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Review #012: STAY (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewed By: Chad M.

Developed By: Appnormals Team

Published By: PQube

Category: Puzzle, Adventure, Role-Playing

Release Date: 9.12.18

Download STAY from the Nintendo eShop here.

Read our interview with Appnormals Team here.

Have a seat and stay awhile

Every once in awhile you play a game that hits certain notes and finds a way to latch on and stick with you long after the credits roll. Games like these are made with a certain passion that lets you know the developer is trying to reach you and tell you not only a story, but leave a part of them with you. At times, I felt like the ultimate reveal in Fight Club when you find out Tyler Durden is *spoiler alert* talking to himself as he works through things. This is appropriate as STAY tends to use book and movie references quite often. This pixel art thriller, that also doubles as a puzzle game, has layers. Once you peel back those layers, you’ll find out why you have to...stay (see what I did there?). 

It’s best to talk things out

STAY is a story that revolves around our main protagonist Quinn, who is a 30 something year old therapist. He’s kidnapped one night by a masked intruder and later awakens in a dark room with nothing but a computer that has his only lifeline, you! Although Quinn is a therapist, you will continuously have to console and push him in the direction you feel is best to help get him out of this precarious situation. STAY deals with some pretty heavy hitting material like anxiety, death, depression, isolation and suicide. I purposely will gloss over most of the story as the story that unfolds is the primary reason to play the game.

What I will say is there is so much more to STAY than just a man in a basement. It’s more fantastical, but you have to stick around for it to play out. As you allow this to happen, you’ll see that Quinn reacts not only to how you speak to him, but the time you spend with him. Later in the game, you’ll find STAY lands into some of the old school adventure game tropes with some of its puzzles that will have you setting the controller down and taking a break. I learned when I returned that this had affected Quinn in a negative way. He’d become stand-offish and upset with me.

The game gives you meters to track Quinn’s brain levels, how strong your bond is, as well as how much trust or lack there of Quinn has for you. As you play, these will be important meters to monitor. It took around 7 1/2 hours the first time playing through the 24 chapter campaign. On my second play though I cut that time almost in half as I knew the puzzles, but I really worked to push Quinn to his breaking point the second time around. Knowing there are seven alternate endings has me ready to jump back in. 

Controls & Gameplay

You never control Quinn in the sense of most games. It’s more in the vein of an adventure game with a mix of puzzle mechanics. Most of the game is spent listening to Quinn talk you through his crazy story as it unfolds. You dive deep into exploring why he’s there and trying to help him make the right decisions. Most of the time it’s one of two choices and rarely you’re given a third choice. During the story, when you answer a pivotal question or respond in a certain way, this will affect you moving forward.

Quinn can become stand-offish not only when you leave him hanging, but if you answer in a way that makes him trust you less. For the most part this just unfolds like a book with certain choices having fatal outcomes. The puzzles on the other hand are not straightforward at all. The puzzles start off simple enough and even as you progress they make you think, but are still manageable. However, once you get into the later chapters, specifically around 16 and onward, they become very challenging. For example, one puzzle was a randomly generated maze that is always different through each playthrough. The only way I found to beat it was to draw out a map by hand as I went through, very old school. In saying that, some of the controls in the puzzles felt a tad wonky as the game was meant for a PC point and click. Other than that, the controls felt spot on and gameplay was fun. 

Audio & Visuals

The pixel art in the game is beautiful and sets the mood for the game perfectly. Dark undertones surrounded by darkness and muted colors are what await our protagonist as he ventures out to see what he can uncover in this prison he finds himself in. This changes as the game goes on, when they bring in color to really push a narrative; this reminds me of the lady in the red dress in Schindler’s List. The sounds are equally ominous and all around creepy. At points I would have sworn I heard the theme to John Carpenter’s Halloween playing. The visuals and sound were equally impressive docked and in handheld mode. 

Wrapping it up

Like a good psychological thriller or drama, STAY is able to draw you into the characters and make you become invested. In no time at all I knew I had to find out the why, how, and everything that landed Quinn in this predicament. Then when it was over I was still thinking about how the story unfolded and what other endings lay ahead. Though the puzzles became brutal at times, I never felt like giving up; just had to walk away for a moment. I knew I had to come back and fight to find out the conclusion.

I highly recommend STAY as it has the feeling of a beloved cult classic film. My only fair warning would be that the puzzles can become very difficult. If you can see past that or love a challenge then this is a must buy. 

Final Score: 8.5/10

Download STAY from the Nintendo eShop here.

Read our interview with Appnormals Team here.

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