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Stay review for PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One, Switch


Platform: PS Vita
Also On: Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: Appnormals Team
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E

While I would imagine that most games think highly of their ability to hold a player’s interest, I’d wager that very few have quite the same high opinion of themselves as Stay. After all, we’re talking about a game that doesn’t just track how long you play it for, but how long you stay away between play sessions — and one that shames you and gives you a Game Over should you stay away for too long (with “too long” being anything more than a day).

In other words, Stay is pretty confident that you’re going to be so hooked by its story that you can’t help but keep playing from beginning to end in the shortest time possible. Or, more accurately, it’s pretty confident that you’re going to be hooked by interacting with main character Quinn, since the game revolves around you chatting with him via an on-screen chat app, trying to help him escape from a mysterious predicament. He’s inherently suspicious of much of what you say (or, rather, every dialogue option you pick), which kind of makes sense, seeing as he’s locked in a house with only an online stranger and a chat program to keep him company. Occasionally the game breaks away from that to show brief moments of Quinn interacting with his apparent jail, but for the most part, this game is all about dialogue.

This means, in turn, that Stay lives and dies by how interesting you find Quinn. If you’re fond of philosophical rambling and nostalgic remembrances intermingled with bouts of depression and guilt trips, he’ll probably seem fascinating. Sometimes he’ll start going off on a tangent about some school of thought, while others he’ll start spiraling into self-recrimination; you never quite know which way he’ll go next. Regardless, though, your role in the game is mostly to pick the right words of encouragement or suggestion to try and steer him towards a solution, and then watch as an observer how everything plays out.

It’s worth knowing that just about the only role you have to play in the game — apart, of course, from picking dialogue choices when prompted and not staying away from it for too long — is solving puzzles at random moments. They don’t add much to Stay, and every so often they seem to be based on inscrutable, arbitrary logic (I’m looking at you, peacock puzzle), but they’re in there nonetheless.

In other words, Stay is kind of like a visual novel. To be fair, of course, it’s much better written than most visual novels I’ve played, and it doesn’t look anything like that (usually) Japanese genre. There’s also that whole time element to consider, which seems so unique it feels like it should come from some other game entirely (even if Game Overs are only temporary, and you can always restart from the beginning of the last chapter). But deep down, Stay shares their approach of players being passive observers, rather than active participants.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? As I said, it all depends on how interesting you find Quinn. And personally, somewhere around the middle of the game, I found my interest waning pretty significantly. After all, the game is all about interacting with Quinn, and few people — in real life or in video games — are so interesting that they can hold your attention for hours on end, simply with their conversational powers. Stay undeniably has a unique, interesting hook, but I can’t say that the rest of it lives up to that little bit of innovation.

Ratalaika Games provided us with a Stay PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: B-