When I first woke up this morning, I was not aware of Pull Stay, and my life was worse for it. When I first saw the game as part of the second day of Guerilla Collective previews, I was immediately enthralled. That feeling continued when I found a demo on Steam, and that feeling will continue throughout the writing of this preview. Pull Stay is the type of game you rarely get anymore, the import-only insanity deemed too out there for a Western audience. It's pure, unfiltered Japanese culture in the vein of Captain Rainbow, Cho Aniki, and Katamari Damacy. I will do my best to not sound like a lunatic as I explain why you should share in my excitement about that.
You play as Robo, a mechanical guardian built by Japanese shut-in Susumu. Your job is to ward off any and all visitors to your creator's house while he stays put in his room surrounded by posters of anime women. Your tools for defending the home include extendable boxing gloves, love pillows, pie-flinging laser traps, and more. You build these defenses and additional rooms to the house with resources you pick up after punching apart the homes of your neighbors.
You can also fend off the endless string of salarymen and fireball-throwing karate warriors with moves of your own, including moves you learn by taking down enemies. Just a few short minutes into the demo, I was able to grab opponents and throw them around, hit a piledriver out of the air, or charge in with a flaming uppercut. The combat is rather janky, with enemies flying around inconsistently from each hit. It was also pretty easy to stick enemies into the geometry of your house as they flew to their final resting place. In most games, these would be negatives. Pull Stay is not most games.
Whether intentional or not, Pull Stay captures the fantastically surreal qualities of a Japanese game. This isn't just something made in Japan, it might as well be screaming the word "JAPAN" at you over and over while Hello Kitty plays the Japanese national anthem in the background on taiko drums. I cannot express how ill-prepared players are for any of this when they begin, and that's part of the magic. The sheer pleasure in discovering how things work, the surprise whenever something absolutely bonkers happens, it's all vital to Pull Stay's fun factor.
Take the aforementioned love pillow. You can build one of these in any bedroom, and they sit on the bed in the background. When an enemy sees it, they immediately climb into bed and hearts begin to float out of them. That's where you expect things to go, a simple distraction tactic to slow enemies down while you wail on enemies across the way. What you don't expect is that the pillow will come to life, grow teeth, swallow the distracted salaryman, and then display him on its sheets like he has been trapped in the negative zone. The pillow then resumes its cute onward appearance, hoping to lure in another victim. It's absurdity of the highest caliber, and Pull Stay is running at that level constantly.
The issue you run into with a game this surprising is what happens on the fifth or sixth playthrough. While it advertises itself as a beat 'em up, Pull Stay is really a tower defense at heart, meaning that you'll run through the same early-game enemies over and over as you get better at building traps and timing out attacks. There's no getting around that the gameplay itself is not inherently engaging, and the charming but janky combat will wear out its welcome quickly.
Pull Stay Preview | Final Thoughts
Even with the prospect of unlocking new traps and discovering new types of enemies, Pull Stay is an arcade-style experience that will live and die on its novelty. Thankfully, it has so much novelty that I'd recommend this game to almost anyone even with its inherently short shelf life. It captures the weirdest charms of its homeland effortlessly, providing an experience that should be treasured for however long it lasts. Considering that this is a game made by a single developer on a budget you can feel throughout your playthrough, I'd say that's pretty high praise indeed.
TechRaptor previewed Pull Stay on PC via Steam with a demo freely downloaded during the Guerilla Collective digital event.