STAY is the story of a therapist named Quinn who was abducted in the early morning and woke up to find himself in a dank basement with seemingly no way out and a computer hooked up to a private instant message conversation with you on the other end. You talk Quinn through the challenges he faces and the game also tracks how long you are not playing for, inviting you to ‘stay’ with Quinn long as your absence affects his mood and trust in you. It’s an original and interesting premise that is unfortunately let down by almost every other aspect of this game. If anything you should stay away from this game.
STAY is broken up into 24 chapters, each involving some dialogue trees with Quinn, sometimes a branching path will led you to an optional item, sometimes it will kill Quinn. In what I can only assume is a critical glitch in the game, restarting after a death takes you back a chapter and if you get curious to explore too many dialogue paths you can find yourself losing significant progress.
Every second chapter or so has a puzzle. These puzzles are often entirely divorced from any meaningful context and doing them seems entirely arbitrary other than the fact Quinn decided to do them. Furthmore some of the puzzles are completely oblique in their presentation and incomprehensible. The brick puzzle is the worst offender requiring you to make a diamond shape from pushed in bricks for a reason that still eludes me. Your reward for completing puzzles, in addition to progression is an item.
Most of the items you amass serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever. They are possibly steeped in symbolism but the meaning is even more obtuse than the game’s puzzles. It’s also possible that much of the meaning might’ve been lost in translation from the original Spanish script. Perhaps symbolism isn’t for a smooth-brain like me and if I was more steeped in the literary work of Fernando Pessoa I would appreciate the game’s deeper meanings. But I find the script’s over reliance on analogy and symbolism an obstacle in telling its own story.
Quinn for the most part is annoying as shit. One of those people who constantly makes esoteric movie references as a replacement for a personality. Everytime you tire of this and try to bring his attention to -you know- escaping his diabolical situation, Quinn sulks and loses trust in you. So you just have to constantly stroke his delicate ego and reassure him that he really can do it on his own, instead of plainly pointing out what to do.
The hook of STAY‘s narrative isn’t so much learning who about Quinn but rather learning your own identity, it is alluded that you might be Quinn’s captor and in guiding him through the house you’re actually setting him up. As the game’s atmosphere transitions from ominous to surreal, it becomes clear that this isn’t the case. You are not Quinn’s captor, that would be too obvious a twist. Instead the game’s twist is much shittier; it was all a dream. The entire events of the game are a psychotic break of a man struggling with the tragic loss of his girlfriend to a hit and run. “You” are little more than Quinn’s subconscious, maintaining this illusion until he finally decides to face up to reality in one of 7 unsatisfying endings. The game’s headline mechanic, how long you stay with the game as opposed to being away, has little more bearing than partially determining your ending.
The whole thing is just a waste of an original idea. STAY is available on just about every system and digital storefront. It should be avoided on all of them.