If you, like me, grew up playing adventure games from Sierra-Online’s catalog there’s a baffling game mechanic common to most of their early work. So terrible, it has scarred us so deeply that we wake up from deep sleep screaming about whale’s tongues.
We panic when we see labyrinthine vines splayed across the ground.
And, most of all, we dread stairs, stairs that inexplicably never have handrails.
For some cruel reason Sierra’s game designers felt it was a good idea to include “dexterity” sequences among their puzzles. These stretches of game required the player to delicately navigate pixel-wide terrain where the slightly misstep meant instant death (and a prayer that you had saved the game recently). You had to be savvy with your keyboard’s arrow keys, and inevitably, the games’ save/reload function. The best strategy was to save. after. every. single. step. and. eventually. you’d. get. through. it.
Eventually as adventure games became “point-and-click” adventure games, thanks to computer mice, this awful mechanic slowly disappeared.
Then, one day last week, something terrible happened. A monstrous collection of adventure game enthusiasts unleashed their horrific project: Stair Quest.
Presumably developed in the depths of the darkest, foulest prisons for the hopelessly criminal, Stair Quest is a game entirely made up of stairs. With two playable characters you scale screen after screen of stairs, the game ending instantly any time you overstep them. And you will overstep them. Frequently. Constantly.
I had to play Stair Quest. Its cheeky nostalgia was written specifically for the likes of me, whose childhood was defined by not knowing any better. Stair Quest‘s pixel graphics alone were alluring, and its spot-on manual is written with a perfect wink and nudge.
Turns out that Stair Quest keeps its promises and is spectacularly brutal. There was one stretch in particular where I was doing so poorly I nearly purposely installed Windows 10 on my laptop, just so I’d have the excuse to walk away in disgust. It was that bad. I powered through, however, finishing the game with a chuckle and a sigh of relief.
A twisted tribute to Sierra-Online’s worst game mechanic Stair Quest revels in its design and has a surprisingly good soundtrack to boot. I cannot recommend Stair Quest to anyone since that would make me an accomplice to its developers’ felonious intent, but if you’re a Sierra-Online apologist like me, you may want to try it. The game knows what it’s doing and does it very well. Just be prepared afterwards to throw your computer into the garbage, walk outside and shriek into the dark, empty sky.