Stasis Review

 

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In stasis no one can hear you scream. Stasis is an adventure game from South African developer The Brotherhood. Built over five years by a small team led by Chris Bischoff, Stasis is clearly a labour of love.

You play as John Maracheck, a teacher on his way to make a new life on Titan with his family. Woken from suspended animation you find yourself in an unfamiliar ghost ship deep in space and separated from your wife and daughter. As you begin to piece together where you are and what has happened, you discover you are on a ship called The Groomlake, a medical vessel owned and run by the Cayne Corporation. But something has gone terribly wrong. No one is to be seen, and blood smears the walls and floors. After recovering from your rude awakening from stasis you are contacted by Te’ah, a member of the Groomlake’s crew.  She proceeds to guide you through the horrors that await in the depths of the ship and hopefully, back to your wife and daughter.

Like the games and films that obviously influence it, Stasis oozes atmosphere; steam leaks from severed pipes, walkways creak and corridors echo with the distant screams of what remains of the crew. Each screen is rendered in 2D, mostly static but with small animations and movement dotted around. Animation is used to great effect in Stasis, bringing to life the hulking industrial design of the ship, it also breathes life into some of the horrors you encounter along the way.

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The bulk of the story is voice acted, but the story is fleshed out by reading diary entries and emails on PDAs that are scattered around the ship, usually found at the feet of the recently deceased crew. Each section of the ship will have its own smaller story, gradually revealing the chain of events that lead to your awakening.  It involves a fair amount of reading, but helps to reveal more about the world you are in as well as offer clues to the larger picture.

Stasis is very much a traditional point and click adventure game, you have a small inventory where you collect and combine various items along the way. Puzzles are your main obstacles to progress and the puzzles in Stasis offer enough challenge to feel like you’re being smart when you solve them but not so difficult that you feel like pushing your eyeballs into the back of your head. I confess I did get stuck on a few puzzles but the game’s logic is sound enough that if you give it some time the solution usually presents itself.

Stasis wears its influences on its sleeve, references from some of the greatest horror and sci-fi films of the past are scattered throughout the game.  One in particular that stuck out for me is the name of the protagonist. It is wonderfully geeky, and I noticed it immediately and I highly approve. In other hands these references could have felt cheap and derivative but in Stasis they feel like a celebration of all that is and was great about the sci-fi horror genre, even if a line of dialogue happens to be borrowed from a great sci-fi film, it just brings happy associations.

Stasis hits all the right notes, particularly if you’re a fan of the horror sci-fi genre, even if you’re not, it’s a sublime example of the point and click adventure game, a genre that is deserving of more attention. Stasis follows a particular brand of horror from the likes of Dead Space, Aliens and Event Horizon so if that’s your thing this will no doubt appeal to you. If you’re yet to try a point and click adventure then Stasis is a great point to start.

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If I had to make any complaints about this game it’d have to be some of the voice acting. On the whole the acting is of a really high quality, the actor playing John does a fantastic job of portraying his horror of the sights of the Groomlake. However with this kind of genre, if you don’t sound convincing, it can occasionally take you out of the fiction of the game. Another quibble is Stasis is rendered in 720p without any options to scale to different resolutions and that’s a real shame. This game looks beautiful in 720p, it would look eyepopping in 1080p and above.

These are just minor nitpicks however, Stasis is a resounding success, it’s dark, gritty sci-fi at its best, it’s a meaty game with a great story that pulls the game along at a great pace. What makes this game remarkable is that it was drawn, programmed and written by essentially one guy. It should stand as a shining example of what lone developers and small teams can achieve with the range game making tools at their disposal. Auteurism is something bigger videogames sorely lack and now that game designers are going back to bedroom coding, the cradle of life where games originally came from, a game like Stasis should be highly regarded as a singular vision, no DLC, no micro transactions or pre-purchase incentives, just a simple game in its purest form.

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