Why won’t you just Stay for a minute and hear me out? Why not Stay for a few hours and help me wallow in my misery while I try and escape? Because that’s basically what Stay is all about.
Stay (or STAY, if you want to be completely accurate) is a puzzle-visual novel game that follows Quinn, a self-loathing psychiatrist who has been trapped in a giant house by a mysterious person. In fact, the person is so mysterious that as I write this review I still don’t know who it is! Although it’s not a fault of the game’s story telling… just the game.
The main gameplay involves communicating with Quinn through a messaging application, first on a computer and then on a phone. As you get further in the game you’ll discover a myriad of rooms, alongside a bunch of different puzzles. Puzzles that will probably make you want to through your Vita out the window. Possibly into a deep snow bank (or I guess the ocean would work too, if snow isn’t your thing).
Through the messaging app, you will find out that Quinn is a psychiatrist and he suspects that one of his patients may have trapped him in the house. Again, I don’t actually know because of something I’ll get to later. However, it turns out that Quinn is a big self-loather and probably a good 75% of the text is just him going “poor me” instead of actually trying to make steps to get out of there. It’s your job to push him past it and to try and actually go forward. Oh, and at one point he mentions he’s thankful you’re “not a SJW”, which was the first giant step towards me just not liking the game.
The game supposedly has a time limit – 13 hours or a bomb on a cat will go off – but from reports I read if you let the “Stay” time go past that then nothing actually happens. The same for if you’re “Away” for too long. Speaking of the Away timer, that’s one of this game’s gimmicks. If you go away for too long, Quinn gets all “oh I guess you don’t care, well bye”, forcing you into a Game Over which makes you have to restart that chapter. Luckily it seems the game doesn’t actually count time away on the Vita correctly if you just pop it into Rest Mode. However, don’t *close* the game, because then suddenly you will shoot up to the maximum away time, making Quinn mad. Of course, if you have to close the game because it, say, glitched… Well, have fun!
The other primary element to Stay is the puzzles. Sprinkled throughout the chapters, these will test your patience – and, as I mentioned, your willpower to not just chuck your Vita into a snow bank and/or ocean. They start out simple enough, but quickly go into the realm of “WTH am I supposed to do in this puzzle”. There’s no obvious hint system – hints are basically shown in the puzzle, but good luck actually figuring out that they’re the hints. One infamous puzzle – if my Google search for help on the solution is any indication – has you trying to click the right stones on a wall. It doesn’t help that the touch screen controls are finicky at best – when they work they’re great, but they don’t work when they would be great.
Oh, and there’s that whole glitching out point, the reason why I have not finished Stay. In the late game – around Chapter 22 (of 24), there’s a puzzle that requires you to piece together a puzzle. Alright, great, I mean it’d be nice if the touch screen worked, but sure. But then it gets stuck. Restart the game, deal with mad Quinn because of rest mode not keeping time right, get back to the puzzle. Find only one piece out of place, put it back… game gets stuck again. Repeat this again and again, until finally the game says “oh, right, you solved this, you can continue.” Alright, sweet, we can continue!
And then it’s followed by a bullshit list, most options leading to death. Oh great, we’re back to square one again. Time to have the game get stuck over and over, hoping that either the glitch gets glitched out or the game finds the trigger to continue. I mean, sure, maybe my Vita was wigging out, but I’ve seen Vita wig outs before – it’s not like this. The fact this was followed by a completely bullshit choice list that can just result in you needing to replay the chapter? Yeah, I was done.
Stay would be great with the ability to skip text (replaying after a death late in the chapter is pure torture), and with a better hint system in the puzzles. Oh, and if it didn’t suddenly throw in “SJW” and if puzzles properly worked and didn’t get stuck (and if the touch screen worked right). As it stands, I cannot in any right mind recommend this game, and in fact you should just Stay far, far away from it.
Maybe the game is better on other versions. Maybe the game just wasn’t for me. I don’t know. But I just couldn’t with this game.
I received a free key from Ratalaika Games for coverage and review. All thoughts/opinions are my own.
This was review is based on the PlayStation Vita version.