The term ‘hikikomori’ may not mean much outside of Japan, but it’s a huge cultural phenomenon in the East Asian nation. It roughly translates to ‘shut in’ and refers to people in who have all but withdrawn from society, not leaving their homes except for going to the shops to get supplies. According to some estimates, the number of hikikomori in Japan sits between 1.15 million to 2 million, with one projection stating that number could rise above 10 million.
What happens then when a self-confessed hikikomori looks to use their lifestyle for the basis of a game? Well, you get Pull Stay. Developed by a solo developer name Nito Souji, himself a hikikomori for the last ten years, it is inspired by his own situation in life so much so that the main character, Susumu, is modelled after himself. While Susumu is the protagonist, that’s not the character players will control in Pull Stay. No, that’s Robo the robot.
Robo’s role is to protect the house from the incursions of salarymen, the basic enemies, Kikuchi that will charge and knock you down, Karateka that use karate moves, and other enemy types who want to drag Susumu out of his room. Robo has a number of ways to do this with the most direct being to fight each of these characters as they head towards and into the house. It starts off with basic attacks like punching, throwing and jump kicks, though combos do see Robo briefly break out a laser sword. As Robo fights more enemy types it learns more moves such as piledrivers, knee hits, and powerful punches.
That’s not the only way for Robo to protect Susumu. Between waves Robo can venture out to gather resources like crystals, ore, and timber. This is done by simply going up to other buildings and hitting them until they fall apart. Once you’ve scooped up those resources you’ve got three ways that you can put them to use. The first is to build additional rooms so it takes longer for enemies to reach the stairs and the second floor where Susumu’s room is, but the second option is to create traps.
Traps add a tower defence element to Pull Stay and are room dependant. These include a body pillow in the bedroom, a giant toothpaste cannon in the bathroom, and a pie trap in the kitchen. Each trap has humour entwined with it, so as enemies are attracted to the body pillow and go to hug it, they are instead gobbled up as it behaves like a Venus Flytrap. This bizarre tone permeates throughout Pull Stay from destroying buildings to the enemy types that just keep getting tougher, and after a couple of waves on the first go you do feel overwhelmed.
This is where the third option for the resources come into play, which is to get Susumu to make things for you, including fresh circuits to make you stronger and food to restore health. Susumu can take his time making these things, so you have to fend off enemies while you wait for him to finish.
What I played was an early demo of Pull Stay, so there are going to be issues as Nito pushes for a full release in late 2020. Those include enemies clipping through walls when hit or thrown and delays when it comes to some inputs, but there is plenty of time to iron those out. A couple of issues that are hopefully addressed before release will include being able to turn with one of the traps in first person mode, and maybe a few more seconds to gather those precious resources. However, if you like strangely funny titles then keep an eye on Pull Stay which is expected to release in Q3 2020 for PC.
If this quirky take on the tower defence genre sounds like your cup of tea, then you can try it for yourself. Grab the demo from the Pull Stay itch.io page, and consider adding it to your Steam wishlist.