Stay is an arcade-style pixelated decision-based game that was developed by Appnormals Team and was published by both PQube and Plug In Digital. The game was originally released on the 16th May 2018 for Xbox One and PC. From the 12th September 2018, Stay is also available to play on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. Appnormal’s Team was co-founded by best friends Ignacio Diaz and Dani Moya. Ignacio and Dani have a passion for pixel art, and this is definitely reflected in Stay.
Stay is the story of a therapist named Quinn who has been abducted from his home. From the beginning of the game, you can tell that Quinn is struggling with some demons. Quinn awakens in what seems to be a small bunker and is a bit disorientated. From where Quinn gets up off the floor, there is a computer, and the computer is set up with a chat room. “Who is he chatting with?”, you might ask. Quinn is chatting with you. When you respond to him, you are normally given multiple choices. The aim of the game is to save Quinn, and whatever you say completely decides whether Quinn lives or dies.
Quinn is extremely delicate, which is understandable in his circumstances. You need to win him over and guide him to safety. When you are away from the game and away from Quinn, this time is counted. The longer you leave Quinn alone, the more he begins to turn and struggle with his situation. Stay is also riddled with different types of puzzles to solve. With Quinn’s life in your hands, you need to keep calm and think things through. This game is not for the faint of heart. If you suffer from anxiety or depression, this may not be the game for you.
Fight or Flight
What I love about Stay is the connection to Quinn. As you get to know him, you become emotionally attached to him, so even though the aim of the game is to keep him alive, you actually want to keep him alive. Stay offers a surreal experience. The key is to know when to be brave and when to be cautious. Stay really tests a person’s fight or flight instinct, which is great because it will help you understand how you would react in a pressured situation such as Quinn’s. Quinn’s personality can also depend on you. You can guide Quinn to being brave and strong, or he can go the complete opposite way of acting terrified and doubtful that he will survive. The different ways that Quinn can die are extremely creative. It sounds quite morbid, but if escaping seems too easy, then it probably is.
That Is a Tough One
The biggest issue with Stay is that there is no guidance. Within the game, there is a profile screen of Quinn that shows how he is feeling towards you. He can see you as a stranger, acquaintance, friend, etc. There are four small circles with a level of liquid that changes depending on your actions and responses. These four circles have over-pretentious wording underneath them with no descriptions, so I had to search the internet to find out what the words meant. It would have been much easier if standard words like “happy” and “sad” had been used. There are also a couple of other symbols that have no descriptions, and to this day I still don’t fully understand what they mean.
Stay has a variety of puzzles, which is great. Some of them are quite simple, while others are quite complex. There is one puzzle in particular that I really struggled with. Anybody that has played Stay will know which one I mean, it’s the one involving a peacock. The issue with this puzzle is that there is no instruction or help whatsoever, and when you get stuck in Stay, there is no way to get a hint, so it can be extremely frustrating. I wont say how I got past the puzzle because of spoilers, but I am so glad that it is done with. When it was done, I had to take a deep breath before moving on with the game.
Stay with Quinn
Stay can be confusing with some of the more difficult puzzles, but the upside of this is that the game is quite challenging. The fact that there is no guidance with Stay means everything is completely down to the player and the decisions that they make. On the other hand, because there is no guidance, Stay can be frustrating with the player not knowing what the simplest stuff means. There are some key elements to the game that seem to have just been missed out.
Stay is a powerful game because it keeps you interested and emotionally invested. I found myself relating to the game very well for personal reasons, but I stuck to my guns. Having said that, if you suffer with anxiety or depression, this is probably not the game for you. The fact that Quinn’s life is in your hands makes the game very intense, and this can really test how you react under pressure.
Developer: Appnormals Team
Publisher: PQube, Plug In Digital
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also Xbox One, PC, PS4)
Release Date: 12th September 2018 (Nintendo Switch, PS4), 16th May 2018 (Xbox One, PC)