Indie efforts generally labor towards the riskier side of things when it comes to developing games. Applying niche genres to their games isn’t too far from said practice and BRUCE Film studios aimed pretty high when they sought to make the FMV (Full-Motion Video) genre relevant again with their latest PC release Stay Dead. Although reliving an era that brought us classics like Double Switch and Wing Commander seems debatable, Stay Dead enforces all the genre’s shortcomings and somehow finds a way add even more flaws.
Just to indulge on what a Full Motion Video game is exactly, you’re essentially watching video of the game itself, and the interaction comes from certain scene of the footage where it telegraphs what button must be pushed next in order to progress. Failing to push the correct button or taking too long is consequential to your advancement. FMV games are, in a sense, glorified quick time events and nothing more, but it’s the personality and charisma of its premise that sells the experience. Stay Dead does not sell an experience, and the fact that it tries to do so with such fervor propels this spiraling plane crash of a game even harder.
Stay Dead starts out pretty straightforward. You’re given the opportunity to combat your first opponent, using the functions "A," "Z," "←," "↑," "→," and "↓" on your keyboard to tap in succession or held tempos. The first fight alone exhibits most of the game’s flaws. Your nameless protagonist proceeds to challenge what appears to be a homeless judo-practicing vagrant. Between the halfhearted fight choreography and complete absence of exposition, gameplay only makes things worse with commands that have no real rhythm that’s congruent with the footage on screen.
The objective is to successfully drain your opponent's hit points with strikes, combos, or defensive counters. Each action drains one of your energy points in addition to whatever you can take away from your foe, and that’s it -- that's as detailed as I can get towards the core mechanic. As you fight the ridiculous rogues gallery (we’re talking "Nazi commander with stick," and "junkyard owner who tries hugging you into submission"), the difficulty ramps up to near impossible speeds and inane combinations with every next match.
The biggest flaw from this dynamic is there’s no way to change it -- everything only gets harder as you struggle against your will to squeeze any inch you have toward progressing to the next opponent you have to fight. Otherwise, you go right back to square one and this gets old fast. The difficulty will eventually drop only after you’ve lost a match too many times to justify the effort that was expensed.
There’s not much else to Stay Dead. It’s pretty downhill from the moment you hit the "play" button at the titles screen. Some arbitrary achievements and B-movie inspired showmanship is the deepest complexity the game has to offer, and it's almost completely unplayable after scratching at its thin surface. At $10 to own, or trial run in its flash version, you’re better off feeding any curiosity regarding this waste of media on YouTube.
Zero.Five out of Five Hadokens