In STAY, a new game from Spanish developer Appnormals Team and publisher PQube, a man named Quinn wakes up locked in an unfamiliar room with nothing to help him escape except a computer connected to the Internet. On the other end of that connection is you.
STAY is one of those rare games where you don’t get to control the central character directly. Instead, Quinn moves around of his own free will and you must influence his actions by chatting with him. Most of the time Quinn is desperate and willing to do whatever you say, but if you tell him the wrong thing or get on his bad side, you may lose control of him, resulting in a bad ending.
Games like this live or die based on how well the AI of the unplayable character is programmed, and there are more examples of it failing than working, from Namco’s awkward Pac-Man 2 in 1994, to Lifeline, a PS2 game where you had to use a microphone to shout at a stewardess in peril and she would only sometimes understand you.
Fortunately there do not appear to be many issues with STAY, because it’s gobbled up at least a dozen awards from around the world. In addition, there ARE some bits of gameplay where you get to control Quinn, in a sense….they are puzzle-solving screens where you use his hand to drag and drop pieces around.
“It’s an approach that poses some interesting questions for the player,” says Michael Fisher, Product Manager at PQube. “Indeed, it becomes quickly apparent that what Quinn does away from the PC – which is all monitored by CCTV – is as important to the mystery behind STAY as what he says when he’s at his keyboard. The game is also played out in real time, so every moment the player spends away from their console or PC is a moment Quinn is left to his own devices. Will he survive without you?”
If you’re an XBox or PC gamer, you can find out the answer to that question right away — the game is already out for those formats. But if you’re patient, you’ll be able to pick up STAY on Nintendo Switch and PS4 later this summer.