Stay Safe – Down Is Relative

Since stumbling across Nitronic Rush in its early days and seeing it grow and mature into Distance with a beautiful grace, I have been hooked on skill based car platformers. Unfortunately though, after having tasted a pedigree like Distance, my experience with Stay Safe rang true of the saying: You’ve tried the best, now try the rest.

Memorise the sequence or die trying.

Stay Safe is a car platformer in the same vein as Distance except without the visual polish and with more of a masocore design. Stay Safe touts itself as a Die and Retry game which is exactly what it is. You hurtle along at max speed in your unbrakeable – as in it doesn’t have any brakes – hover car as obstacles appear far too suddenly for anyone not gifted with clairvoyance. Hence the die, retry element. This boils down to complex tracks becoming chores of memorisation as you study the timings of the rising and falling barriers.

Early on I was ready to call it quits and throw Stay Safe in the pile when a couple of levels in a row got my attention. For a moment the developer stopped catering to the clairvoyant elite that manipulate our every move and made some great car platforming levels. I was hooked. Then sunk. Then hooked again!

See, Stay Safe is one of those insidious games that if you give it the chance, it will take hold. Urging you on for “just one more level” and flooding your dopamine receptors when you do. It pushed me low, bringing Rocket League levels of seething anger before rewarding my persistence with more. Its addictive, I told myself I would stop and do some other work I had lined up and am now writing this article at 1 in the morning because I needed “just one more level!”

And God said unto them “Space is cool”

Stylistically Stay Safe leaves a lot to be desired. Mimicking the neon streets of Distance but transposing them into sandy ruins and outer space. And while each level begins with an old testament style quote about the fall of Babylon, I’m not convinced there’s really an underlying story going on. More that the developer felt some cryptic biblical text would lend a level of depth to the game that it didn’t really require.

Or maybe they just like those passages, I’m not one to judge.

Thinking back I remember some levels having music but not all, whether this was out of sheer concentration blocking all non-vital sounds out or a genuine oversight remains a mystery. What music I do remember (and I have literally just stopped playing) was a nice electronic classical mix but I may have hallucinated that…

Like any good die and retry, Stay Safe allows you to restart the level at the press of a button and because I’m clumsy, I restarted a level while the level end animation was playing. More than once. Please protect me from myself!

The initial levels were actually quite nice, some environmental storytelling would have been interesting.

Oh, and be warned, Stay Safe is pretty buggy. Like, driving around in space without a kill zone, occasionally glimpsing the map as you freefall into the abyss kind of buggy.

You’re probably confused as to whether or not I’m recommending Stay Safe or not at this point and to be fair, so am I. On the one hand it is pretty buggy, unfair in its level design for the most part, and is stylistically forgettable but on the other hand, I did play 3 hours today and enjoyed myself. At least, most of the time. Especially the free floating.

Spaaaaaaaaaaaccceeeeee!

Stay Safe is available on Steam HERE