Imagine if you had a kidnapped friend and could only communicate with them via text message, that’s the clear premise of Barcelona developer Appnormals Team’s latest release Stay. Released this year on Xbox and PC then later on the Switch, Stay puts players in a position of responsibility with an emotional weight that is hard to shake off.
The game’s story revolves around your interaction with Quinn, a man trapped in a room that he believes is hellish. As his last hope you will help him to navigate his emotions and find a way out of the room, interacting with him through an online chat and giving him directions on what to do next. There’s a slight Tamagochi element as your actions are displayed on the screen and Quinn’s mental state can be affected by how often you check in, which encourages regular play.
There are a lot of slow-burning classics in gaming, games that don’t burst with excitement but allow the player to get fully invested in the tale as it unfolds. Stay utilises this formula to some extent, though the puzzles stop any narrative momentum as you have to spend time parsing through seemingly irrelevant messages and finding tiny details that will eventually give you clues on how to move forward.
Despite this, the voice acting and graphics are excellent and the pixel art style suits the game perfectly, making it feel like a comic book with a moody and atmospheric soundtrack that will make you want to turn up your headphones. The puzzles are challenging but not impossible, and the overall story is compelling and hard to shake off if you can avoid getting bogged down by frustratingly irritating conversations.