Sunday, September 16

Review: Stay [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While people enjoy games in order to get away from real life there are times when titles do something unexpected with things we do every day that somehow feel fresh and different. I’m pretty sure everyone has spent hours talking to friends or family in a chat window. No doubt many have talked to strangers as well, which is always a bit more interesting since you lack both a pre-existing connection to the person as well as the context of body language. Interestingly enough, Stay primarily revolves around time you’ll spend in a chat window, except in this case the person you’re talking to, Quinn, appears to be held hostage and you’re the only tether they have to freedom and perhaps even sanity.

While it’s unclear why you’re the one who’s having this online chat pretty quickly it’s easy to get into a sort of rapport with him. For being a programmed character the majority of conversations and discussions of philosophy you’ll get into feel quite genuine, down to his relatively frequent typos which he’ll promptly correct. Your goal is to help give him advice and walk him through his options for survival, whether it be discussing what task to take on or how to deal with his understandably high anxiety. Breadcrumbs of information about his life and regrets often emerge through these conversations as well but you’ll need to avoid the temptation to pry and focus first on helping him if you want to get through this.

Aside from the dialogue the other aspect of the game revolves around a variety of puzzles. While some of these are straightforward others can be a bit aggravating because it can be very unclear what your objective is. This ends up being a waste of time in many cases when you’re left to find a solution through a process of elimination instead of deduction and detracts from the fact that many of them are at least clever in their foundation. Another way the game seems inclined to waste your time has to do with Quinn’s somewhat frequent bounts with anxiety where he’ll need to walk away for a bit. During these phases you could choose to leave, though the longer you’re away the more anxious Quinn tends to get (a neat novelty in some regards but for busy people perhaps a bit annoying). Aside from padding the run time and I suppose making it seem more “real” I’m baffled at why these sequences are there and can’t be skipped as they offer nothing of substance to the experience.

If you’re looking for something that has a clever base premise and some pretty engaging dialogue to work through Stay is a fresh experience. If, however, you’re not much of a fan of philosophical discussion and exploring someone’s regrets it may end up instead feeling tedious. While Stay is hardly perfect it seems well-suited to playing on the Switch and dares to be different among much more familiar and safe titles in the eShop.

Score: 7.5

  • Consistently interesting dialogue
  • In general the way the game works and plays out tends to be unexpected
  • Quinn feels unusually authentic and fleshed out for a character in a game

  • The real-time nature of the game and Quinn needing to take breaks when he’s overwhelmed tends more towards annoying than interesting
  • Some of the puzzles are unnecessarily vague in how they’re to be solved, requiring trial and error and wasting time
  • The philosophy can get heavy handed at times