A little story to start this review. I, like I’m sure many other reviewers on this site, tend to research a bit about a game that we’re receiving copies of before we review them. This way we can get an idea of what the game is about, what sort of game it is before getting our hands on them. In this case, I was fully expecting a game called Stellatum (review to come on AX soon), which is a space shooter. To my (pleasant) surprise I was accidentally given Stela. Which is as far from a space shooter as you can find. Thankfully, it didn’t take me long to realise the mistake and readjust my expectations for the game.
To make direct comparisons, Stela is a Limbo/Inside type game. In fact, it’s so much like these that I wouldn’t have even be surprised if it came from the same developers. In fact, its SkyBox labs who do their best PlayDead impression, and they’ve done a pretty good job at it too.
Stela is a platforming game, a beautiful one at that. You control a young woman, who explores a seemingly apocalyptic world. There is very little in terms of back story of the protagonist, and the entire game relies on its uses of combining fantastic visuals and audio cues to tell the story. There are no lines of dialogue in the game. And much like the games I compared it to before, you’re left to make your own assumptions on what is going on, and what happens as the game progresses.
As to be expected with this sort of game, you should prepare yourself to die a lot as you learn the level layout and mechanics of certain puzzles and enemies as you go. Dying is very unforgiving in terms of, it’s a one hit death system. And you can’t attack back either. It’s all about solving the puzzle correctly, anticipating the movements of enemies and in turn moving at the right time to avoid them.
The control system is very straightforward. One analogue stick to move, one button to jump and another to grab items in the environment (push, pull etc.) and that’s about it. But, those familiar with this genre will tell you that those inputs are plenty. Because it’s the enjoyment of the environment, and discovery of what’s going on in the game that’s the strength.
And with that in mind, it’s difficult to say too much without spoiling anything that happens. SkyBox have done such a good job of creating the perfect atmosphere as you progress through, that at times it can be easy to forget that you haven’t been explicitly told what’s going on. And, you don’t need to be. Giving the gamer flexibility to come to their own conclusions is part of the beauty of it. Does this hit the height of Limbo and Inside? Certainly not, but it does have a very good go. Anyone who is a fan of those games, should certainly be checking this out.
Developer: SkyBox Labs
Publisher: SkyBox Labs