Space is cold, cruel, and depressing.
Horror games that take place in a sci-fi setting seem to be few and far between these days. Point and click games are now having a resurgence over the last 5 years. Stasis aims to take both genres and throw them together for a memorable horror experience that isn’t often found in today’s market. One that is as overbearingly dark in sci-fi tone and setting. In space, people can definitely hear you scream, and Stasis gives players plenty of reasons to cringe.
Players take on the role of John Maracheck, who awakens on board a seemingly abandoned ship called Groomlake. He is badly hurt, not sure where he is, and soon remembers via flashback that he was traveling somewhere in Stasis with his wife and child who are now missing. What becomes of them? Why is he here? Those answers and more will be revealed throughout an experience that seems to mix movies such as Event Horizon and Alien, with a point and click interface much like Sanitarium years prior.
Price I’d Pay: $24.99
How long to beat: 8+ hours
Gameplay is much in the vein of classic point and click adventure games, but from an isometric perspective. John will be searching the environments for clues and progressive ways forward on the Groomlake, searching for his missing family and trying to survive what’s in the dark. While some games in the genre do without death, Stasis is not so fortunate. John can die in various and painful ways, as I discovered shortly into the experience. I was using a clue I had read earlier about a storage system and how it needed to be drained to reset the system, I had obtained a drill from an earlier puzzle and was using it to drill said hole.
Sadly, I had missed a dial somewhere in a prior screen, and after drilling was immediately squirted with hot steam, as John was burned alive screaming in agony, OUCH. Stasis has no fears of killing John in the process of its narrative, so be sure to use those save states. Puzzles can be fairly logical at times but also obtuse or hard to see. Some things light up with interaction points of interest, while others don’t and can lead to confusion or scouring the environment for that one point of value.
That’s not to say that all the environments are hard to see what’s in them, but the overall tone of Stasis is dark, broken down, and sci-fi in nature. So to expect bright areas of interest or sometimes easier to see environmental clues, isn’t always so easy. That said the backgrounds are full of detail. The spark of electricity on a broken panel, blood smeared into a doorway leading to another room. The attention to details is nice and goes a long way to increasing that further feeling of dark dread. The environment just evokes a sense of evil or darkness throughout. Character models look detailed enough, but the animations in general can come off a bit wonky in comparison to the quality of everything else.
Sound goes a long way to increase the effectiveness of the setting on Stasis, and combined with the visuals add up to create a very memorable game. While some may find the various sci-fi and horror tropes here, there is something very different about the whole game together with its voice actors, soundtrack, and visual style that just feel off, and in a good way. It may only be a point and click adventure game, but it’s filled to the brim with atmosphere so well done, that the game simply feels depressing to play, and I say that in a good way. I’m not happy playing Stasis and the fact a game in this genre can invoke that feeling says something about it. Not all games are meant to be played as some escapism to brighter ideas or happy moments. Stasis leaves me feeling cold in all the right ways.
There are some minor issues such as path finding that has John walking completely one way when his closest objective is right in front of him, along with the odd animations that at times seem off compared to the quality of the rest of the game. Obscure pixel hunting for that one item players missed or an interaction overlooked can also be a hindrance or time sink. Some adventure games still don’t have this element locked down. Yet it’s still an experience worth playing and talking about. Stasis was developed by two brothers called The Brotherhood, and with a relatively small team. Knowing that, I can only say I walked away from Stasis super impressed.
It’s moody, dark, creative, and an adventure game that just left me feeling dreadful. It’s not the most original sci-fi horror experience, but it’s one that absolutely nails what the setting is about, and that’s most important. If you had told me a few years ago that two of the best sci-fi horror games ever created would be from smaller indie development teams, I’d raise an eyebrow. Now, I can safely sit Stasis right next to SOMA as two completely different sci-fi horror experiences that bring their respective genres forward, and a new standard in sci-fi horror gaming.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.