High up where the branches get icy, a snowstorm set in. The world was suddenly a thing of whiteness. Plodding on quite lost, I found a stranger in furs who offered to show me the way forward. We walked together, him giving occasional directions that I followed, the wind tugging at us as we went. For a few minutes the storm gave us space: there was nothing to do but find the path through this rolling blankness.
Flight School are good at moments like this. Moments that serve to remind me that this small team makes games that are quietly like no other. Creature in the Well blended end-of-the-world posthumanism with pinball and sparking electricity and, um, a creature in the well. It was stark and memorable. Stonefly is sort of sumo and sort of a collectathon and upgradeathon, but really it’s something far more special. It’s a mech game on the microcosmic scale. The mechs you pilot and steadily upgrade are insects, all bent legs and hidden wings, and these insects are exploring a world of twigs and bracken and falling leaves. The word horde on offer says it all: canopy, bramble, maple, nightlight.
The world you pilot your way through is truly beautiful. Stonefly tells the story of a young inventor on the trail of her father’s mech, which she allowed to be stolen through a moment’s carelessness. To get her father’s rig back she sets off in a junker mech that will need regular improvements, and into a world of crackling bracken and lumpen moss where deeper mysteries await. Things are transformed from the perspective. Tree stumps are huge plateaus here, while mushrooms provide natural staircases. Catch a thermal upwards and you can move from one splindly branch of a tree to another, as if changing lanes on a highway, or you can leap between coils of creeper, dodging thorns. It’s nature, but it also looks like handicraft, employing a sort of mid-century children’s book aesthetic of textured paper and natural shades. Someone used a glue pot on this game! The thing Stonefly can do with browns and greens and then the occasional flaming burst of orange or yellow? It’s pretty much glorious.