Stairs

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Stairs Game Poster Image
Plodding, bloody horror game is a stairway to nowhere.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Story surrounds a missing-persons case that turns to murder. No positive messages.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Journalist hero doesn't have much personality; his only goal is getting scoop on a murder case. Later, his goal changes to escaping deadly situations. At best, the guy is morally neutral. 

Ease of Play

With tedious puzzles, large, noninteractive locations, main challenge is having the patience to play game. 

Violence

Most violence implied, shown by its aftermath: blood spatters, pools of blood, notes describing it. Hero can be attacked by monsters, but only shown as screen going black. One ultra violent image of a dead, naked, disemboweled, crucified body left hanging in middle of campground. Mentions of suicide, murder by people trapped in a mine.

Language

One note uses "f--king" as a descriptor. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stairs is a mature-themed downloadable survival horror game that includes realistic blood; dark, claustrophobic exploration; and a violently mutilated dead body. Voice-over flashbacks discuss people trapped in a mine, killing one another, and committing suicide. Players can be attacked by monsters, but the screen fades to black when this occurs. There's an instance of profanity in a note within the game, which uses the word "f--king" as a descriptor. Players may feel frustrated when playing this game thanks to tedious puzzles and noninteractive environments.

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What's it about?

STAIRS is about a journalist following a missing-persons case that eventually becomes a murder case. Determined to get the story, he goes to investigate the crime scene in an old abandoned warehouse. He finds evidence of the murder but is then led by supernatural forces out of the real world and into a dark, deadly labyrinth. Journalistic goals forgotten, he focuses all his energy on staying alive and finding a way out of the nightmare. 

Is it any good?

A good survival horror game needs more than dark rooms and jump scares; it needs an interesting setting, a compelling hero, and tension that rises and falls like a monster roller coaster. Omit these things, and the only way this roller coaster is going is down. The problems with Stairs start half an hour in, when the story premise is completely forgotten. From that point on, the hero's goal becomes to slog through vast, repetitious locations looking for something to do. Mine shafts, office spaces, and forest paths are gray-brown and plain, defined by maze-like networks of near-identical-looking areas. These provide little to no opportunity for interactivity, except for unlikely diary notes (when you're trapped in a mine, do you leave notes around it?) and the occasional tedious puzzle. All this walking is especially bad if you suffer from motion sickness, since the camera is outright nausea-inducing. The sound design is adequate, consisting of amateurish voice-overs and pounding, sometimes poorly cued music. Once in a while, the game offers something legitimately scary, and its use of photography as a puzzle component is interesting, if unevenly useful. Despite the liberal use of blood and the depiction of a horrendously mutilated body, horror and tension are utterly overwhelmed by a confused narrative, dull graphics, and a hefty dose of "dead air." If you're looking for scares, you'll find them elsewhere; Stairs steps to nowhere interesting and leads to nothing exciting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games such as Stairs. Since most of the violence is implied or the effects are shown afterward, does this add to the atmosphere of the game? Is it better that you aren't witnessing this violence being committed, or is it disturbing because it's included in the game overall?

  • Talk about being a journalist. From what you've seen on TV, what do you think a journalist does? Do you see the journalist in this game doing these things?

  • Discuss places that scare you. What's the scariest to you: an old warehouse, an abandoned mine, or a campground at night? 

  • Think about the paranormal. There are lots of shows on TV about ghosts, so do you think ghosts really exist? 

Game details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love survival horror

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