One of the best parts about working as a game reviewer is the chance it offers to play titles that we’d never otherwise get to play. We get to find unique, interesting gems out amongst the dross of what’s out there in the gaming universe. Unfortunately, finding gems in the dross also means that, from time to time, we’re called to work through the dross as well. So it is that I find myself writing about Stonerid, a curious but ultimately uninspired platformer that suffers from poor controls, confusing design, and an interesting but poorly-executed dual-reality gimmick that’s not only been done before, but been done better.
Gameplay in Stonerid focuses on a strange gargoyle-like creature who, setting out to save the forest from spreading toxins, adventures across the land gathering up toxins and exploring the world in two planes of existence. In one world, our intrepid rocky protagonist is a somewhat benign-looking statue with enough heft to destroy enemies by jumping on them with the full brunt of his weight. In the alternate, the statue takes on a more demonic look (complete with glowing red eyes) and is lighter, enabling longer jumps but negating the capacity for combat. World-switching is done on the fly, often needing to be done mid-jump to avoid obstacles or reach platforms that only exist in one of the two realities.
While the idea behind the world-switching is interesting, Stonerid has the unfortunate malady of controls that are best described as ‘muddy’. Movement feels slow and the controls are not especially responsive, and switching realms to make forward progress is almost always an exercise in trial and error since no indication is given in regards to what the other realm might look like where you are. The closest thing to that is a red ‘x’ that appears when you’re standing in an invalid switch spot, usually an indication that there’s a platform, ground, or other obstacle in that space on the other side. This makes a long, arduous process out of even the smallest of travel distances, since – from my experience, at least – there’s a lot of looping back around and trying the same ill-fated jump over and over, swapping worlds haphazardly in the often vain hope that you’ll reach the next area.
The real trouble I had with Stonerid probably boils down to a perfect storm of sorts. With the controls so muddled and movement made slow and swampy, the precision needed for proper jumps and world-switching hangs mostly out of reach. The gameplay became very frustrating, which is almost too bad since the concept is sound and the art is beautiful. For those of you with the patience, a $4.99 price tag via Desura may be temptation enough. The game releases on Steam on August 15th, as well, if you’re really looking to add more to your collection there. For the cost, the art alone may be worth checking out, but I’d certainly not recommend this title to any but the staunchest of platforming fans who are looking to support more independent developers.
[+Great art and aesthetic design] [+Fun and interesting concept] [+Nice low price means a low-risk venture] [-Downright bad controls] [-Flat, uninspired gameplay outside of one gimmick] [-Confusing attempt at story]