There have been many point-and-click adventure games that have taken on the horror theme, but Stasis: Bone Totem trounces them all and makes for a genuinely scary experience. If you take Alien’s Giger artwork and motifs and add a dash of Disco Elysium in gameplay, then you get Stasis: Bone Totem. It’s a game that pushes the genre forward, and you’d be hard-pressed to realise this was made by two guys and not a team of fully fledged developers. Dive deeper with us in our Stasis: Bone Totem review.
Mac and Charlie are a husband and wife who work together salvaging scrap from the ocean in a futuristic, sci-fi world. In the opening scenes of the game, the duo come across an oil rig that’s devoid of life, but something awful has clearly taken place there. With the help of their creepy but child-like Super-Toy Moses (a kind of sentient toy bear thing), they delve beneath the waves to find out what’s happened to the oil rig workers.
What is almost immediately striking is Stasis: Bone Totem’s gameplay and camera. Rendered in isometric 2D, it gives you Disco Elysium vibes. This extends to the UI and gameplay systems, where right-clicking brings up Disco-Elysium-style bubbles that indicate what objects in the world you can interact with. This makes exploring fantastic and frustration-free. Want to know where in the level you can interact with the next puzzle? Right-clicking will stop you from bumbling around in the (literal) dark.
So what’s all this talk about Ridley Scott’s Alien, then? Stasis: Bone Totem’s art style can only be described as Giger-esque. Yes, we hear you groan, but in this case, Stasis truly deserves that comparison. Crawling through the wreckage of an oil rig and its underwater laboratories – where scientists were clearly up to no good – is genuinely terrifying. Mangled and mutated corpses litter the levels alongside growths and dark and grimy corridors that could be ripped straight out of the Nostromo. As above so below.
Stasis: Bone Totem is, after all, a point-and-click adventure game, so we really should talk about the game’s puzzles. The game’s Steam page touts its “intricate puzzles” as a hook for players, and surprisingly, they get it just right. The puzzles are no cakewalk, but the developers, The Brotherhood, manage to walk the fine line between brainteaser and moon logic.
For example, one early puzzle involves filling up a fuel canister – fail and you’ll blow yourself into chunks of gore. So you need to pay careful attention to the environmental clues, like graffiti and notes found on computers and devices, to work out just the right mixture to fill the canister with. This is symbolic of how Stasis: Bone Totem’s puzzles hit the sweet spot that keeps you engaged but not frustrated.
Mac, Charlie and Moses are all excellent characters connected by a tragic and enigmatic backstory, too. They chatter back and forth throughout, and rather than bluntly smacking you over the head with what happened before the trio arrived on the oil rig, there are small comments and insinuations that you, the player piece together. Moses, for example, really hates being underwater, but why? And there’s also the unfortunate fact that the whole game is set underwater, too.
An adventure game’s story can fall to the wayside or be told in a manner that doesn’t hit as hard as, say, a cinematic game. But Stasis: Bone Totem nails its narrative, making for an engaging experience that urges you to want to play more and more to find out just what’s going on with its main characters.
As well as being delivered in codec-like communications as you’re playing, Stasis: Bone Totem also has longer cutscenes that provide you with some respite and allow you to get a feel for the world and characters better. These cutscenes are fantastic, and it’s hard to tell that the adventure was made by two individuals. It feels on par with the peak quality seen in the genre, and all cutscenes are well animated and voice acted too – to the point that you would be forgiven for thinking it’s a CGI movie if you walked in the room and saw it on the big screen.
Stasis: Bone Totem is an amazing game. It has an interesting story, modern controls and gameplay that ease frustrations, and beautiful graphics and cutscenes. Often, point-and-clicks can feel disconnected as you click and wait for your character to walk around, but Stasis: Bone Totem manages to pull you in with its eery world-building, and you’ll find yourself genuinely empathising with Mac, Charlie, and Moses. Sure, the puzzles can be a little hard at times, but that’s the only criticism that can be levelled at this otherwise spotless game.
Our Stasis: Bone Totem review was made possible by a complimentary code given to Voxel Smash by the developers for objective critique.
Stasis: Bone Totem: Stasis: Bone Totem is a top-notch adventure game that fans of Disco Elysium and Alien will find hits the right spot. It has a fantastic and engaging world, great puzzles, and you'll find yourself wanting to know more and more as you play. You can't go wrong picking this one up. – Damiano Gerli