One Sad Situation
After waking up in a locked room with no memory of how he got there, Quinn is completely isolated. There is little to no light, no sound and no other signs of direct human contact in sight. His only glimmer of hope is an old computer with a limited chat function, which the player can use to communicate and supply him with clues for how to escape.
This acts as a double edged sword though. With no indication of who they are, Quinn will be slow to trust the player, analyzing everything they say to him as much as possible. Should they choose the wrong words or point him in the wrong direction, Quinn’s trust in the player will decrease along with his hope of escape, leading to injury, insanity or even death.
Saying nothing is equally problematic. Playing out in real time, each break the player takes from the game is time Quinn spends alone with no one else to help him. The longer players spend away from the game, the worse Quinn’s state may become, tilting him toward madness or worse.
If this sounds like a dark premise for an adventure game, it is. Developer Appnormals Team are very straight forward about this being a game tailor made for adults, and they’ve gone full in on making the game as dismal and dark as possible. Quinn constantly teeters on the edge of a breakdown, and while the player can most certainly help with their presence, they can just as easily nudge him off the edge with the wrong choices.
The animation and art style hammer this home. Using a pixel art style, the developers have created an enrapturing visual experience which manages to depict the emotions of Quinn brilliantly. Dragging himself through dimly lit corridors, his body language ranges from frantic to crestfallen, selling his desperation turned to hopelessness. It’s a marvel of what can be done with a retro design style, and something fans of 16 or 32-bit styles shouldn’t miss if they have the chance.
Sound design is equally dismal, from the mechanical buzzing of the computer to the somber tones of the game’s background music. Players won’t find any respite from the tone this game brings, drawing them further into the experience they must save Quinn from.
Enthralled By The Escape
While adventure games have certainly ventured into darker territory before and been better for it – see the award nominated Night in the Woods – few have been so clearly driven toward adult themes as Stay. It revels in the darker implications presented by isolation, and while other mediums have covered the subject with novels like Room or the manga-turned-film Old Boy, this could mark the first time games have attempted to tackle it in a way only they can do.