With mobile phones and tablets practically becoming everyday tools for many, they present a unique narrative opportunity for certain types of games. We use our mobile devices for all kinds of things: making calls, sending texts, checking the web, watching videos, listening to music, and more. They’re a window into the larger world, and with that being their established role in our lives, there’s no reason they can’t also be a plausible window into a fictional world. We’ve seen some games play with this concept already, from games like Republique to Lifeline. The upcoming release Stay, from Appnormals, looks to build on this idea with an even greater level of immersion. I was able to give it a spin at the Tokyo Game Show and record it for you.
In Stay, you’ll be communicating with a character who has been kidnapped and trapped in a room. He wakes up near an old computer, and you’re the only person he can get in touch with. You’ll have to help him find a way out of the room without getting him killed, a task made all the more difficult by the fact that he doesn’t entirely trust you in the beginning. You’ll have to build a relationship with him by giving him good answers and advice. In practice, the game’s mechanics are like a Choose Your Own Adventure-style gamebook mixed with a room escape game’s puzzles.
Aside from the character’s mental state, the other twist is that Stay plays out in real time. You know how in Lifeline, Taylor would contact you with an emergency via notification and then patiently wait for however long it took you to start up the game again? That doesn’t happen here. So you can throw a virtual pet-style twist into that mix I described. Sort of like if Seaman was about helping him escape his aquarium, fuzzy. Just like that sassy fish, the main character in Stay can be a little temperamental. Say the wrong things and you might anger him or drive him into a state of melancholy.
The presentation in Stay is excellent even in this early state. You won’t be able to hear the audio in the linked video, but it’s really great, atmospheric stuff. The visuals use a pixel art style, but strive to include enough details that it doesn’t come off too cartoonish. The developer tells me that this is meant to be a shorter experience than some games, which should hopefully keep the game’s real-time nature from being a burden. Oh, and there are lots of ways to die, all of them fully animated for your pleasure/horror.
Appnormals is looking to have the game ready to go for a March 2018 release on iOS and Android. It’s also looking to release the game on Steam, Xbox One, and possibly the Switch. If you enjoy creepy games, room escapes, or just plain interesting narrative experiences, you’ll want to keep an eye on Stay. We’ll bring you more information on the game as we get it.