The Staycation

by Maggie H


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Number of Reviews: 6
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
A lot of potential, but missed the mark., May 24, 2023

~~ Updated Review from the 2022 IFComp bc I played the game again ~~

The Staycation is a short game about loneliness, psychosis? and a confusion about which genre/type it is supposed to fall in. The player is set to stay home while their housemate goes on a trip with her boyfriend. It becomes an opportunity to do whatever you want... or is it?

The Staycation marketed itself as a horror slice-of-life, as you are forced to endure a nightmarish ordeal, forcing yourself to question your choices (a.k.a. you hate being left behind and alone). I personally enjoy psychological thrillers/horror, but I was disappointed to find the game didn't really deliver on either the horror or the slice-of-life aspect.

This time around, I also went through the game multiple times, and exhausting all limited options (helping your roommate with her luggage or leave her to deal with it, interacting with her or her boyfriend or ignoring them, enjoying yourself with a book or scrolling down your feed, and the final choice <- that is really it). Yet, it felt like the horror was only superficial and the slice-of-life very minimal. The final choice (making you realise you should have not stayed home) feels very underwhelming, as the hints of some past trauma and self-harm really comes out of nowhere...

As for the slice-of-life bit, the premise talks about days alone, but the story only seems to account for one (the one where your housemate and her bf leaves). Either the player's nightmare happens for days but it is brushed over, or there was a typo somewhere. This honestly added to the underwhelmingness of the piece. A build up of strange occurrences while the player goes about their day (with some more hints of their worries) would have made the story more poignant, in my view.*
*it was mentioned in the Forum during the IFComp, that the submitted Texture games were part of a workshop which lasted three weeks. It would not be surprising that a lack of time went into play for this bit. Still, other Texture entries did succeed to have a stronger story...

Still, there were some glimmers that helped the game. First, the illustrations were a nice touch, especially during the "nightmare" sequence. It really helped the horror aspect. I also enjoyed how calm and comforting the game picture was. Almost reminiscent of those pulpy book covers

Secondly, the use of senses as actions was a great choice, especially for the horror theme! Even the focus on strange smell (with the incense) or the peculiar noise (of your car) added to the uneasiness that the story was supposed to convey.

And finally, the formatting of the choices stood out among the other Texture entries of that edition of the IFComp. The Staycation is the only one using emoji in the action boxes rather than text. Honestly, kinda brilliant.