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Apple Arcade: ‘Stela’ Review – A Beautiful, Scary Journey

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Have you heard people say that everything in Australia wants to kill you? Well, that’s the feeling you get when you play Stela () for the first time. Every living organism is out to get you and it feels great. No, seriously.

Stela is a platforming game developed by SkyBox Labs set in a post-apocalyptic world. You’ll play as, you guessed it, Stela, a young woman who’s probably the last human on earth. At least she’s the only one we see. You’ll join her journey as she witnesses the last days of an ancient world.

If you’ve played games like Limbo or Inside, then you know the drill with these types of games. You wake up in the middle of nowhere, with no clue of who you are or where you’re going. You only have to keep going right and see where the path takes you. All this while avoiding all kinds of monsters and creatures that are extremely deadly and violent. The best tip I can give you is to avoid everything that moves. It doesn’t matter if it’s bugs, bats, big tentacles, or Shadows. If it moves, it wants you dead.

We don’t learn much about the world or the creatures we see throughout the game. Stela’s mission or back story is a mystery too. The only bits of information we get come from the achievements, which are really easy to get. They are the only things giving us information about the creatures we see and the places we visit.

The stories with these types of games are always ambiguous. We never get a straight answer. Instead, we have to look in the world around us to get an idea of what’s going on, which is great. It’s what makes you keep playing. However, you don’t really feel satisfied at the end of Stela. You just end up having more questions than before.

Sure, these games are always open to interpretation, but I’d love to have more answers about the world we’re in and about Stela herself.

Throughout the game, you’ll have to complete puzzles to make progress. Most of them will be easy, but you probably won’t solve them on your first try. You don’t get tutorials so you’ll need to explore for yourself and use the objects around you to solve the puzzles. It’s not always clear which objects you need to use, especially when starting the game, but after a while it’ll be easier to spot them.

However, this means you’ll die a lot. Especially when doing the time-based puzzles. Again, they’re not that hard, but I did have a couple of issues with them, mostly when I needed to jump quickly. I don’t know what it is, but sometimes Stela won’t jump when you tell her to. Luckily the checkpoints on this game are well placed. Still, it’s always annoying when you die because the game didn’t register your input.

Skybox did an excellent job with Stela’s scenery. You’ll go across forests, frozen lakes, and even something that reminded me of Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road. It doesn’t matter where you are, the game does a great job making you feel scared and out of place.

Wherever you are, you’ll always feel small. The vast environment and the creatures you face will give you a sense of being powerless. Even if this sounds bad, it is a fantastic and scary experience. The feeling of loneliness combined with a great original soundtrack leaves you anxious and scared.

I’m saying this in the best way possible, of course. Stela is a beautiful, cinematic game that does a great job keeping you curious and scared since the beginning. While it could do a better job when it comes to guiding the player through the game or making the gameplay mechanics a little more intuitive, Stela is one of the more enjoyable gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time.


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NOTE: GAME NAME is available on mobile exclusively as part of Apple Arcade, a premium gaming subscription service from Apple. Without being a subscriber to Apple Arcade you cannot download and play this game. Apple Arcade is $4.99 per month and does come with a free one month trial, you can learn more about it on Apple’s official website or by visiting our dedicated Apple Arcade forum.

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