It’s not often enough that a game grabs my full attention and has me asking if I’ve just found the most important game of the year. While AAA triples get an immense and unneeded amount of hype, plenty of other, smaller titles fall behind them. But Stay was game that caught my eye and made me ask that question from before. So does it live up to its promising concept?

The concept of Stay is a rather interesting one, filled with an unnerving mystery that centres on wellbeing and communication. Both of these elements are vital for mechanics and in regards to its themes. The story takes us into a dark room where a lone therapist named Quinn (Yay Quinn, like me!) is being held captive. His only light source is a dusty, old computer in the middle of the room. Quinn is able to reach someone in the outside world and that person is the player. From here you’ll have to guide Quinn to escaping the room and finding out why he’s there.

80% of gameplay is focused on communication which is limited but has branching options. There’s also the factor of Quinn’s wellbeing to consider and saying or asking the wrong thing can trigger a negative response. There is the inclusion of lateral elements and moments where Quinn can carry out orders from the player such as to explore, examine or stay put. These are important as Quinn can fall into one of the many traps and die.

But ever action has a reaction and what each option has are detailed branching paths whether they are major events or simple alterations in dialogue. From the get go, Stay is a fascinating experience which echoes an intense vibe that makes this journey both unsettling and very engaging. As you interact with Quinn the story develops and a bond is formed very quickly. What is an interesting dynamic is the inclusion of two timers with one showing how long you’ve been with Quinn and one displaying your time away. Even with the console off the game still counts every second and playing for the night and not returning till the next might bring Quinn to express discomfort and anger, but also a little joy.

Stay is simple yet highly effective in the right doses, until the game progresses and by the half way point you’ll begin to see the cracks.
Soon enough Quinn becomes a little unbearable with him questioning many of the choices you offer, even if they’re sound ones. There’s often a fine line and Quinn is very quick to over react or be totally dependent on your every word of advice. It just seemed odd that he wouldn’t take any initiative to do something for himself. Most people would at least search a little or make up their own mind without having to ask for advice constantly and when the bulk of the game is endless chatter that really declines in context, it’s very jarring.

Quinn’s dialogue often feels he’s not understanding the weight of the situation and just spew movie references or feel like a indecisive and emotionally unstable buddy who’s trying to impress you. The writing starts of strong and the idea of speaking with someone to guide them is very compelling, yet falls short and soon becomes tedious and long winded.

The third act falls apart from poor dialogue, puzzles that are way too difficult and the repetition of having to listen to various segments of dialogue over and over, when you die by making one wrong move. The depth and weight to Stay withered away to the point where Quinn’s deaths were more funny than upsetting. The story also fails to keep you invested when it comes to finding out who is behind everything and is only mentioned a couple of times through this 6-7 venture.

It’s a shame as Stay has huge potential to be an extremely compelling experience with an original concept and ideas that would make for a great physiological horror with emotional depth. Instead the story takes one too many weird twists without any reasoning and Quinn become a complete pain in the butt. If the situation was kept more grounded and if Quinn was more relatable and written better then Stay would be an absolutely enthralling experience. Except, Stay is pretty disappointing.

+ Compelling concept
+ Great pacing for first half
-- Quinn becomes very annoying
- Tedious and repetitive gameplay
- Annoying trail and error

An Xbox One code of Stay was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.