STAY - Review Review

Sony PlayStation 4

Also available on Nintendo Switch, PC and Microsoft Xbox One


Disclaimer: This review is spoiler free, however please note this game addresses sensitive topics such as, anxiety, death, loneliness and depression. This is highlighted at the beginning of the game and directs players for more information at www.stay-game.com/help/. The link provides mental health information or support for the current countries United States, Germany, France, Spain, Russia.

For mental health information or support in the UK please see the links below:

https://www.mind.org.uk/

https://www.samaritans.org/

https://www.rethink.org

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/suicide/

https://www.rethink.org/carers-family-friends/what-you-need-to-know/suicidal-thoughts-how-to-support-someone

Stay is a dark adventure/puzzle game that centres around Quinn, a depressed therapist and the co-star: you, the player as you assist Quinn through various puzzles in order to recall his past and escape his following surroundings.The game begins with Quinn kidnapped at night and waking up in a dark room with just a computer beaming a ray of light. The game provides no hints or clues of where Quinn is or why he has been kidnapped. That’s where “you” the player comes in. Quinn interacts with the computer which has a chat app where he begins to speak to “you” the player.


Chatroom with video game character Quinn

Screenshot of STAY – Shows chat room with Quinn (Copyright of PQube)

Through the chat app, Quinn interacts with you and it is your job to guide Quinn through dialogue choices. Each choice you choose influences Quinn which guides him as he ventures off in order to discover more about his surroundings and each room. You don’t control Quinn whilst he explores his surrounding but you have the ability to help Quinn when he discovers different puzzles which unravel more about his surroundings.



Screenshot of STAY – Shows chat room with Quinn and interaction choice. Copyright of PQube

Likewise, each choice has a different impact on Quinn’s mood, your trust level with Quinn and your emotional connection with Quinn. Your able to monitor your trust level and emotion connection with Quinn, which will help with gaining information from Quinn about his past. STAY, cleverly uses the psychology theory, The Four Temperaments as a way to monitor Quinn’s current emotional state which is also influenced by your choices. Empathy and emotional intelligence may be the key in order to guide Quinn to freedom and build a friendship with him, whilst harsher response choices might have a different reaction from Quinn. Likewise, each choice has a different impact on Quinn’s mood, your trust level with Quinn and your emotional connection with Quinn. Your able to monitor your trust level and emotion connection with Quinn, which will help with gaining information from Quinn about his past.



Screenshot of STAY – Shows Quinn’s Temperament (left) and trust levels (bottom right. Copyright of PQube.

In addition, in each chapter one of your dialogue choices will have an impact on your final label at the end of the chapter and the developers provide you with user statistics and a description of what your label means.This was an interesting part of the game and I looked forward to the end of the chapter in order to find out how I was labelled by the developers. I did however find that Chapter 17 had no User Statistics information which I tweeted to the developers whom quickly replied that they will fix the issue as soon as possible.



Screenshot of Stay, end of Chapter 17 with no User Statistics information. Copyright Beatrice Opara.

At first glance of STAY, I was extremely excited to play, as I’m massive fan of pixel art. Like, my laptop screensaver is BitDay created by Danny Care. The graphics and art could have been produced at a higher quality as I have seen some amazing pixel art on Twitter and Tumblr from artist such as Kirokaze and moawling which blow the graphics of STAY out of the water, however the pixel art does offsets the dark tone and natural of the video game. STAY also reminded me of escape room games (which I was mildly obsessed with as a child), therefore it gave me another reason to be excited to play the game. The game draws similarities to Lifeline (which I did not have the patience to play) and Tamagotchi (I was extremely bad at keeping my pets alive). Quinn at times felt like a digital human pet that needed attention in order to maintain a strong rapport. I had to check in with Quinn, as failure to do so could lead to shocking results.

At first, I found this feature very annoying however I quickly realised how similar Quinn’s emotional reaction were to real life humans as we frequently need interaction in order to maintain relations and help prevent isolation (one of the factors that can led to depression).As the game progresses, you discover Quinn’s past and he becomes an extremely relatable character. I have to commend the developer’s ability to make Quinn’s character so human. The psychology and user experience that went into this game was amazing as I felt like I was really speaking to a real life person at times. Likewise, the usage of psychological theories, Latin, occultism, religion and symbolism resonated with me as a lover of all forms of science (social sciences and STEM subjects) and philosophy. Throughout the game, Quinn discovers puzzles which you as the player have to solve. Whilst I enjoyed building my relationship with Quinn, I found some of the puzzles very tedious and took me off track of the original storyline. Chapter 11 wall puzzle anyone?

It would have been interesting to see how Quinn reacted to puzzles if he failed to solve them and how this may have influenced the end of the game or even Quinn’s temperaments. However, any puzzle that you get stuck on, the developers are on hand to provide hints and tips in order to continue with the game. There are few small parts of the game that I wished the developers would change for example the music and soundtrack of the game.

I found the music did build up the tension and thriller of the game, however the soundtrack was simply on loop which became quite repetitive. I felt the music could have changed according to each chapter in order to signify progression. Additionally, I found it strange that you only restart previous chapters if Quinn died and why the option was not available on the home screen. Maybe this a way to convince the player to play the game multiple times in order to unlock the multiple ending, all the puzzles and items in order to fully complete the game and find out further about the Quinn as a whole.

Overall

STAY has an interesting storyline that is very relatable and can teach individuals about emotional intelligence, human psychology and mental health. The puzzles are quite frustrating at times but this can be simply overlooked once completed and you continue with the original storyline. The soundtrack of the game leaves areas for improvement and the pixel art could have been created at a better quality however this is my personal preference as I set the bar quite high due to the other pixel artists. The developers are actively on hand to assist with issues and if you hit a wall (no pun intended) with any of the puzzles. I’m excited to see how the developers Appnormal will improve and release another unique pixel art game. 

7

out of 10

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