Never did I think that an isometric point and click game would make me genuinely scared but Stasis has done just that, multiple times. What’s even more embarrassing for me is the fact that the jump scares that pop up every so often aren’t the worst (in terms of scariness) parts, walking down an empty corridor where nothing happens can be the freakiest moment purely because of the incredible atmosphere that is built up throughout the story.
Set on a lost spaceship you awaken from stasis (basically what happened to Fry in Futurama) to find that the ship is deserted and your family that you were travelling with are nowhere to be found. After eventually realising just what has happened (don’t worry no spoilers here) you try and find your family and make your way off the ship. The story is what really brings all the parts together. The atmosphere wouldn’t be the same if the story wasn’t on point and genuinely interesting, while the puzzles and masterful environments would be fairly pointless if there wasn’t a good reason for exploring them.
One of the many gruesome environments
However, it quickly becomes apparent that there is a wealth of other living creatures on the ship, some of which turn out to be friendly and others not so much. You can never be quite sure what is around you, very little is actually shown on screen in terms of other living things, with noises and small visual hints keeping the feeling that there is always something around the corner.
The story itself is actually quite entertaining. While it feels like it’s progressing fairly quickly the reality is that you are constantly being drip fed tiny pieces of information, which keeps the story moving just enough to keep you intrigued. The majority of it is actually found in written form on PDA’s scattered across the ship, however the key points are always presented as voice communications with you and a few other characters. Unfortunately some of the voice acting isn’t great and at times the longer messages can become tedious to listen to as a result.
It also feels like some of the dialogue is unnecessary. Being a point and click game you are able to pick up items and combine certain items together, but if you try and combine two items that don’t go together John (your playable character) will launch into a voice line that tells you that combination won’t work. Annoyingly it can take up to 10 seconds of your time, if not more, and you can’t try a different combination during this time. It’s a small gripe, but one that becomes frustrating quickly.
Fortunately there are very few puzzles that become frustrating. Bar one around the halfway point there were none that truly had me stumped for more than 20 or so minutes. The puzzles are traditional adventure game fair, mostly requiring a certain item to be found and used in a specific way or at a specific place to advance to the next area. Most of the time all the solutions are fairly obvious once you have all the required parts, which considering the tension and story are really the main reason to play is certainly a good thing in my book.
I was surprised to learn that it is also possible to die in a multitude of ways, something that is often missing in point and click games. Being able to die adds another way of keeping you on edge and really does make you think about all the possibilities. There was one occasion where, despite being told moments before that methane is flammable, I managed to kill myself in a massive explosion thanks to striking up a lighter right next to a massive tank of the stuff. Death never really sets you back too far, usually to the last area that you entered so you never lose too much work, however there are a few situations where you will have to sit through the same conversations after death which becomes tiresome if you don’t learn from your mistakes.
PDA entries help to enhance the back story of the ship and what happened
Despite being set on a spaceship the isometric environments that you explore are simply incredible. Visually they are stunning, while some of the character animations and movement may look slightly poor every single one of the areas you explore are beautifully presented. Areas differentiate massively and even standard corridors that just take you to where you need to go look unique. There is quite a bit of travelling back to areas you already explored (especially if you are bad at adventure games like me) but I found myself not minding the constant backtracking, as I would almost always notice another incredible artistic detail.
Sound is also a key factor in the experience, and the soundtrack brilliantly keeps the tension high. At the start it builds up towards key moments and then as things progress it starts to fake you out by building up to nothing, almost making you expect something to happen when all you are really doing is walking to another location. The sound effects that pop up as you explore the environments also do a great job of making you feel uncomfortable, never really allowing you to feel safe even though the chances are there is nothing to worry about.
One of the easier puzzles to solve, providing you have the right tools
Due to some genuinely shocking events that pan out later in the story (hence my vagueness) much of the ship is littered in dead bodies and human remains and as a result some of the areas are genuinely gruesome. Walls being covered in human tissue, and corpses are a regular sight that not only add to the tense atmosphere but also are sure to disgust some people. There is also a scene where a surgical operation is performed that will make some people feel physically sick due to the visuals. Personally, I see this as a massive positive and not a negative as a game that can bring out these emotions and feelings deserves to be praised, even if it wasn’t exactly pleasant to experience.
Travelling around the environments in Stasis is perhaps the most terrified I have ever been in a game, to the point where after playing the first few hours in the dark I decided that I would only play during the day to make things a bit easier on me. The incredibly well designed and often gruesome environments combined with the masterful environmental sound effects and the mystery of never really knowing what is going on makes the experience incredibly tense and for a wimp like me genuinely scary at many points.
The atmosphere created throughout the entirety of Stasis makes this one of the most constantly unsettling experiences I have ever played. As an experience this is incredible, but as a point and click game it doesn’t quite hit the same heights. There are some issues but overall this is a unique experience that deserves to be played.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Almost throwing up during a gruesomely realistic surgery scene.