Haven Review: Stone Tales

The concept behind Stone Tales deserves much more than it got. The idea of playing pre-historic people depicted as stylistic cave paintings sounds like a wonderful little indie experience. However, Stone Tales is nothing more than an unpolished mess. You play as two brothers Uga and Buga as they go try to save their tribe from a rival tribe. You control both brothers simultaneously. Using the same movement keys for both, but different jump keys. If the controls were tight, precise, and responsive then this could lead to interesting take on platforming. Sadly, that’s not the case. Moving and jumping could lead to you landing safely on the ledge you needed to, or it could send you wildly careening off the screen.

As you move through a level the brothers will become separated due to running into obstacles or just getting stuck on the terrain. There really isn’t a good way to bring them closer together besides finding a little wall and running them together. Platforming with the brothers separated can be the worst thing. One will make it onto a platform and the other wont. One will make it safely across some hazard and the other will fall right in. This can even be difficult to do when they are together. The poor controls and the precision of the platforming can lead to you re-doing the level over and over. Some spaces you need to land in are barely big enough for one character, and the slightest touch of any hazard will kill whoever touched it. If one brother dies then you must start over from the last check point.

In addition to platforming the game features unpolished broken combat. Combat works with both characters acting together. One has a shield and can take hits, while the other has a spear. The intention for the spear is that the longer you hold down the attack button the farther you throw the spear. This is indicated by a little bar the fills over the characters head. Once again, this is completely unreliable. The bar means absolutely nothing. The time you hold down the button means absolutely nothing. You can barely touch the button and he’ll huck the spear across the screen, or you can hold it down for as long as possible and he’ll drop the spear right at his feet. The best strategy I found was to rapidly click the attack button and hope something lands. This isn’t terrible to do when you have your brother to block incoming attacks, but there is a part where you play as each character solo. Having a wildly unreliable spear during this part proved to be the most frustrating section of the game. Luckily, the game is short and is over quickly. Most of the length in Stone Tales come from retrying the same level over and over because of poor controls, finicky platforming, and unreliable combat. Stone Tales is a game the belongs in the stone ages.

-Jordan Kamm