Stela (Nintendo Switch) – Gaming Review

“Stela is a cinematic, atmospheric platformer about a young woman witnessing the final days of a mysterious ancient world.”                                                        

If you love monsters, mystery and breathtaking landscapes, you’ve come to the right place! Stela by Skybox Labs is a side-scrolling platformer game which has you puzzle solving, running, hiding, climbing and strolling through scenery so wonderful that it would make a great picture on your wall.

Stela has such beautiful landscape design that I could go on about it for hours; it’s full of soft colours and picturesque scenes, that at first, lull you into a feeling of relaxation. But as you run out into the world, a strange eerie feeling begins to grow. The music begins to build and your suspicions grow about the state of the world you have just found yourself in. Before you know it, you’re running for your life and trying to solve platforming puzzles under pressure! I must admit I was not ready for the change in pace and was quickly flustered. In contrast, there are still slower styles of gameplay mixed in, as other scenes will have you stealthing your way past threats, but these are just as heart pounding.

This game does not have a traditional tutorial, so use the quiet early scenes to get used to the controls. Your character will automatically climb things if you press the direction towards the object, which sometimes does not work in your favour if you are trying to grab and drag it instead. The jumping action is what I would call ‘floaty’ which allows you a little leeway in landing safely on your mark. If you fall from great heights, you will die. So, be careful!. In the early levels, the objects you can use have a common trait of a primary red colour adorning a small detail such as a string or a light. But once you’ve escaped the first farm area, it becomes much more subtle, so be on the lookout for objects you can push, pull, pick up and climb on if you are stuck!

I love a good monster movie but I must confess that horror games do take a toll on me and I can get quite jumpy. I do prefer to play games like Stela in shorter sessions because I’m a coward. Thankfully the autosave feature in Stela is excellent and you will start right back at the section where you exited the game (or died) instead of having to re-do a whole zone. Which is great when you need a time out to calm your nerves or to think over a strategy for a difficult part. I wouldn’t say this is a completely terrifying horror game, but it’s definitely got a creepy vibe that will delight fans of the supernatural.

The storytelling in this game is like a silent film, there’s no dialogue. There’s no cutscenes, but the sweeping landscapes and foreboding scenes you see unfolding around you tell their tale. When playing this game I’m reminded of the sense of atmosphere I got from other games like ICO and Journey, that also quietly tell a story through visuals. The music to the game equally sets the scenes and adds to the air of mystery and fuels your fear in those intense moments.

Stela is an interesting and challenging game coupled with gorgeous artwork. If you are a fan of art driven games and spooky stories, then you should definitely try this out.

Stela is out now on Nintendo Switch, XBox One and PC on Steam.

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