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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The story is wordless, but play encourages perseverance when odds are stacked against you and things seem hopeless. It also rewards patience and careful observation.
Positive Role Models
Stela avoids conflict, preferring instead to use her wits to outsmart her attackers. She's clearly determined and courageous, though her driving motives beyond survival are mostly unknown.
Ease of Play
The interface is very simple, though it feels a little janky and imprecise. Deaths come frequently, but checkpoints are generous. The puzzles generally aren't too tough, but some later brainteasers could stump players for a while.
Violence & Scariness
The player's character confronts beetles, lizards, birds, and giant creepy humanoids with glowing eyes. These creatures can attack her by swarming or swiping at her, causing her to fall to the ground and die (no blood or gore). She doesn't fight back, but instead attempts to run, hide, and evade.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Stela is a puzzle and exploration game for Apple Arcade with a strong female protagonist who never gives up. Stela frequently comes under attack from a variety of creatures, including beetles, lizards, and shadowy humanoids with glowing eyes. They can quickly kill her (without blood or gore), but she doesn't fight back. Instead, she runs, evades, and hides from her foes, opting to use her wits to outsmart them. While the game isn't especially violent, focusing more on puzzle solving than action, it's dark and atmospheric, depicting an unfriendly world that's in ruin, without human life, and dangerous.
Is It Any Good?
While this feels like the sort of game that ought to have important things on its mind to convey to players, it really doesn't. Stela succeeds in creating beauty in its ruined environments thanks to a minimal yet atmospheric graphical style that includes the hero herself, whose bright hues stand in contrast to the world and make her a symbol of hope in a land weirdly empty of humanity. The moody music matches the visual tone, creating a fitting soundscape that conveys unease without being abrasive or noisy. In this respect, Stela shares company with beautiful and beloved indie masterpieces such as Limbo and Inside.
But unlike many of the games from which it clearly took inspiration, the experience never quite manages to coalesce into something with a message. As you work your way past enemies and through hazards, solving a variety of contextual puzzles along the way, nothing's ever explained. Who is Stela? What has happened to the world? Does she know where she's going? What's driving her forward? Even after the credits roll, you'll be left to speculate on answers to all of these questions. Ambiguity is perfectly acceptable in storytelling, so long as you begin with a few basic, well-established facts and premises. Alas, these don't exist in Stela. It will likely leave players feeling either frustrated for lack of resolution or dumb for not understanding what they just saw. It goes easy on both the eyes and ears, but it leaves the mind unsatisfied.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.