StayZen is a frantic, restrictive, and frustrating game. With simple but challenging gameplay, it can be a punishing, sometimes boring affair that will leave you stressed and quite often unsatisfied instead of relaxed. Do not be fooled by its title; 'tis nothing but a joke.
You’re tasked with navigating a little circle around paths and hazards to get it in contact with a small seed, somewhere on screen. Moving the little object via repeated swiping motions that influence its trajectory and fighting the whole way against inertia and gravity is the main source of the game’s annoyance, and it mainly comes from its balance. Requiring several frenetic swipes just to prevent the circle from falling, the game becomes a desperate, highly unresponsive mess -- the need for precision in many of StayZen’s levels compounds with a brutally unforgiving failure threshold to create a deeply unenjoyable experience.
Even worse are the choice of quotes presented after win/loss scenarios, ranging from classically respected philosophers such as Donald Trump to absolutely enlightening verses like “Losing is tough” by George H. W. Bush. Of the dozens I saw, only a handful were actually meaningful and deep -- usually courtesy of Confucius -- and most had no morals behind it, besides being barely relatable to the winning/losing situation in question.
The 2D graphics are composed of basic sprites and backgrounds, and the few animations that are in the game are choppy and unpolished. The blooming seed stutters as it transforms into a flower, dropping dynamite spins unconvincingly as it falls, and the little circle weirdly expands and disappears as the level ends. Overall, the art design is averagely ordinary.
Sound effects and music are the best technical part of the game, although the gong that cuts off the soundtrack when you fail a level can be jarring and a tad annoying given how often games are lost. The music itself, while serviceable, can barely be noticed due to the frenetic gameplay and short levels. The different worlds have compositions that seem somewhat fitting, and I especially enjoyed what little I could hear of the Wild West theme.
In the end, StayZen is a serviceable game. It hasn’t crashed once and it holds a good score on Google Play at the moment of this review, where people seem to have fun with it. I was thrown off by the title and description and misdirected into thinking this would be a leisure activity meant to relax you, instead of a frustrating endeavour meant to train your inner Buddha -- I played most of its levels on easy, and it still made me frenetically uncomfortable. Regardless, the game’s production values make it nothing short of average; even if it was named “StayFrenzied”, it would still not score any higher.
stayZen (Reviewed on Android)
Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.
With an uninspired gameplay and poor production values, this is a serviceable game at the most.