences. At best, the trust levels will fall; at worst, he… well, he won't be happy. Obviously, this is a pretty effective force of immersion, as it can make players feel bad about leaving the protagonist alone, and end up trying to keep on playing until they reach the end. Couple this with some beautifully dark pixel art and sound to match, and this can get insanely engrossing at times.

In case it hasn't been made clear yet, Appnormals Team's creation is a unique, captivating labour of love, even amongst the bizarre world of indie games. It's a fantastic experience, rather than a 'game' where you collect points and complete levels. Sadly, it's highly problematic. Starting with the stay/away mechanic, this is a system that most will fall in love with, but soon end up hating as in real life there are these things called school, work, family, highly complex, and time-consuming sex orgies (right? Right??)… plus disordered coloured socks that need to be taken care of.

Screenshot for STAY on PC

Nevertheless, this is not really a flaw, but something that just isn't for everyone - but there should definitely be an option to completely disable this, if only for the sake of those who just don't have the time for such a commitment. The rest of the issues, however, aren't as "harmless." For starters, "talking" with Quinn can sometimes drag on way too long, and since there's no fast-forward button available, it sort of hurts the overall mood and pacing. The same goes for the various dead-ends, which reset the whole chapter, and have you slowly trying to get back to the part when you died.

The one thing that's totally immersion-breaking, though, is the puzzle element, as most are annoyingly cryptic, to the point that some are easier to solve by chance rather than actual thinking - one involving a peacock, in particular, is bound to become notorious for its hair-pulling, Gordian nature. This is basically the final nail in STAY's coffin, as it will make most reluctant to keep on trying, or attempt a second play-through and route. Having said all this, most are recommended to get a taste of what's on offer - just remember that the execution leaves a pretty bitter taste.

Screenshot for STAY on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

STAY starts as an nail-biting adventure that's hard to let go of - literally and figuratively. Soon enough, however, it will become an exercise in frustration, partly because of the slow pace of it all, but mainly due to some bad design choices, with the aggravatingly cryptic, and speed-bumpy puzzles taking the biscuit.

Developer

Appnormals Team

Publisher

PQube

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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