Capsule Review: Stay?

An interactive fiction game about learning enough to save the world and building a life you're happy with.

The world is ending, and you can stop it – if you can figure out how.

Stay? is an ink game in which you make choices at key moments to manage your relationships and gain new insights, with those relationships and pieces of knowledge opening up new choices as you play. It’s fundamentally an exploratory experience, dropping you into the role of a student at a magical university in an evocative world with deeply interconnected events and characters who are both believable and likable, and tasking you with learning more and making things better.

While there are some clear goals and you can stop once you achieve the most obvious ones, you can decide how much further to push things to build a perfect life. There are a lot of surprises and most questions have interesting answers if you dig deep enough (possibly all questions - I was left with some still open but I may simply have not looked in the right places). While there can be some frustration from actions you’d like to take but can’t, most reasonable bases are covered and the result is a satisfying world to explore with satisfying mysteries to solve.

The game is also structured in a forgiving way that encourages exploration and frees you from worrying about making incorrect choices. Unfortunately, it has a game-breaking bug that causes it to sometimes simply stop giving you choices - the remedy for this seems to be to save frequently so that if it happens you can refresh the page and reload your latest save. (Updated January 8, 2021: There is apparently now a fix for this issue.) Because of this, there were a few other odd bits for which I’m unsure whether they were caused by bugs - my character gained some essential pieces of information in ways that were unclear to me, and at least one interesting option seemed to disappear without explanation. Also, a few very important ideas come not from the player character but a side character and only under very specific and non-obvious circumstances. But these issues are minor and the solution is just to keep exploring widely which the game consistently rewards anyway.

Stay? is a game about looking past the surface, about understanding the people around you and the the interconnected reasons why things happen. It’s about broadening your limited perspective to make use of the knowledge and wisdom you can only get from exploring and learning from others. It’s about learning enough to make things better.

I Stopped Playing When: My first two attempts to play were stopped by the no-more-choices bug, but I really wanted to solve the game’s mysteries and save its characters. My third playthrough did not run into that bug and I played until I got an ending I was happy with.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

You can get it or learn more here.