Horror is a genre that’s seen an expansive growth over the last couple of years, and it’s a train ride, which developer The Brotherhood is trying to board with Stasis; a game unlike any other Horror game that has been released in the last couple of years. Stasis is a Point-and-Click Horror adventure title played from an isometric perspective, something that immediately reminds me of Sanitarium from back in 1998. While Sanitarium was a world created out of insanity, Stasis is a game set in a classic sci-fi Horror setting that is heavily inspired by the Alien film franchise. Seeing how it has been over a decade since we got something that touches upon the legacy left by Sanitarium, it is with a bit of both excitement and fear that I approached Stasis, since it’s perfectly possible for it to either be a classic or a title that would quickly fade away from my memory. Gladly, it is much more of the former.
You play the game as John Marachek, a married teacher and father who’s supposed to go on a family vacation through space, but in good old Horror fashion, something goes terribly wrong. Waking up in a stasis chamber, you quickly find yourself all alone in a huge spaceship, trying to find out why you are here, what exactly happened and where your family is. The overall story is very cliché and predictable, even to the point where you often find yourself somewhat knowing what will happen next, but while it may seem bad at first glance with a cliché Horror sci-fi story, it actually fits the game perfectly, mostly because this is a game you play for the atmosphere, not for the story itself. Most of the story is told via interactions with other survivors on the ship or through PDAs you find all over the ship. While you still get the core story without most of the PDAs, they help with building the creepy atmosphere aboard the ship.
As I have already mentioned, and it really deserves to be told a lot, the atmosphere is what makes this game so great. It is not just the sound, the environment and the lightning, but how well they all work together to create this atmosphere; how every step aboard the ship makes you feel uneasy, how every move you make is somewhat uncomfortable, how the predictable story more easily makes you focus your attention on the details the environments have to offer. It really surprised me how well the isometric view works with a Horror setting and the constant feeling of unease. Even if Stasis isn’t a great-looking game graphically, with textures varying in their quality, it is still a remarkable job by a small studio, and the game screams high production values when you stumble through the ship, making the lack of resolution option and badly animated sequences disappear from your mind.
The Brotherhood also did an excellent job with the soundtrack and sound effects, especially the latter. While the music is a great mood setter and works well with the sci-fi environments, what really stands out with the sound design are all the small sound effects and how well placed they are in the ship. I often find that Horror games can have good sound effects but used in the wrong way too often or in the wrong location; this is not a trap that Stasis falls into. Hearing a child’s creepy chanting always freaks me out in all games, especially in Stasis, or scratches, screams and other noise haunting the ship. Even John’s heavy breathing after witnessing something awful helps create one of this year’s best atmosphere in a game. Even if Stasis has no voiced monologues in the game, it comes with fully voiced dialogue, which is the first and only reminder that this is a game made by a small team on a low budget since it is far from good, even if it is not really bad. I would rather have seen this game without any voice acting at all, heavily focusing on reading the great dialogue hidden behind the not-so-good voice actors.
Stasis is, at its core, a Point-and-Click Adventure in every way when it comes to how the game plays and what you need to do to navigate the ship. Stasis is all about finding items, combining them with each other and finding out where to use them, something every player of a Point-and-Click game is well versed with. This is the part of Stasis that had me the most worried since these types of games stand or fall with the puzzle design. But even here, Stasis manages to keep itself above surface, providing some illogical and complex puzzles that do not fit the flow of the game, or any game for that matter. The rest of the puzzles are logical, complex in a satisfying way and never really forces you to backtrack that much, even if you often are guided on a longer path than necessary to find an item.
Stasis is by far one of the most atmospheric games this year; the environments are beautifully crafted showing its homage to Alien everywhere. The sound effects and placing of sounds are really top-notch, better than most AAA games with a thriller\horror theme. Stasis is a great Point-and-Click horror Adventure, one that really lives up to its name in every possible way. It is a game that I really did not want to stop playing, but had to since the horror atmosphere demanded my brain to take a break. If your drug is Horror games or Point-and-Click Adventures, or just looking for that game that surely will stay with you even after the end, Stasis is worth every cent of your money.