Tiny people live above the ground in the trees. A girl and her father work together doing repairs on machines. Materials are needed so the girl, without her father’s permission, takes a mech out (his prized work) and it gets stolen. Her adventure in Stonefly is to seek out the thief and retrieve the mech. Along the way, she meets a group of castaway mech pilots who lend her a junker. Your part in all of this is to lead her along missions to find the stolen machine. You’ll be facing various bugs and knocking them out of bounds in order to defeat them. You gather resources by harvesting which allows you to upgrade your abilities. It’s an action-adventure game with role-playing elements which has a heartwarming story about friendship and family.
Here’s what I liked:
New Approach to Mechs — Normally when you’re using a mech, you’re fighting other mechs. There’s a lot of bullets and destruction. Instead, here we’re fighting against bugs while attempting to harvest minerals. You’re almost always airborne in the fight, shooting from the sky and then swooping disabled bugs with a gust of wind off the cliff. This can be pretty satisfying. Instead of rockets and machine guns, you’re fighting with wind attacks, goo, and even a decoy light. Having the smaller bugs attacking your harvest points really puts a twist on your tactics as you’re also trying to deal with them. These battles are really fun and the highlight of the adventure. The glide system is also awesome. Navigating around, you’re slow on the ground but pretty fast in the sky. At first, I wasn’t a fan of the hovering but it grew on me. Gliding around can be really satisfying.
A Bug’s Life — Enemies in the game are really fun to fight against. There is a good variation that you’ll be facing. You can’t just run and gun, you must first “break” the bugs. This is done by shooting them from the air, kind of like dropping quick bombs on them. It’s more than just shooting them. You have to shoot them when they are vulnerable. The beetle for example must spread their wings before you can damage them. You can wait for them to open up, or there is a power that pulls enemies into the spot below you. The beetles are heavy so it forces their wings forward, allowing you to attack their weak point. That’s just one example, but there are plenty of interesting bugs. It doesn’t stop there. When damaged enough, they flip over on their back and you must use a gust power to shove them off the cliff. This two-punch fighting system gets hectic as you must be on the ground to do the power and there are typically many enemies attacking you at once. After completing the game you unlock an arena mode that consists of waves of enemies for you to dispose of. Time to get exterminating.
Upgrade System — The harvesting of minerals is just about perfect. I never felt like it was too much of a grind. These materials allow you to buy upgrades and new abilities. One thing you can do is track down giant bugs. Once you get enough footprints found, you can then go straight to them. They are giant flying monstrosities. On their backs are tons of harvesting points, but also a lot of enemies. These short missions can be extremely rewarding and allow you to upgrade and move along some missions with ease. The pacing is what I really enjoyed. I thought it would be a total grind but it wasn’t bad at all. The new abilities can be fun to mess around with too. I would also like to mention you can customize the colors of the mech, which is the icing on the cake.
Simple Story — Sometimes the creative juices flow in a writer’s mind and they make complex stories with twists and turns and surprises. You won’t find any of that here! It’s easy to follow and pleasant. The whole game is fairly calming, allowing you to do things at your own pace. The scenes where the characters talk is short but straight to the point. You know exactly what’s going on without having to spend hours reading and waiting for scenes to end. To me this is great. Often times I have lost interest in games because of too much dialogue or too many characters to keep track of. In this adventure, you can enjoy the few characters that are offered.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Out of Bounds — Traveling around gets better as you upgrade but it is still a painful process. The camera angle is a bit close and it’s hard to plan out where you’re going. There is a system that guides you to main missions but, otherwise, you’re on your own. Normally you just hope you’re going in the right direction. Looking for cosmetic pieces for your mech or finding the tracking flies is a horrible experience. You’re blindly going in random directions hoping you’re still in the right area. Luckily you can go back to camp whenever you want; but you’ll be doing it frequently. If you screw up and fly somewhere impossible to get out of, once you fall out of bounds you spawn right back in the spot you are stuck at. This forces you back to camp to start all over. Sometimes when you’re fighting bugs, you push them off and they get stuck somewhere below. This is problematic when it’s a beetle or another similar species. Once stuck, they stop attacking and just sit there. I had a situation where I couldn’t get the beetle’s wings to open because of the spot it was at. This didn’t happen a lot, but the whole out-of-bounds mechanic can be really annoying.
Just Push All the Buttons — Like many games, you upgrade your character and earn new abilities. These are assigned to specific buttons and holding the left trigger gives you more options. The symbols used to show what they are can be difficult to memorize. Having thrown in plenty of hours into it, I still hit the wrong buttons trying to use specific moves. The icons associated with them have no color and they all (to me, at least) look similar. It was a lot of trial and error and I did eventually memorize some of them. But in the heat of battle it can be tedious to get the correct combos in, especially when swarmed by different bugs, acid, and worrying about being knocked off a cliff. If they were colored or had a better design it would be much more manageable.
A unique take on a popular genre, which I suppose is mechs. I don’t know if it’s a genre of its own but there are games entirely based on using them. The fighting is awesome and the story is calm and simple. The biggest issue was actually navigating the areas. With slim branches and a camera that is way too close, you’ll be respawning quite often and feel stuck sometimes. The invisible walls need to be shortened, because you can glide for an extreme amount of time going nowhere important before you realize you can’t land on anything. I spent around 10 hours playing with another few sitting idle while I multi-tasked. It’s a really pleasant experience and will eventually grow on you.
Score: Highly Recommended
Stonefly was published by MWM Interactive and developed by Flight School Studio on Xbox One. It was released on June 1, 2021, for $19.99.