Stonefly, a chill mech game, respects the environment and its creatures

In the treetops of Stonefly’s lavish forests, human beings utilize bug-shaped mechs to browse the wild community. Tangles of vines twist around tree stumps and limbs, with enormous leaves shooting out into every instructions. Other animals, like large bugs, live under rocks and in high yards that dot the stony structures concealed behind the treetop forests. In this world, human beings and bugs developed along with one another, and Stonefly has to do with their culture of ecological regard.

The world’s numerous risks are linked with its presents. It’s a lesson that Annika, the player-character in Stonefly, quickly determines after she leaves the convenience of her dad’s house to obtain his taken mech — a household treasure that’s worth remains in its heart. She flies off into the wilderness of the forest’s crown on the back of a cricket, which ultimately leads her to a mech that looks sort of like a spider. She can update and progress it, altering its appearances and functions throughout the video game. Much of the action-adventure gameplay centers around checking out; while sliding from marshes to canopies, off mushrooms and rocks, Annika tries to find resources to continue updating her mech. Periodically, that implies protecting herself from the harmful bugs of the world.

a scene at stonefly’s camp, with a big mech with spider legs

Image: Flight School Studio/MWM Interactive

There are a lot of various sort of bugs — ones that shoot slime, torpedo things, or attack and sting. Annika should utilize her mech to stun bugs and press them off platforms. There’s no killing here; that was a deliberate and essential choice.

“Annika gathers silk from worms, discarded shells from cicadas, that sort of thing,” Stonefly designer and Flight School Studio imaginative director Adam Volker informed Polygon. “She is very Nausicaa in that way. We figured that these societies would have evolved alongside the other critters of the forest. Some of them are dangerous, but killing them would cut short the role they play in the larger forest’s ecosystem.”

Volker stated Flight School developed out the characters’ belief system in internal works that aren’t in the video game, however the balance and culture of regard is clear in how characters communicate with the environment. Like Studio Ghibli’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Stonefly’s environment is as essential as its characters — the push and pull in between the 2, the unnerving stress in between human beings and whatever else around them. Stonefly’s enthusiastic regard of the natural world shines through, a display of an aspirational balance.

I might feel this impact throughout the video game, which is made additional captivating through Stonefly’s visual aesthetic. The video game simply looks dang excellent. Influenced by mid-century contemporary artist Charley Harper, Stonefly’s world minimalist cel-shaded appearance is a 3D reinterpretation of Harper’s “incredible talent for distilling an object down to its most iconic form,” Volker stated.

In the video game’s 2D backgrounds and environments, Volker stated the group might concentrate on graphic analyses of the world that pop like Harper’s work. Making the visual work in 3D was harder, Volker stated. “It was fun and easy while I was making the early concept art, but then putting a player in that space broke a lot of the visual design,” he stated.

A mech shooing away bugs on a green mossed covered rock

Image: Flight School Studios/MWM Interactive

Eventually, however, it worked. Stonefly’s visual style motivates an unique interest about the world; it’s like our own, however not excessive. It’s still rooted in real-life research study, however, which makes its message even more impactful.

“Learning the different ways leaves can grow made it really easy to design brand new shapes inside of that system,” Volker stated. “Starting purely from my imagination, in my experience, doesn’t actually give you as believable a result as when you use reference.”

The human beings in Stonefly are simply as essential as the other animals who reside in its world; a core part of the video game is focused around Annika’s reflections on her life with her dad, and the other characters she fulfills on this journey. Regard, in this case, isn’t always an offered: That regard comes gradually, and in waves, as the Stonefly team makes their method through the environment.

“The story is about independence and finding your own compass,” Volker stated. “Family and different types of friendships are woven into the narrative as well. Annika undertakes a literal journey to retrieve Dad’s mech, but really the journey she takes is internal.”

Stonefly was launched on June 1 for Nintendo Change, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.