Review by John Hellier
No, that wasn’t a command. Actually yes, yes it was, you’ve started reading this so now you’re obligated to finish, I like the validation and the view count. Don’t you dare click off this page…Please come back…
I don’t know how to start describing Stay, which is making typing this review quite difficult. Let’s try the standard opening gambit and see how we do. Stay is a… Nope, I can’t think of a sufficient way to describe it as a whole, Appnormals have brought us a truly unique experience here, and given me a few headaches in the process. Along side this the guys at Red Art games are bringing this game onto the physical platform as of May 2019 which includes a digital copy of the soundtrack and a DLC with exclusive content.
Let’s try it this way, instead of taking Stay as a whole, I shall break it down into the component parts, that should make things simpler right? Right?
First things first (obviously, first things can’t exactly be second after all) Stay is at it’s core a visual novel of sorts, with the story being portrayed through the medium of an internet messaging service. You play as yourself attempting to aid main character Quinn escape from the clutches of his kidnapper. In practice this boils down to a lot of reading and choosing the occasional dialogue choice in order to decide what Quinn should do. Occasionally you are tasked with solving a puzzle in order to advance the plot, but these are spread thinly, so get used to reading.
Strangely for this kind of game, decisions you make tend to be more emotional rather than physical. What I mean by that is during your interactions with Quinn, the responses you give affect your relationship with him. This is split between his trust level and his affinity to you. For the most part it is these things you are affecting rather than the events, and this is reflected in how Quinn replies to you. As far as characterization goes, this is amazing, it makes you feel actually connected to him.
As this is a story based game, I shall skip talking about it, because I can’t really talk about it without spoiling anything. Let’s just say that I really wanted to keep going and help Quinn escape, that’s how engrossing the plot is. Instead, I’m going to talk about the puzzles.
For the most part the few puzzles are fairly basic, mostly put a picture back together or line up two ends of a lightbulb. However, there was one puzzle where I had to look online for the solution, because the developers apparently spent all the resources on atmosphere that they couldn’t give their puzzles some explanations. Happily however, redemption was given when a later puzzle was based around Ceefax. I’d put money on the fact there are some of you googling that word right now. This puzzle was amazingly well done, however again I’d imagine those who have no idea what it was would be stumped.
So we’ve concluded that Stay is great at sucking you in with it’s atmospheric writing and visuals, but not so hot with how it handles the puzzles. So far so good. But wait, we aren’t done yet…
One thing you should be aware of with Stay, is the game is very clingy. Most games track your play time, as this does, but as an added twist Stay also tracks how long you HAVEN’T been playing. That’s right, if you have to stop playing because of life, then Stay tuts and wags a finger at you. Not so bad you might think, but stay away too long, and the game actually prevents you from continuing. That’s right, a game guilts you in to keep playing it, and then punishes you for having a life in the real world.
Now this alone isn’t too bad, but the next point I’m going to make was the final nail in the coffin so to speak. I reached a point in Stay, where I was confronted by…something (no spoilers remember). Now during this confrontation at the end of a chapter (I assume) you are given 3 choices, 2 of which i have discovered kill you and send you back to the start of the chapter. There is no obvious way to tell which option is correct, so trial and error is the only way through. If you do die, you have to go through the whole chapter again, with no fast forward to get back to the point where you choose. This means I saw the same scene 3 times until I got the right answer. Take a guess what followed? No, not that…or that…look, I’ll just tell you, another 3 way choice. After my 5th death, I understandably rage quit, and haven’t gone back. So now if I do, I’ve got to start right from the start again…I think not.
So to sum up my feelings of Stay. A good idea, with good writing, let down by some of the worst decisions in game making I’ve ever seen. Now you may have more patience and less distractions than me, in which case I would recommend the story, as for me? I guess Quinn will be trapped forever. Sorry buddy.
You better hope and pray, that you make it safe, back to your own world…