Add to the big book of hitman statistics in Arrest of a Stone Buddha, out now on the Nintendo Switch.
You may already be up-to-speed on this title as it’s a game made by Yeo who has a bit of a cult/retro following from The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa.
On publishing duties is Circle Entertainment.
Just to briefly expose myself (don’t worry, Ma, it’s safe for work), I’m a fan of and studied Japanese cinema, so the aesthetic and ambiguity in the game is right up my street.
Also as we’re sharing, I haven’t finished this game as it’s pretty tough.
Arrest Of A Stone Buddha Switch Review
Set in 1970s France, you begin while on a job in a church to assassinate some unknown, before breaking out, taking down all the henchmen in your way.
With a few ‘blink and you miss them’ notifications on how to play the game, not much else is said about how to play the game, how you got there, or whether you’re a hitman in the first place.
Of course, you are; milkmen don’t perform a double-tap in broad daylight, right?
The controls are quite nuanced as you have to use the R button to aim and then press the A button to shoot.
There’s nothing on screen to indicate health, which direction you need to go or how many bullets you have left in Arrest of a Stone Buddha, so you’re on you’re own.
In fairness, you don’t need directions as it’s side-scrolling – it’s one way of the other.
Shooting the enemies in the game is quite subtle as your hitman will perform a variety of John Woo style poses; facing one way with arms extended shooting in the other direction.
If only there were more doves.
How To Be A Badass
These goons that are out to get you will continually spawn and remind me a little of the Kung-Fu Master arcade game where you have to keep moving.
However, what’s so tricky is distancing.
Your character walks the speed of a badass, with no sprint on offer, you have to play like a badass too.
As tough as you may think I am, I’m not a badass so closing the distance between baddies on the left while the group on the right get closer make it a hard game to play.
Equally, there’s no indication of when you’ll run out of ammo, so the strategy is to keep moving and shooting but keeping the odd baddie nearby; getting up close and doing a melee attack.
In this case, you snap the assailant’s arm by pressing B with a flick up, and anybody else unfortunate enough to get close to you won’t be shooting for months.
On the upside, you get more ammo and occasionally a new weapon – winning!
But, and here’s the big but: as you run out of ammo, it’s sometimes impossible to close the gap between those with guns, so you end up getting hit and subsequently dying.
On death, you return to the beginning of the scene, which is harsh as there are no apparent checkpoints.
Funny then, as Arrest of a Stone Buddha doesn’t feel unfair, despite the above write up.
Actually, I’m trying to be diplomatic – it’s so bloody frustrating when you have to start again because you just ran out of ammo or you pressed the melee button a frame too early.
For a retro aesthetic, I really liked it.
As mentioned in the news piece, Arrest of a Stone Buddha reminds me of a Takeshi Kitano film like Sonatine.
It’s super-violent yet simplistic, and the controls are the same: simple, yet tricky to master your bullet ballet.
Yeo clearly has an interest in Japanese culture, and the above is very wabi-sabi; finding the simplicity in complicated matters and vice versa.
I’m going to sit back and wait for some fanboy to educate me on the above.
But Arrest of a Stone Buddha is far from zen-like.
That being said, the downtime between onslaughts have the protagonist sitting around doing nothing, sometimes reflecting, other times not.
This is bound to alienate a good deal of gamers who just want the action, but I found these sequences quite poetic and rather than attempt to derail this review with film analysis, it was an excellent narrative decision.
If you have the patience, Arrest of a Stone Buddha is very rewarding – not with in-game achievements, but the progression of how the game plays.
Though I wasn’t counting my attempts, the opening sequence was so hard that I did feel pretty inadequate.
Invest a little time in learning the controls, and they start to flow.
There aren’t any combos to learn or moves to unlock, but as you become more competent with the controls, the further you get, and the more of a hitman you become.
A Slow Burner With Quick Deaths
The pace of the game does let it down a little, however.
I’m sure it was intentionally made this way to reflect the hitman’s state of mind and place in society, but as a gaming mechanic, it’s frustrating.
You have waves of enemies shooting you, why not run?
The argument isn’t because he’s such a badass as it’s so easy to die, so the speed did block the flow a little.
Another flaw with the game was the interaction and aiming with stairs.
You can’t aim diagonally so have to wing it, hoping to hit the enemies on the top and bottom, but you never know what’s killing you.
Arrest of a Stone Buddha is a relatively short game, but I doubt most people would finish in one go as you need to get a feel of the gameplay first.
When I opened the review, I conceded that I hadn’t finished the game (yet), so more reason for me to stick it out.
In terms of story and atmosphere, this would be the kind of film I would seek out and watch numerous times.
As a game, however, other than the satisfaction of finishing it, the likelihood of me replaying is likely to be as a refresher, or coax a friend to try it out.