A direct result of looking out for the next big real-time or turn-based strategy is forgetting about the point-and-click genre. They are perfect for players who love to enjoy a story while figuring out solutions to various puzzles. In fact, alongside strategies, the point-and-click genre made me love PC gaming. Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, and Day of the Tentacle are three favorites. So why does the genre keep slipping off my radar? I think it is because I have found it difficult to find a story or a theme that has grabbed my attention, but no longer is that the case.
Down in the deep black, green, and grey sea
Introducing Stasis: Bone Totem, a sci-fi horror isometric point-and-click adventure set somewhere in the middle of a vast ocean. It has been developed and published by THE BROTHERHOOD who, since releasing “Stasis” in 2015, have released several isometric point-and-clicks in various themes. So, it’s safe to say that this two-man developer team has done this kind of thing before. And it shows.
In Stasis: Bone Totem, you play as a husband-and-wife duo, Mac and Charlie, and later on, a robot teddy bear called Moses (no joke). The team have come across an abandoned oil rig which is hiding a lot of secrets underneath its structure. I don’t want to give out too much information, because you’ll soon find out that things aren’t what you expect them to be. The deeper you go (literally), the more horrific it gets.
Movement is made, as you’d expect, by clicking on areas around the level. Right-clicking will show you items you can interact with highlighted in blue, and items which are just there for descriptive purposes highlighted in green. The items you interact with will often be items where you must complete puzzles based on the information you have found elsewhere on the map.
The characters each have their own abilities – Mac can break items apart (being the macho man that he is), while Charlie can combine and fix items. Items are conveniently transferred between characters using what appear to be small transportation devices that they carry around with them called Quantum Storage Devices, or QSDs.
Presentation and UI
One of the things I’m most impressed with about Stasis: Bone Totem is its presentation. The cutscenes look fantastic (though the mouth animations are a little awkward), and the UI works well. There are also some accessibility options if you need a little more assistance. The game is graphically pleasing to look at, but you may find the darkness on some levels a little difficult to navigate. Though the occasion is rare, I found myself just turning up the brightness a little to see if I could go around a corner, or fit through a gap.
The developers have done extremely well in setting the tone and the theme of the game, and an even better job with evolving the story as you progress. The sound is perfect throughout, from the unsettling music to the gruesome squelching of opening bodies.
Got the hint?
When you get stuck on a puzzle, you’ll be granted a hint. But be sure to take a good mental note of it – further into the game, the log of conversations gets so long, you’ll end up having to shift through a hell of a lot of conversations to get to the hint you’re looking for. The hints are optional, and if you choose to use them, they don’t give too much away – they just give you a little nudge in the right direction.
However, once the solution clicks, the following puzzles on that particular level start to unravel. You may even end up giving yourself a mini facepalm, wondering how on earth you didn’t work the solution out yourself. Here’s a hint from me – if you see something that you feel is going to help you later, just make a little mental note of it and where. That will save you a lot of time backtracking.
Hello, my name is Moses
Moses adds a little humor to the game – a robotic teddy bear with AI developed by Charlie. While his AI is so advanced that he can hack computer terminals, he can’t distinguish between alive and dead humans. I can’t help but smile every time he introduces himself to a body that is clearly very dead and has been for some time. He’s also very keen to keep reminding us that he is smart and he is brave.
But his character is tragic, much like the backstory that you will learn about Mac and Charlie. Again, no spoilers here.
Man the Steam Decks!
If you wanted to change the point-and-click experience to a more mainstream isometric adventure game, this is possible.
Stasis: Bone Totem is designed as a point-and-click adventure, but it’s also playable on a controller. Not only that, but it works flawlessly on the Steam Deck. I didn’t need to change any settings on the Deck, and when I went back to the laptop to play, all the graphic settings were as they should be for the device, and it recognizes whether you are playing mouse and keyboard or controller. No problems here.
I’ve played just over five hours of Stasis: Bone Totem. In that time, I’ve completed the first chapter and I feel that I’ve made some good progress through Chapter 2. I got stuck on a couple of puzzles, but they were never frustrating enough for me to give up on and never go back to. Which is just as well, because there is almost certainly much more of the story to come, and I can’t wait to find out more.
The main driver of the game is the story and the characters, both of which come out very well and will make you want to go back to the game after each session.
If you’ve played SOMA or any other “isolated at sea” horror, then you’ll already have a fair idea of what to expect from Stasis: Bone Totem. It may also help if you are a bit of a Lovecraft fan. There aren’t any jump scares, and there doesn’t appear to be any combat (at least from what I’ve seen so far).
Stasis: Bone Totem is a great choice for those who enjoy sci-fi horrors and are wanting to either go back to point-and-clicks or play a point-and-click for the first time.