Ever wanted to fly a tiny insect mech from leaf to leaf, blow bugs away, and then use the resources you gathered to paint the mech sick? What do you mean “it never crossed your mind”? Well, prepare yourself for the fundamental change in your ideas about Stonefly.
This is a game where your insectoid mech can be painted in more shades than the human eye can see and blow away insects by flapping its wings to spiral them away from the leaf you want to inhabit, and in which you spend most of your time flying and hovering, hardly laying a dainty Mech leg on the ground. It’s probably a good thing too, as these insects seem to be eager to eat, eating anything in sight, including you.
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Stonefly is the latest game from Flight School Studios, the makers of Creature in the Well, one of the most atmospheric indie titles of 2019. The team has decided to turn their attention to a whole new breed of action-adventure and the pinball machine to dispense with the approach of swords and the exchange for “insect that falls in style”. In a fantastic world – are they huge insects or tiny bipeds? – and with a visual style to die for, it’s clear this could be very special.
You play as Annika, a tiny ‘Mech pilot who has decided to take her father’s’ Mech – known as the Rig – for a spin. It’s especially valuable to this rig, and it’s most unusual. If someone steals it from Annika, she immediately goes to get it back. She sets out to build her own rig, starting with scrap pieces taken from the game’s hub village and expanding to include new pieces she designs and builds along the way. A really cool sense of progress can already be seen here, and you can customize the look and performance of your rig to suit your style of play and personality. Luminous paintwork is completely optional.
However, the game’s visual style is based on unusual tones and hues, and similar to Creature in the Well, Stonefly’s look has a vibrancy that you won’t find anywhere else. Set in the miniature world of the Maple Tree – at least in this opening section – on a planet far away, the Flight School team turned to mid-century modern work by artist Charlie Harper to influence what made it a startling pop -Art led Look that begs you to jump into the world of Stonefly.
There are a multitude of insectoid enemies along the way. The core loop revolves around Annika trying to collect or mine minerals from each leaf or branch, but those resources are the same resources the insects want to eat. Every encounter is a time-sensitive rush to push the hungry little – and bigger and bigger – guys off the paper before they trample on all the good things. As you progress, new enemy types emerge that require a little more nuance than just being stunned and brushed away by Annika’s bombs, and it looks like there will be plenty of hectic moments as you hover gracefully between leaf and branch.
Creature in the Well’s soundtrack was a highlight, but Stonefly’s maybe goes a step further and comes from artist Natureboy Flako. During development, the team put together a number of inspiring tracks that match the game’s unusual nature and technological vibe. The name of Natureboy Flako appears regularly. When the flight school approached him, he was interested in getting involved and ended up composing the whole thing.
While this was a hands-off demo, the potential of Stonefly is clear to see. It feels like the gameplay loop strikes a wonderful balance between soaring and flying zen through this remarkable world, alongside hectic, non-fatal battles. Natureboy Flako’s innovative soundtrack also sounds like it helps to anchor the atmosphere of the game firmly in another world. To say we can’t wait for our first hands-on exercise would be an understatement.
The release date of Stonefly will be announced shortly but is targeting early summer 2021 and will be released for PC, PS4 and PS5, Xbox consoles and Nintendo Switch.
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