I’m a big film buff, and my cinema preferences tend to leach over into my gaming tastes. As a music lover, I gravitate towards a variety of genres, notably underground hip hop and 70’s psych-rock, but if you browse my music collection, you’ll find a hearty dose of movie soundtracks, including a 180 gram, 45 rpm Halloween vinyl that I rather adore. When it comes to film scores, I love 80’s horror soundscapes, like Hellraiser, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Alien. Horror point and click game Stasis takes a note from these classics, with a delightfully retro soundtrack.
As a suspense game, Stasis is a slow simmer. The point and click nature means that throughout most of my play, I never felt in danger of certain death, unlike Resident Evil 2 where there doesn’t seem to be any damn first aid sprays, herbs, or ink ribbons. Most of the suspense is manifested through a clever collaboration between the visuals and music. Exploring the interior of the menacing Groomlake spaceship (bearing no small resemblance to the Nostromo), is a trip through a twisted funhouse of carnage and dismal, post-apocalyptic descriptions. However, the cringe-worthy environments alone aren’t enough to really creep the player out.
Enter the masterful soundtrack, composed by genius Mark Morgan. You’ve probably heard Morgan’s pieces in games like Fallout: New Vegas, Wasteland 2, and shows “One Tree Hill,” or “Kojak.” Daniel Sadowski lends his talents as well. The soundtrack feels plucked from a sci-fi horror film, with intentionally muddy synths, and warbling strings. There’s a constant ebb and flow that often builds to crescendos, suggesting a horrifying image or sequence. Sometimes this is correct, but other instances it’s simply tension inducing. The musical backing works wonders, and in large part sets a haunting tone.
I quite enjoyed the score, especially because of the intricacy. While largely instrumental, there’s a downright creepy lullaby, which under normal settings might not seem so disturbing. Lyrically, the lullaby is pretty normal, but the music feels slightly offbeat, and emphasizes bass tones that hint at a sinister undertone. Other times, there are sounds in the score that resemble far-off, incomprehensible voices. These serve to lend a feel that the player isn’t alone.
When I’m playing games, I like to get into the mood. In this case, lights off except for my monitor and keyboard backlight, Logitech 2.1 system thudding. Sans music, Stasis would still be a good game, but the soundtrack makes it great. I found the tandem of visuals and score to offer a more immersive, cinema-like experience. Some games merely have a soundtrack because, well, it’s expected. Stasis on the other hand actually benefits from the Jerry Goldsmithesque backdrop. If you’re playing Stasis, be sure to bump up the volume a notch or two: it’s one of my favorite aspects of the game.
STASIS is our Crowdfunded Game of the Month for September 2015, be sure to check out the rest of our special coverage.