Everyone handles loneliness differently – usually we choose to abandon or conceal most of our emotions and pretend to be happy. But what if we are forced to deal with all of our problems when they come rushing at us all at once like a big, raging wave?
This is the story of Quinn – a man who was abducted and thrown into a locked room with little more than a computer at his aid.
STAY is a text-based adventure game developed by Appnormals Team and published by PQube Games.
You are introduced to Quinn – a young man and complete stranger who suddenly contacts you and asks you to help him out of the place he landed in. He does not know who kidnapped him or where he is, what day or time it is or why he was even taken. It only makes sense that he does not know if he can trust you in the first place – however, he decides to listen to you and eventually warms up to your guidance.
Your task is simple; you help Quinn make his way through the place he landed in alive. Most importantly – you need to be there for him. One big part of the game is solving puzzles. Just like the objects you discover as you play through the game, a lot of them being symbols for Quinn’s struggles in his current situation. Some of them are harder to solve than others, reaching from having to place books in a certain order to removing bricks from a wall in a manner comparable to Minesweeper or simply just answering simple mathematical equations. Should you require assistance with any of the riddles, you can always ask people on the official STAY Discord server for help.
While he is the main protagonist, the player does not actually control Quinn; instead, they accompany him and advise him throughout the game via text chat. Every dialogue option makes an impact on their bond with him and the actions he will take. The game title is “STAY” for a reason – the game plays in real-time, meaning that if you choose not to talk to Quinn or are away for too long, he will react negatively, lose faith in you or even die. The level of trust he has towards the player is vital and will affect the outcome of the game, so it is highly important for the player to think about the choices they make as a big number of the ones available could end up killing Quinn. With that said, you can always start again at your last checkpoint.
The soundtrack fits the mood of the game perfectly – there is not too much going on in most of the tracks but that is the main point. It is not about drama or like a grand orchestra playing an amazingly composed melody. The main character is trapped, completely on his own and does not know how to get out – the music captures that atmosphere well. The same goes for the sound effects. There is no voice acting in this game, however I do not think it really needs any, either. Sometimes less is more, which applies in this case. Overall, the audio is remarkable and can barely be picked on.
The game’s design is similar to most retro games as it relies on pixel art which is quite charming. There are a few CGs based on which point of the game you have reached. The UI consists of a big text chat window – it is relatively easy to navigate. If you are not looking at Quinn’s messages, you can check out the objects he found along the way in another tab and what meaning they bear. Needless to mention, I enjoyed the game’s visuals as I am a big fan of pixel art myself.
While at first it sounds like STAY is “just about helping a young man trapped seeking a way out”, it is actually way more than just that. The game relies on the complexity of human connections – it makes you contemplate your decisions, answers and behavior. It explores the thought process of someone who does not know what to do by themselves and yells out for help, knowing fully well their voice may possibly not be heard.
Quinn may be a video game character, but the way he acts and converses with the player tends to be more human-like than one would expect. He might come off as too negative for his own good but he is all alone in a place he can not identify with no food or water at his disposal – it is hard to imagine being in that position and admitting that one would act any different than Quinn does. Being trapped in a place like that all by yourself is probably anything but easy and the game’s ambience truly showcases all the negative feelings that go through one’s head and eventually start to take control of one’s psyche – loneliness, anger, depression, frustration, confusion and isolation. Quinn is the perfect example of an amazing character.
Though the game tells the story of Quinn, I think it would be appropriate to say the player might as well *be* Quinn as a huge amount of people deals with this kind of issues and problems and I would be lying if I said I did not tear up during my first playthrough. I encourage people to not just finish the game but deeply think about what each of the puzzles, items and just Quinn’s journey as a whole are supposed to resemble.
8.5 / 10
+ deep plot + requires a lot of thinking + high replay value with multiple routes and endings + fun puzzles with varying difficulties + there is a cat that follows Quinn around
- can be very confusing for people who like narration - a little too short