*UPDATE* (08/17/09): My bad, there are sound effects for the various blocks, I just didn't hear them without earphones, I've modified the review a bit accordingly.
iPhone Game Review: Stay
Here is the abstract balancing game that asks you to "please, please stay, just a little bit longer"! How long can you keep your little red geometric buddy on the teeter-totter?
Your geometric buddy is, sadly, in a coma or something. He just sits lifelessly on the teeter-totter precariously floating over a bottomless bit. Your only power to forestall his inevitable slide into the abyss is to strategically spawn crates on the teeter-totter to keep things as steady as possible. Things are always in flux and if you ever get the big idea to simply STOP dropping crates on the teeter-totter for more than 10 seconds "they" will drop one on the teeter-totter for you (and likely not in a useful manner). The game appears to be played in some bizarre low gravity world and these crates, thankfully, appear to be made of some sort of rubbery foam so no need to worry about dropping them right on your pal?s head. Oh, did I mention already that these are weird magical crates? While there are a few fairly ordinary crates (as ordinary as crates can get in this freaky world) but then there are crates that shrink all adjacent crates they land next to and others that blow up after a few seconds!
This game doesn?t have levels?it has phases. If you can hold out long enough you slip into another phase of the game with wackier blocks and other gameplay tweaks like needing to keep things balanced with multiple geometric buddies and having to deal with extra boxes out of your direct control dropping onto your teeter-totter. Only the most extreme Stay Masters will be able to hold out all the way to the game?s ultimate 5th phase. The game has three difficulty levels (the difficulty affects the sensitivity of the teeter-totter, how quickly the game slips into the harder phases, and even the stability of your buddy as it is a lot easier to keep a triangle from sliding off than a circle from rolling off the end). The game also offers an alternative game mode called Survival. In Survival Mode you no longer have a buddy to preserve and it is just about keeping the play area level as possible. If the teeter-totter tips too far one way or another you take damage and once you take too much damage the game ends.
The graphics in the game are a very stylistic minimalist 2D. It is one of those tough things to gauge as it is very clear the graphics are meant to have a semi-washed out simplistic look so while I can?t give it big kudos for amazing graphics, I can?t really dock it points if this is the intended style.
The sounds are incredibly basic. There is a fun jazzy piano soundtrack in the background with an ever so slight plink as each new box is added to the scene.
Pros: -Easy pick up and play mechanics. -Top five times for each of the game?s four modes are tracked locally. -Very original and stylistic presentation. -Even with such simple mechanics each game can play out so differently.
Cons: -Gameplay can be seen as a little brutal and quick since very few have even seen the game?s final two phases (at the same time this is what I like about it, just right for a quick edge of your seat gameplay session). -Very subtle sound effects (without earphones they can easily blend in with the music). -No online scoring yet (although it sounds like it will be added in the first update).
While I?m not sure what I was expecting and am not normally a fan of purely time based scoring, I was hooked hard by this game! I love how the concept of a teeter-totter with freaky changing boxes (shrinking, expanding, magnetic, explosive, etc.) makes for such an incredibly dynamic gameplay that never plays out the same way twice. My only request at this point might be the developers to consider making the unique box sound effects a little less subtle. They're in there and pretty clever but blend in so seamlessly with the music that without earphones I couldn't catch some of them as they sound sort of musical themselves.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: -3.5- Stylistic soft pastel 2D. Sound: -3.5- The game has a good soundtrack and clever although maybe too subtle sound effects. Controls: -5- Touch anywhere on the screen and a box appears (you can even spawn new ones right in between existing boxes). Gameplay: -5- The game hooked me hard. Incredible easy pickup and play mechanics in an incredibly engaging and original puzzler.
Playing Hints and Tips:
-You are not bound to the teeter-totter! While the game ends if you go off screen to far left or right, floating up, even off the top screen, is perfectly fine as long as you end up back on screen.
-Crate jumping can save your life. Since you can spawn the crates anywhere, a fun way to bump your buddy back into a more secure central spot is to spawn a crate just a fraction off center on your buddy so as to bump him back in a desired direction.