Inspired by works from Hemingway and Tarantino, STONE is a game about mystery, reading between the lines and a hungover koala looking to find his kidnapped partner Alex. Follow the trail and piece together the events of last night as the cold trail begins to warm up. This Aussie hip hop stoner noir is sure to be a wild rollercoaster in more ways than one.
The gameplay is as basic as it gets, simply used to drive the story along. You control Stone from a third-person perspective, talking to NPCs and interacting with objects to further your investigation to find Alex. Controlling Stone feels clunky, which is instantly noticeable from the beginning of Act 1 where you’re tasked with fumbling around the koala’s trashed apartment for his keys.
The game can tend to be a little glitchy, where Stone’s walking animation would randomly stop and he’d simply float around the place for a minute or two. The glitches were never game-breaking and it never halted the experience, but it also gave the game an unpolished vibe that was difficult to shrug off.
On a completely random note, you can press X to stop and smoke. Honestly, I would have preferred a run button as Stone walks incredibly slowly and it gets mind-numbingly tedious when your objective is on the other side of the room. This is also heightened when the camera is excessively zoomed in and you’re seeing the back of Stone’s head and his Hawaiian T-shirt covered shoulders for much longer than what is welcomed.
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STONE starts of strictly linear in Act 1, laying the groundwork for the plot. You are automatically transported from one area to the next, where you can freely explore small sandbox areas. In Act 2, you can choose where you want to go from a menu-based overworld map, but as you continue the plot, the game will continue to switch between open and linear.
The world of STONE is filled with humanoid anthropomorphic native Australian animals seemingly residing in a rural suburb where everyone knows everyone. As the plot progresses, there are some curious surprise twists, but its execution takes away much of the impact.
Interactions can feel awkward and uncomfortable and jokes often fall flat due to poorly timed dialogue delivery. Conversations often stop midway, meaning that you need to keep pressing A after a few lines are delivered. The unnatural feeling that you get from these conversations causes dramatic moments being less impactful, often resulting in only one eyebrow raised instead of two.
Head to the Orion Cinema to watch a classic film; and when I say ‘watch a classic film’, I mean you can watch classic films in their entirety. They’re primarily films from early to mid twentieth century that one would normally analyse in a university arts degree, so don’t go expecting to watch Tarantino’s Kill Bill partway through this adventure, but it’s a nice touch.
Graphics / Art Direction
STONE takes on a classic textureless 3D approach that works in this instance, but it doesn’t come across as vibrant or visually appealing as one would hope. The game is filled with basic object models, characters that lack emotion in their faces and an incredibly basic white Arial font over a neon purple background that looks as though it was put together in Microsoft Paint.
The game cleverly demonstrates past and present scenes by its use of colour, with the past being presented in a greyscale black and white. Whilst this isn’t exactly a revolutionary storytelling tactic, it’s used well and provides a great sense of variety.
Music / Sound Design
The use of music is very prominent throughout STONE, with featured tracks from various artists that mainly consists of modern indie rock. It creates a gruff tone that fits well with the game’s harsh truth themes that humans may try to hide when attempting to present their everyday lives to friends, family and anyone else managing to stumble across somebody’s various social media pages.
The voice acting heightens the Aussie stereotype, with cliche over-the-top ‘how ya garn’ colloquials. It’s often cringeworthy and doesn’t connect well in context. The volume mastering is also very inconsistent, with voices rising and falling without cause or reason.
Final Score: 50%
The plot progression, with its twists and intrigue, truly keeps STONE from being an absolute hot mess of a game. Its rough around the edges visual and audio presentation, boring gameplay (to be frank) and unpolished nature gives the game an inexcusably unfinished ambiance that is consistent throughout the entire experience. Being from Australia, I really wanted to enjoy a game based around a troubled alcoholic koala, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Thank you for checking out our STONE Switch review, thank you to Convict Games for the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:
- Andrew Caluzzi (Inca Studios / Camped Out!)
- Belinda Cubitt