The Bento space station is small and lonely. Gorky, the station’s AI makes the days easier, but only you can work out what’s deep inside your heart.
Okay, let’s take a step back and start from Still There’s premise. You play as Karl Hamba, you’re the lone occupant of Bento, an isolated space-lighthouse. The stations AI is rather sassy, but Gorky will help you out in everyday tasks.
Bento is rather messy, so it might seem really confusing when you first start playing, but you quickly get used to it. Your everyday tasks have you scanning nearby constellations, reporting your findings, setting up radio links, eating, sleeping, and all the other mundane tasks you’d expect on a space station, also don’t forget to take good care of your iguana.
It’s obvious that this isn’t a job for anyone, only someone who wants to run away would accept something like this.
Admitably, it is a bit cliche, a quirky AI, lonely astronaut, the silence of space, it’s all there. But, it all changes when you pick up a mysterious radio transmission and decode it. The ensuing radio exchange takes the story in a completely different direction and brings back memories you’d rather keep buried.
As the days pass, the space station feels like it’s falling apart, and the tasks you have to fulfill will become harder and harder. While you’re working on keeping the situation under control in the station, you also have to handle what’s happening outside.
During this entire heartstring tugging adventure, the Technical Manual is your best friend and blessing from God, and should at all times be with you. As the name suggests, it’s a manual on how to use the many machines that are crammed in the control area.
When it comes to puzzles, be ready to take notes on what is written in the manual so you don’t have to open and close it constantly while fixing the next thing that goes wrong. Also, you will have to explore the station from time to time to find things you will need to finish your tasks.
The puzzles are absolutely not easy and at times I would just randomly click buttons and switches hoping that something will work. Which worked surprisingly often. In case you get stuck and you just can’t continue, Still There offers an easy mode, but if you just focus on the task you won't need it.
You will also notice different colored keys around the space stations while you play, usually hidden behind other objects. You should take note of where they are. Another interesting item you might notice is a floppy drive. The floppy drive isn’t that important, but you should take note of it too.
Moving away from the game mechanics, the atmosphere in Still There is incredible. The art style and music keep you immersed and the story is so well written that you feel like you just can’t step away until you complete it.
The game isn’t very long, just a few hours, but that really depends on how long it takes you to finish the puzzles and how much you explore the station. When it comes to replayability, I noticed there’s a few achievements I didn’t get after finishing it, so there is some reason for you to go back and play it again. It won’t feel the same knowing what happens and playing it again, but it will be a lot faster since you’ll know the puzzles. With that in mind, it’s well worth the price.
I only have three issues with the game, and they are really nitpicky and subjective. The controls just feel like they could have been a bit better. It’s a point and click game, so obviously you’ll only be using the mouse, which has at least two buttons. The problem is that when you select an item, you get the option to use it or pick it up, so you’ll have to click twice most of the time. Maybe using the right click too would have been a good option.
The other thing is that at the very end, the art style—at least to me—doesn’t fit in too well with something on the screen, so that took me out for a moment.
Finally, the third thing is also near the end, and it’s the way a piece of information gets dropped on you. I believe—that in reality—the story would go in a different direction after that. It gets moved past rather nonchalantly and is mentioned just once more until the end. It’s impossible to say what it is exactly without spoiling the story, but play it and you’ll know exactly what moment this is referring to.
Still There is a very narrative driven game, but it doesn’t take a degree in psychology to understand the story and message behind it. If you have something on your mind and in your heart or are a deeply empathetic person, it’s safe to say this game will cause a reaction in you and leave you with teary eyes.
Something I think a number of people might not like, but I found appropriate, is the fact that you don’t get an answer to absolutely everything that happens around you and a lot is left to your interpretation. Which I think is cool, you have the freedom to fill in the blanks on your own or just say it doesn’t matter. A friend even told me he feels like Gorky is actually a metaphor for life itself, which was an interesting take on it and isn’t actually that big of a stretch.
In conclusion, Still There is an indie gem. The art, the gameplay, the music, the story, everything is very well done. It’s not groundbreaking and it does have a few hiccups. In the end, I can warmly recommended it to everyone with a 9/10.