Stonefly is unique from the art to the gameplay but falls short in the story. Some things can be forgiven however because as soon as everything else came together, I started to love Stonefly.
The very poorly explained tale but that's okay
Stonefly tells the story of teenage angst in a world where everyone is as small as insects. While Stonefly has an intriguing setup, it does a poor job explaining the lore and why people are so small. The fun doesn't try to present an engaging story either, so it's not particularly compelling.
When everything is peaceful, like in camps or at home, the story is told in a slow and disjointed fashion. As story beats occur, characters can still move, so if you don't know something is happening, you could miss it by wandering off.
When out in the wild, the story is told well since the chat bubbles purposefully attract the player's attention. There's not much thought put into the why's and how's of this story, and it feels like the developers didn't work very hard on the script. Despite creating a magnificent world, they do a poor job explaining why things are the way they are.
Although certain things are eventually discussed in the story, they occur too late and aren't even interesting by that time.
Simple But Fun
A spider robot is given to the player to control, and then they get to construct their own mechanical monster.
The gameplay is mostly about jumping from one tree branch to another until the player has caught up to the collectable currencies and crafting materials. There are different levels of difficulty to beat the enemy insects, but in the end, it's about throwing bead-shaped projectiles under your robot while in mid-air to knock the insects over. Following that, you can lightly blow them off the level and go about your business.
There are a variety of power-ups and moves that can help the player, such as anti-gravity balls, short flight systems, and a lure, to name a few.
A camp eventually unlocks where the player can upgrade their robots, sell items, and donate to the base. Almost everything about Stonefly is simple, effortless, and frictionless.
You can easily get lost in the fun you're having when you're in the wild. There are countless lives before the player must respawn in their bed in camp, so it's a calm experience. Additionally, the checkpoint system is incredibly generous, so you don't have to worry about starting too far back after dying.
A Bug's Life
The game's artstyle is gorgeous, looking like a cartoon with added details, and it looks even better in motion, and while a fixed camera gives plenty of chances to enjoy the scenery, it can also lead to some gameplay frustrations.
We're also not wild on the character designs – that's more down to personal preference than anything else, of course, but the way they interact with chat bubbles feels like it takes away from the world's inherent beauty.
If players can get past the first 10 minutes of a lacklustre storyline, though, there's a lot to love here. Stonefly takes off like a rocket and is hard to put down. The art is made to such a high standard that it's unreal.
While it starts out slowly, Stonefly grows into something truly special – a heady mix of beautiful graphics and fun gameplay that feels strangely relaxing to play, and entirely unique to look at.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Reviewed on PS4.