Games Gazette Logo

Publisher: Digital Tribe Games
Developer: GreyLight Entertainment
Genres: Action Adventure Indie
Released: September 28, 2015
Modes: Single player

Minimum Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7
  • Processor: Inter Core2 Duo, AMD Athlon64 x2 or better
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NvidiaGeforce 9600GT, ATI Radeon 4670HD or equivalent
  • DirectX: Version 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 4 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX compatible sound card

STAIRS from Digital Tribe and Greylight Entertainment uses UNREAL TECHNOLOGY to ensure that everything, including your character, runs smoothly.

This is a 1st-person psychological game where the player takes on the role of a journalist named Christopher Adams. The journalist is investigating the disappearance of three people and the game begins with a series of stark, eerie photographs being flashed on the screen just before the action starts. Actually the word "action" is a bit of a misnomer, for after travelling through a fairly average forest and following a woodland path, you come to the broken down NEDAKRA factory. Apparently STAIRS is inspired by the real-life stories of high school graduate Valerie Berkley, young businessman James Reed and Jean Jowars Remens, a charismatic pastor. What happened to them? What do these events have to do with each other? 

Using WASD for movement, [Ctrl] for Crouching, [Shift] for Running and "J" for Journal (you cannot Jump) you try to find a way into the factory. This is the first puzzle of the game. The main doors are closed and locked and the windows are locked, meshed and apparently unbreakable. Round to the left side of the factory you find what looks like a disused railway platform, most probably the way the factory would receive its wares. There is a short section of rail track beside the station, but due to the laws of adventure games you cannot walk across it because the invisible barrier of "the game designer" doesn't want you to go there.

This is an atmospheric, puzzle-solving game of horror and mystery. However much of the mystery is discovering what is going on, for this is one of those games where you spend hours going up and down stairs, through what looks like warehouse hangars, smashed-up offices, bathrooms and all sorts of rooms that have been ransacked and stripped of almost anything of use.

STAIRS is a supposed horror story, and I assume that later into the game I will discover the "horror", but at the moment, after several hours of play, all I have managed to do is find a safe that I cannot discover the code for, I have also tried to open boxes, open draws and search in all manner of places that look of interest; unfortunately this is also one of those games where points of interest to the gamer's inquisitive mind are not points of interest within the game. There is a lot to look at but very little to interact with.

It is graphically beautiful and totally realistic as far as being in a ransacked, well searched old out-building goes. Is there any truth to the rumours/stories of the three girls, and if so will you be able to discover it and go on to solve the mysteries?

So why is it called "STAIRS" ?

Most probably it's because within the bowels of the ruined factory is a magical staircase that no matter how many times you go down or up it you always end up on exactly the same floor with the same doors to go through and the rooms to search. Of course there is a key to beating the illusion and going further but that's part and parcel of enjoying the game, this is after all a review not a walk-through. 

During your meanderings you can Right click the mouse and bring up the camera view, thus allowing you to take photographs by Left clicking while in camera mode. In your Journal your character will independently write down his musings and clues but although there is a section for photo's in the journal the pictures you take don't seem to end up in it, though there are already some photographs for you to peruse and use to make determined deductions.

On some of the walls, generally at the ends of quite long straight corridors, you will see a figure silhouetted on the wall. You can take photographs of these "shadows" and when you get close up you can look at them (on your screen) but your character doesn't take any particular notice of them. Then you will see one of the shadows move and then come to life and run away. When you reach the place he disppeared to you find a locked door, this is puzzling but not particularly horrific.

STAIRS is a hard game to like or dislike, and thus it is also difficult to recommend or to call; it really is all a matter of taste. I know that sounds a bit like sitting on the fence and not making a decision, but I find that on one hand I am getting fed up going round and round in circles not knowing what to do and thinking that if I look for a walkthrough online the piece I am missing is going to be something downright stupid as many/most adventure game clues are; and on the other hand I find it intriguing, annoying and frustyrating and I don't want it to better me; and so I continue to go round and round looking for the trigger to put me back on track.

Do you want an all-action shoot-em-up? If yes, don't play STAIRS. If you want a brain-wracking, clue hunting, virtually real time investigation where only a few clues sparkle when you are close by, then this is a game you may well savour. Once you involve yourself in the game the hours will melt away leaving no trace of their passing; except perhaps the cold cup of coffee and the half-eaten breakfast roll on your desk; this is most certainly a time eater of a game. At first it is quite like a typical Sherlock Holmes adventure story but later on it takes on Lovecraftian and maybe even Poe-like qualities. It is dark and worrysome and you are always waiting for someone or something to pop out unexpectedly from somewhere you would never think to look (or be able to look). Just like real life, there are long periods of uneventful inactivity and then just as you are tiring you discover a new doorway, tunnel or passageway and once more the game is afoot.....

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015