Have you ever wanted to fly a tiny insect mech from leaf to leaf, blow bugs away, and then use your collected resources to give said mech a sick paint job? What do you mean “it’s never crossed your mind”?Well, prepare to have your imaginings resoundingly changed by Stonefly.
This is a game where your insectoid mech can be painted in more shades that the human eye can discern, blowing insects away by flapping your wings to sending them spiralling off the leaf you’re set on inhabiting, and where you’ll spend the majority of your time flying and floating, barely putting a dainty mech leg on the ground. It’s probably a good thing too, as those insects seem eager to eat everything in sight, yourself included.
Stonefly is the latest game from Flight School Studios, creators of Creature in the Well, one of the most atmospheric indie titles of 2019. The team has decided to turn their attention to an all-new kind of action-adventure, forgoing the ‘pinball with swords’ approach and swapping it out for ‘insect falling with style’. Set in a fantastical world – are they giant insects or tiny bipeds? – and with a visual style to die for, it’s clear that this could be something quite special.
You play as Annika, a tiny mech pilot who’s decided to take her Dad’s mech – known as a Rig – for a joyride. He’s particularly precious of this Rig, and it’s highly unusual, so when someone then steals it from Annika she immediately sets out to get it back. She does this by setting to work on building her own Rig, starting out with junk parts picked up from the game’s hub village, and expanding to take in new parts she develops and constructs along the way. There’s a really cool sense of progression already evident here, and you can customise the look and performance of your Rig to match your playstyle and your personality. Luminous paint jobs are entirely optional.
That said, the game’s visual style pulls from some unusual tones and hues, and much like Creature in the Well there’s a vibrancy to Stonefly’s look that you won’t find elsewhere. Set in the miniature world of the Maple Tree – at least, this opening section is – on a far off planet, the team at Flight School turned to the mid-century modern work of artist Charlie Harper for influence, resulting in an arresting pop art look that begs for you to leap into Stonefly’s world.
There’s a host of insectoid enemies to dispatch along the way. The core loop revolves around Annika attempting to collect, or mine, minerals from atop each leaf or branch, but these resources are the same thing that the insects want to chow down on. Each encounter is a time-sensitive rush to push the hungry little – and increasingly big – fellas, from the leaf before that snaffle all the good stuff. As you progress new enemy types appear that require a little more nuance than just being stunned by Annika’s bombs and brushed away, and it looks like there’ll be plenty of frantic moments as you float gracefully between leaf and branch.
Creature in the Well’s soundtrack was a highlight, but Stonefly’s may take things a step further, coming from artist Natureboy Flako. During development, the team has put together an inspirational set of tracks that matched the game’s unusual nature and technological vibe, with Natureboy Flako’s name popping up regularly. When Flight School reached out to him he was interested in being involved, and ultimately has composed the whole thing.
While this was a hands-off demo, the potential with Stonefly is clear to see. It feels as though the gameplay loop grasps a wonderful balance between zen floating and flying through this remarkable world, juxtaposed with frantic, non-lethal combat. The innovative soundtrack from Natureboy Flako also sounds as though it’s going to help set the game’s atmosphere firmly in another world. To say we can’t wait for our first hands-on would be an understatement.
Stonefly’s release date will be announced soon, but it’s targeting the early Summer 2021, and will release for PC, PS4 and PS5, Xbox consoles and Nintendo Switch.