Stone is a game that you could easily complete in one sitting.
Through a combination of intent and unforeseen circumstances (being mildly drunk and falling asleep – unrelated to the game), it took a few days for me to finish, and I’m glad it did.
The premise, in case you haven’t read the news piece, is a stoner noir where you play a koala named Stone.
He gets a call to say he’ll never see his partner, Alex, again.
As a private investigator, this is right up his street, only the night before was such a clusterfunk (yes, I’m aware that’s not the correct way to say it), that the first steps are piecing together a logical starting point.
How does he (and the game) fair? Time for a…
…Stone Switch Review
We all like a hero against the odds – an underdog, or even anti-hero, and while Stone is a more or less a dick, he’s a nice dick deep down.
I’m leaving that line in.
First impressions from Convict Games entry on the Switch were very good; the character modelling for Stone is excellent, and the titular koala pees all over Blinky Bill with a passion.
There’s a dither-type filter present that used to be common in many FMV sequences back in the day of the CD-ROM, and it gives a slight retro flair to it, but likely used to keep the filesize down.
Without a doubt, the fine folk at Convict Games have shoehorned a lot of their interests in the game, so much so that if you aren’t familiar with the likes of Godard or Bukowski, you’re likely to have missed the references.
The same applies to the lingo.
As an Aussie game through and through, there will be quite a few terms missed by some players and the subtitles could help with that.
However, as a whinging pom, there wasn’t one word I didn’t get, and it’s no different to Brit humour, but I understand others didn’t get it – even with the small glossary in the game.
A To B, No Real C
As for the actual gameplay, it’s very linear with only two options to choose at a time without any significant consequences other than dialogue.
The most common option (using either L or R buttons) is to go in soft or as a hard-ass when questioning people.
Sometimes people are the opposite in games to real life and have a bit of a wicked side, but I almost always go the angelic route in a game as it’s my nature.
I couldn’t not select the hard-ass responses as the tirade of f-bombs can often be hilarious, and I have to say that I soon warmed to Stone, the character.
However, as the game is so linear, there’s not much to do other than the main path: find out what happened to Alex.
A lot of the playable areas are wide open spaces without anything to interact with other than a jukebox or drum machine.
Stone is padded out with lots of ‘extras’; new music, public domains films (the complete movies) and a few random areas that are there just for the experience.
With the film side of things, you can watch classic films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and others at a local cinema or even in your apartment.
Chances are you won’t, and I was quite surprised that I watched half of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – I own it on DVD, but the temptation to watch in on my Switch was there, so I took it.
One For Fans
As someone who studied film, certain aspects of Stone were a bit of a spunk fest.
At any given moment you can stop to smoke or when in the club, dance.
The animations are great, but they don’t serve any purpose unless there were some in-game achievements – which there aren’t on the Switch.
There are quite a lot of interactions that serve no purpose to the story and in some ways, felt quite pointless.
But again, I lapped it up.
There are frequent load screens in a bold pink title card saying ‘Stone’ and every time I saw it, made me think that Stone would be best served as an animated series.
I’d definitely watch it.
As a game, it does lack the interaction that I had hoped for, and while it doesn’t feel rushed, considering its months early, half of the content felt like filler like when you first bought a DVD and half the time you watched it was the features and director’s commentary.
When I first read about Stone, I was completely stoked, and while I’m not remotely disappointed with the game, I do wish that there was a bit more to do in the game such as a few more consequences for your dialogue choices or a bit more in terms of interaction.
And plenty of Kurosawa references – that’s my kryptonite.
Blinky Bill? Jog On
There aren’t many who would say a koala is their favourite animal, and while that’s unlikely to change, Stone flies the flag pretty well.
One of the other characters called Smiley, a crocodile? is excellently modelled and I wished there was more of him.
I can’t say the same about the foxes you encounter in the game as they looked quite out of place and distorted, though the actor voices made up for it.
Stone won’t appeal to everyone, and the lack of interaction in a lot of areas will understandably be a bit too mundane.
But for this reviewer, the ambience, soundtrack and presentation were brilliant; I just feel it was a bit too much of an in-joke for film fans and music lovers.
I’m just glad I was in on the joke.
Convict Games didn’t offer me a smoke, but a review code was provided and I thank them for allowing me to experience their world without having to reach for the biscuit tin.