It’s a scenario we’re all familiar with. You wake up face-down on the floor with a pounding head and no memory of the previous night, with the scent of stale urine filling your nostrils. Tequila – it’s the devil’s drink.
This is the unfortunate situation faced by Quinn, the main character of new adventure game Stay from award-winning Spanish devs The Appnormals Team. However, Quinn’s tragic state wasn’t self-induced – rather, he was attacked by some unknown antagonist in the middle of the night and knocked senseless. When he regains consciousness, he finds himself trapped alone in a pitch black room, with only a glowing computer screen for company.
In Stay you don’t actually play as Quinn, however. Rather, you’re you – the only person that Quinn can contact using that computer. Your only means of communication, at least to begin with, is a computer chat window complete with a live video feed – so you can see the poor bugger squirm and react in real time. The conversation is all text-based although you can’t type out full replies a la Starship Titanic – instead, your replies are limited to two or three multiple choice options.
We’ve seen adventure games similar to this in the past, where you’re not actually in control of the main character – rather, you guide them by saying or doing certain things. That lack of direct control can be quite unnerving, or even upsetting – you want to scream through your PC monitor, ‘come on you mopey git, get a move on!’
Of course, doing so would be a very bad move indeed. Stay isn’t just about directing another emotionless being to solve puzzles and plan his escape. During the course of the adventure you’ll also have to keep Quinn’s emotional levels in check. Unsurprisingly for a man who’s attacked in the middle of the night and wakes up alone in a dark and terrifying room, he’s a wee bit on edge – not to mention the fact that he is riddled with guilt and all kinds of emotions. Show him a bit of sympathy and camaraderie and he’ll loosen up a bit, and begin to trust your instincts. You’ll have to watch him closely however, to work out exactly what he’s really thinking or feeling at any given time. Thankfully you can check out a handy display at any time which gives you a brief overview of Quinn’s mood, plus how well you two are bonding.
As well as simply chatting with Quinn and dishing out advice, you’ll also be called upon to solve the occasional puzzle. This helps add a bit of variety, and these brainteasers are generally well designed, even if their implementation in the game world doesn’t always make total sense.
One of the more unique gameplay mechanics is the real time element. This is a game that never stops – you can’t ever pause it, so every time you sod off to stroke the cat, empty your bladder or kick back with a Come Dine With Me marathon, Quinn is sat all on his lonesome waiting for your return. Stay away too long and his mental state will degrade – plus there’s the small matter of a countdown timer, and what actually happens when it hits zero.
These combined factors will keep your hands glued to your keyboard, at least if you’re anything like us. There are 24 chapters in all, but thankfully they’re quite short – a complete playthrough will take just a few hours, making it a good choice for a quiet evening in. Plus, with plenty of secrets and 7 different endings to uncover, there’s some solid replayability here. We just wish there was some easy way to make text appear instantly, instead of waiting for Quinn to type it all out – although admittedly that would kind of dent the realism a bit.
Stay hits Steam for PC and Mac on May 16, and Xbox One on May 30. For the first week, Steam users can grab it with a 20 percent discount too.