Things that are peaceful and intriguing come in many shapes and sizes, most of us know what it is that makes us stop and take a deep breath. Video games, from time to time, construct worlds and stories that make us relax, pause for a second and appreciate what we’re experiencing. Stonefly was indeed such a memorable experience of peacefulness and intrigue that I found myself fearlessly lost amongst roots and bugs, all in my own comfortable mecha.
We follow the journey of a young woman by the name of Annika. One quiet day, her father, as per usual, went on and on about the adventures he used to have back when he was young, exploring a world that seemed harsher than what it is for his daughter, inside his insect-like robot. Annika, a bright young inventor, is tasked with gathering some materials from the town nearby but she decides to go another route and uses her father’s mecha to gather the materials in the wilderness instead of just buying them. Unfortunately, after she was done, she forgot to lock the shed and thus the mecha that was so important to her father was stolen during the night. Annika decides to travel along the lands of this world of massive trees and dangerous creatures to find the thief, and along the way she’ll meet new friends, discover new places, and even forge an adventure of her own.
The story of Stonefly is charming, intriguing, and I would also describe it as wholesome. It doesn’t take any big risks or doesn’t try to be anything that it isn’t, which is the story about a girl and how she discovered the world and herself. Sometimes video games go too big on what they want to say and how they want to say it that they end up creating a convoluted mess of a story. I would say that Flight School Studios did a great job at saying exactly what they wanted to say, and thus they created a narrative that fits the world that they created with such love and care. Part of me hopes that this world gets explored in another title, maybe one with a longer run time, but one just as down to earth as Stonefly is.
During the first hour of the game or so, you will get your own mech to upgrade and power up. By gathering resources, Annika can tweak her mech to suit her needs, well, the needs of the player. The mech is how you move around the big areas of the world, and the exploration of Stonefly is rather unique. See, your mech isn’t like a traditional mech, the ones you see blasting their way through buildings or flying around so effortlessly, no. This mech is… well, it’s odd. You will jump into the air and hover for a while before doing it again, and that’s pretty much how you move throughout the world, by jumping and hovering. You can anchor the mech to fight off strong winds, but the mech will move slower when you anchor it, so the most optimal way of traversing the lands is by jumping. By pressing the right command, the mech can gather materials for you to keep and use, which is a big part of this game. You can upgrade many things from passive skills for exploration, to more combat oriented skills. The combat of this game, like the exploration, is rather unique as well.
You will fight what I can only describe as mutated bugs, from small to dangerously big. You will fight them by blowing them off whatever platform they seem to be standing on. The mech can fire a very strong gust of wind that will push the bugs from wherever they are, however, some bugs need to be turned over for you to be able to push them off. When you jump and hover, you can drop little bomb-like objects that will eventually turn those big bugs around for you to push them. Sometimes you’ll have to wait for their weak spots to be shown to damage them, and sometimes you can simply just push them like they’re nothing. Weight comes into consideration here, so the bigger they are, the stronger the gust of wind needs to be. The controls will feel strange at first, but once you master them, which is easier than you would think, the game truly becomes rather fun, even addictive. You can jump, drop a few bombs to turn over as many bugs as you can, and then quickly anchor your mech to charge up a gust of wind and send them flying away. It’s honestly a blast once you start getting the hang of it.
Most of your time with the game will be spent exploring and blowing off bugs, so Flight School Studio has ensured that those aspects of the game are fun and rewarding, and I would say that they did a great job at doing just that.
Now, for the part of the game that I consider its greatest attribute, we’re going to talk a bit about the art of Stonefly. Flight School Studios is no stranger to heavily artistic driven endeavours, and I think Stonefly blew it out of the park this time around. Since the exploration is a big chunk of the game, they created peaceful music to accompany you through the journey of Annika. Music that is relaxing, but also curious in a way. It makes me think of how it feels to be a kid in a big open place and just getting lost in it, getting to see whatever you can find, giving meaning to every little corner that ends up becoming a part of your own experience. The music was truly one of the highlights of my time with the game, and it made exploring such a deep and personal experience. Now, such music would be so easily missed if it didn’t have a place to match, and the world of Stonefly delivers. From the beauty of the giant trees that you will jump onto, to the sound of the wind, the water; the sound of nature, really. The images of the depth of a world that is so much bigger than the player, the colors of the leafs, of the tree trunks, of the fauna found in the world are just breathtakingly beautiful. For a world that asks to be explored, I was pleasantly surprised that it was asking me to do something I very much wanted to do. Get lost amongst the palette of nature, the sounds of nature, do it while blowing off bugs in a way that is fun and engaging, do it while you listen to a soundtrack that will help you forget about time, and be immersed into the world of Stonefly.
I think Flight School Studios did a terrific job with Stonefly. They knew the game was going to be heavily artistic and they found a way to make that not only fun, but truly unique. Not gonna lie, a part of me wished for the game to be longer, or to have more characters with more development, and sometimes the text was a little too heavy handed, too clumsy. I did run into invisible walls from time to time which led to me falling off the map, but to be honest, all those things are just little nitpicks I have for an all around great experience. Sometimes, to judge a game, first we need to understand what it is that the game is trying to be, and with such parameters, I would be inclined to say that Stonefly masterfully did what it set out to do. I am eager to see what Flight School Studios does next.
Stonefly is a beautiful work of art with an oddly but enchanting gameplay waiting to be experienced!