Stay?

by E. Jade Lomax

Fantasy
2020

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Number of Ratings: 7
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1-7 of 7


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A wonderful game that has it all, lots of choices, a good story and puzzles too!, October 2, 2021
by RadioactiveCrow (Irving, TX)
Related reviews: 2-4 hours

This is a truly wonderful game. I don't give out five star ratings often and when I do it means that I'll be voting for it in the next IF Top 50 list that Victor Gijsbers complies every four years. That's how much I like it.

The game is set in a fairly standard fantasy-style world. It begins with you as a student at university on the day you have to pick your "major": Magic, History or Combat. Then the rest of the game spans the next 13 years of your life as you graduate, start your career, try to find love (as the author states, the game is part dating sim) and deal with whatever else life might throw your way.

I don't want to give anything else away without warning, but I have to discuss the plot and mechanics in more detail. Relatively minor spoilers to follow, I don't think your enjoyment of the game will be lessened by reading them before playing, but maybe go play the game for 15 minutes first and then come back and finish the review. ;-)
(Spoiler - click to show)
At the end of the 13 years on your first playthrough (there will be many), one of your old classmates, Jo, shows up to tell you that the world is ending. A magical comet will impact your world later that day just outside your city, destroying everything. Jo uses a relic, a magical stone/gem, to stop the comet, but they aren't satisfied. Other bad things happened over the past 13 years that they couldn't stop, and they think you can do better. So they use another relic to send you back in time to the beginning of the game, but with the knowledge of what is to come you have to find a way to save some, or all, of the world. From there you get to live your life again, and again, making different choices, learning what you can until you are able to stop the comet too. If you do then you've reached the end, but still the time-bending relic appears and you are given one more choice: be satisfied with what you've accomplish and stay in that timeline, or put your hand on the relic and start over again. Maybe next time instead of just averting disaster you can make a better life for others too. Maybe even find someone to spend the rest of your life with, after the comet is destroyed, that part of your life you haven't lived dozens of times over. Thus begins the real game.

I imagine that time-loop/"Groundhog Day"-esque games can get very cliched. And certainly this game doesn't really deviate from the usual tropes. What makes it great are two things: the emotion/heart of it (to be discussed more after I end the spoiler section) and the way that the author worked the puzzles into the game. Each playthrough you aren't just making life choices, you are trying to find new ways to discover knowledge, to learn the secrets you need to know to save the world. Discovering something on one playthrough will open up new options to you on the next. I'm not sure, but it seems that on some playthroughs, randomly or through some mechanism I didn't figure out, there are certain options available to you that aren't on other playthroughs. When those popped up the temptation for me to explore a never before taken path was too great and led to some really sweet moments. All in all, puzzling through how to construct my ideal timeline was fabulous and there were plenty of "Aha!" moments, more common to parser puzzlers, that gave me great enjoyment upon their discovery.

This game was marvelously implemented, the text always adapting to both what had happened recently and many cycles ago. I'd love to see how it was coded. It took me 21 lifetimes to figure out how to destroy the comet and an additional 8 on top of that to reach an ending where I was happy to stay.

What really makes this game great though is the heart of it and the emotions that it evokes. Usually, a game described as a "dating sim" would not be up my alley, but in this game it feels less like a gimmick to scratch a romantic itch and more just the tale of true human connection. And beyond romance, their are plenty of options for just making a friend, or helping strangers. Chances for selfishness and self-sacrifice. Triumph and sorrow at what your friends accomplish, and in how they choose to live and die. Every character has depth if you want to know it, and as you do you feel a real connection to this world.

As far as I can tell this game was just published unceremoniously to itch.io, not entered in any comps. This day in age it feels like any game that I play that wasn't entered in a comp is at least 10 (if not 40!) years old. I think this game would have had a great chance at winning any comp it had been entered in and it wouldn't surprise me to see it on the next Top 50 list!


- Ann Hugo (Canada), June 15, 2021

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Fantastic time loop fantasy dating sim in Ink, June 15, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

I generally enjoyed the first time I played through this game. It seemed like a twine game with a visual novel-type structure, with a few major choices (mostly what to study and who to romance), a lot of time skipping, and, for some reason, a lot of 'keep doing this or stop now' options. I thought it was okay.

But then it looped for the first time, and I was hooked. This is a game about living many, many lives. The author has a great trick for nudging the player forward while making them think it was their cleverness that got them that far all along.

I played through 7 or more times until I got an ending I really liked, but there's a lot more out there to discover. This is a game offering what feels like real agency (even if a lot of it is smoke and mirrors, where the game puts you into the 'best' options after time) and memorable characters.

I saw this game on several 'best of' lists, both on here and on itch.io, and it definitely lives up to it.


- meadowmower, June 13, 2021

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Save the world, or try again, March 9, 2021

Stay? is a game with a time loop as its core mechanic. You'll go back in time over and over in order to save the magical world of the game from a comet that will destroy everything. Each loop took no more than 10-15 minutes, shorter on repeats since you don't have to re-read text, but there might be a lot of loops.

Within each loop, the world can change a great deal. Your choices affect the entire shape of the plot, which runs for a period of 10 years, from entering magical college, through adulthood, until the destruction wrought by the comet. It's kind of a life simulation, where you play through key moments in the player character's life, and skip over years of "boring" stuff. There is a lot of branching; you can win, lose, or avert a war, enter into any number of relationships, pick one of at least three different professions, and either fail or succeed in stopping the comet. By exploring the different branches, you gather information, and eventually can craft a path that allows you to stop the comet's impact. But even if you succeed, you might still redo the time loop because you failed to save a key character.

I really enjoyed this game. I liked the balance between a lighthearted and more serious tone. I enjoyed the relative sparsity of the prose, which belies a lot of complexity and worldbuilding. I liked the depth of characterization; all of them have hidden aspects and secrets that might only become apparent on multiple playthroughs. There is a lot of depth to this game in general.

It took me almost 15 loops to finally defeat the comet, but there is still a lot of content I missed.


- Zape, March 7, 2021

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
An Epic Adventure, March 7, 2021

We played this game at the SF Bay Area IF Meetup, and we had a delightful time with it. It's *very* deep and *very* long, at least tens of thousands of words and a couple of hours of playthrough.

Time loops are a fantastic structure for puzzles, and the romanceable NPCs help keep the game from getting too repetitive.



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