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Stasis: Bone Totem Review

A great point-and-click adventure, flooded with horror

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It is common to see point-and-click adventures from smaller game studios. Part of this is because the genre is so well established and also because it requires fewer bells and whistles. The Brotherhood are a small team that has carved out a nice body of work in the genre already. Their first title, Stasis, came out in 2015 and was a decent isometric puzzler with a focus on horror. Stasis: Bone Totem is set in the same universe but features a whole new cast and a different, underwater location. With a slew of good puzzles and a cool atmosphere, Bone Totem is one of the better point-and-click games in recent times.

Stasis: Bone Totem

Bone Totem focuses on a husband-and-wife salvaging team: Mac and Charlie. The game begins with them sailing a boat through a malevolent storm. They stumble upon a deep-sea oil rig, and nobody seems to be home, except a flayed corpse they encounter not long after docking. But, ignoring the oozing red flag, they push forward because they learn about a mysterious science facility below the rig that might contain valuable salvage. This underwater lab is crammed with questionable experiments, weird biomechanical machines, and twitching horrors. Disaster strikes their submersible and they become trapped in the lab. The only way to escape is to keep exploring in hopes of finding another exit.

Mac and Charlie have an interesting dynamic, with a good mix of conflict and solidarity. Their daughter died recently and they are struggling to cope. Their daughter’s best friend is an electronic smart bear named Moses, and the weird robot joins the pair to create a trio of explorers that players can switch between at any time. It does not take long before the group is forced apart and they remain isolated for most of the game, but they are almost always in radio contact. When one sees something shocking, like a creepy mutated creature waiting in the vents, the others provide tips. When Moses speaks, he has a strange intonation and child-like lexicon, so he treads a fine line between memorable and annoying, although he becomes endearing by the end. Mac and Charlie converse more naturally, and offer good reactions to the various disasters and nightmares that befall them.

Stasis: Bone Totem

More info about what went wrong in the lab is found inside the many PDAs containing lots of text. You will discover that the base went into lockdown and some had to survive on rations, but when the rescue team arrived, things did not go as expected. Rather than coming across one or two pages each time, every PDA has around 10 notes concerning a single character. Many are diary entries, covering weeks if not months, while others are messages between employees highlighting drama. A few have information regarding puzzles, and missing these clues will slow or even freeze progress. Since there is a fair chunk of text, it can disrupt pacing to stop and sift through it all. A few pages could have been culled or transplanted to ease the text avalanche. That said, most are interesting, and the back-story is comprehensive.

Even though Mac, Charlie, and Moses are always separated, they possess a cool quantum backpack that allows them to transfer inventory items. This is needed because Mac has the strength to dismember objects and Charlie can stitch some together. Even Moses will find many tools needed by the others, and vice versa. Splitting up the characters cleverly reduces stagnation both mentally and visually. There is a rhythm to exploration; progress with one character until there is an obstruction, then swap to another for a refresh. Chances are you’ll find something that pushes another character a bit further.

Most puzzles are logical and fun to solve. They are not hindered by the genre’s typical pixel-hunt nonsense either; a ping highlights all interactive points from both the isometric perspective and when you interact with terminals or bodies, etc. Typically, you will know where items are needed. There are multiple stages to solutions too, like when you have to repair a diving suit by fixing damaged biomechanical lungs, only possible after rerouting power and extracting fluid from a frozen shark. When it’s not obvious what to do, the descriptions paired with objects (personalized depending on the controlling character) allows players to infer the developer’s mischievous intentions.

Stasis: Bone Totem

The trickiest moments come about because of hidden triggers. Some interactive spots only appeared after something tangential happened. For example, Moses was unable to navigate to the next room inside a derelict submarine until Charlie had reached a certain terrible turning point in her adventure, since it gave the robot bear courage. Players might falsely assume they’ve cleared all interactive spots, until they revisit an area that has been silently updated. But such hidden triggers are rare or usually make narrative sense, so with a bit of patience, all puzzles are enjoyable to tear apart.

Also appealing is the visual style. The isometric viewpoint looks great, with interesting 2D backgrounds depicting the underwater lab, oil rig, sea floor, and more. Hovering the cursor over points on the background will bring up descriptions that use powerful language to convey atmosphere. Some 2D backgrounds are too dark, and so the descriptions end up doing all the work. When interacting with machines or doors, the 2D screens offer good contrast and nice tactile interaction. The three controllable characters are rendered in 3D while using the isometric view, but they only navigate through specific routes, and that sometimes means they go in strange directions. The main characters look fine, although their animations are a bit stiff and aliasing makes them stand out.

The game sports more than 40 cinematics that help maintain the grimy mood. These appear at key points in the story, and also when you accidentally (or deliberately) murder one of the characters by solving a puzzle incorrectly. All cinematics are fully 3D and rendered with a unique claustrophobic style. Typically they focus tight on character faces with lots of blurring. Occasionally they show a weird monster—avoided by solving a typical adventure puzzle—or an underwater cave, but the cinematics are careful not to reproduce the 2D backgrounds to prevent any perspective disagreements.

Stasis: Bone Totem

Stasis: Bone Totem is worth playing by just about any point-and-click adventure fan, but especially those who like when horror permeates every facet. It is visually appealing, both in its 2D isometric form and with the 3D cinematics that occasionally feature cool deaths. Puzzles are challenging, logical and satisfying, with multiple steps and a good indication of what is required. With the three controllable characters remaining cut off from one another, the game injects variety thanks to its shared inventory system. And since it offers around 10-12 hours of solid puzzle solving, the game will not leave players empty handed.

Our ratings for Stasis: Bone Totem on PC out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)
Presentation
80
Great 2D backgrounds, neat 3D cinematics, and cool machines to interact with. Voice work for the main cast is good and the music is well-suited.
Gameplay
80
Dozens of great puzzles to solve with multiple steps. Sharing inventory items for combining or breaking apart things helps to make the adventure more cohesive.
Single Player
80
The story of Mac and Charlie is interesting, and there is plenty to discover by reading the many PDAs containing loads of text.
Multiplayer
NR
N/A
Performance
(Show PC Specs)
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3600
GPU: ASUS 6700 XT DUAL OC 12GB
RAM: 16GB DDR4
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
PC Specs

80
No tech issues and it quick to switch between characters. Navigating can be slightly tedious because characters move along hidden paths.
Overall
80
With a great underwater setting and an interesting story featuring lots to uncover, Stasis: Bone Totem’s mix of horror and puzzles mean it is a veritable sunken treasure.
Comments
Stasis: Bone Totem
Stasis: Bone Totem box art Platform:
PC
Our Review of Stasis: Bone Totem
80%
Great
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
Stasis: Bone Totem is ranked #543 out of 1981 total reviewed games. It is ranked #18 out of 101 games reviewed in 2023.
543. Stasis: Bone Totem
544. Jusant
Xbox Series X
Related Games
Stasis Stasis
Platform: PC
Released: August 2015
Developer: The Brotherhood
Screenshots

Stasis: Bone Totem
12 images added 313 days ago
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