From Indie studios Yellow Worm and Black Shell Media, comes the cute little adventure-platformer, Stone Tales. What is immediately distinct to all who come across this platformer is its primitive art style. While this made for an interesting thematic choice, audiences might also be surprised to hear that Stone Tales was based on actual, historical cave paintings. This stone-age tale tells us of two brothers: one named Uga and the other Buga of the Ukelele tribe. These brothers confer with the shaman of their tribe, who sends them on an epic quest to prove themselves as fearsome warriors. What an odyssey it turns out to be as Uga and Buga face their fair share of obstacles along their journey, which consists of six multi-tiered levels.
Unfortunately over the course of the game, you will come to find out that the art, audio and plot are Stone Tales‘ only redeeming qualities. Gameplay, difficulty and overall entertainment value leave much to be desired. If you are in search of a refreshingly original game with a uniquely immersive atmosphere, this could be of some interest.
As awkward as the gameplay mechanics could be from time to time throughout the course of the story, you can’t help but feel attached to these two stick-figure brothers. Without revealing too much in the way of potential plot spoilers, this game does deserve credit for its compelling story-line. Stone Tales evokes a strong sense of accomplishment as Uga and Buga progress on their quest. It’s also powerful enough to stir up some sad emotions should these characters ever suffer.
To make up for this “disjointedness”, Stone Tales implemented an enrapturing plot:
Buga is strong and with his shield can protect himself from attacks, while his brother Uga displays his prowess with the spear.
From the whole game being laid out as an interactive cave painting to the catchy, primal audio backtrack, Stone Tales offers up a mood like none other. What often detracts from the immersive nature of the game though, is its sometimes crude attempt at authenticity in its text. Attempting to speak in an ancient voice can come off as awkward and unclear at times. Couple that with rampant grammatical errors, most of which are almost impossible to avoid and the admirable atmosphere this type of primitive art induces is soured.
In the sense of watching a tale unfold before players visually and musically, no one could ask for more than that out of an indie game’s plot. If this were in the medium of a short film or perhaps a locally cooperative experience, there would be nothing left to add but more rave reviews. Regrettably Stone Tales is a single player campaign with a steep learning curve due to its unnecessarily awkward controls and gameplay. While in theory, the concept behind controlling multiple characters simultaneously is an interesting one, in practice, there’s obvious reasons why it is not done often.
Plain and simple, Stone Tales bit off a bit more than it could chew. Navigating Uga and Buga with separate jumping controls is awkward and makes for an often unenjoyable gameplay experience. It seems like it should just be a matter of mastery in operating the key bindings after a reasonable learning curve. But the gameplay still falls short in all aspects once the mechanics have been mastered. If at any time the brothers become too separated or fall out of the natural order of–melee, tank brother in the front and fragile, ranged brother in back–the game becomes an exercise in futility. This is not what you want in a platformer genre. There is no natural flow to the game when you are constantly needing to stop, backtrack and reorganize their efforts to proceed.
For a game whose epic trailer boasts of speed, strategy and calculated skill, it was needless to say, a let down. There was no speed, due to oddly planned control mechanics. There was no strategy or inherent difficulty to the game either. Enemy AI acted illogically, often killing themselves by accident, or dying to a seemingly random, spam projectile.
The “puzzles” in the game and its “tricky” boss battles feel like they could’ve easily been solved by a child. Even the inherent skill needed to play this game boils down to nothing. It is the skill of mastering controls that could never work out for the best. Combine near perfect reaction times with almost flawlessly timed skill shots and movement mechanics and there is still unavoidable setbacks and bugs. When discussing a game with such a simplistic design that is this short, bugs should no longer be an issue after official, public release. Hopefully with a later patch some of these issues will be addressed.
In its most basic form, a game is designed to be entertaining. A fun way to escape monotony through enjoyable playing. Besides being amusing with an innovative art style and interesting dual-character control concept, Stone Tales was rarely fun. It had some great ideas but fell short when it came to execution. Overall this game fell flat and will soon be forgotten.
The Bottom Line
Stone Tales is thankfully a short play-through but will require a tremendous amount of patient, level-headed effort on the part of the player. Even understanding the minimal budget Indie studios have to produce games of similar quality, the game fell short of being worth its price tag. As a free to play, or possibly $0.99 mobile effort it might have found more success.
Unfortunately this game was more often an exercise in frustration rather than a challenging entertainment. As a platformer it lacked a cohesively smooth flow to its gameplay. As an adventure based/puzzle challenge game it fell short in the action and difficulty departments. Overall Stone Tales came off as an unfinished product that desperately needed more feedback from testers before it was officially released in full. If it were still in alpha or beta stages, these qualms could be forgiven but as a paid product, this game just isn’t worth it. Yellow Worm Studios can truly hope to make a unique conceptual game like this a success. But it will require implementing some solid future patches and bug-fixes.