Stone Review

Have you ever woken from a night out with that stale taste of beer in your mouth, your head pounding, and your memory blank? Welcome to the everyday reality for our unfortunate hero Roy Stone. This poor excuse for a private investigator spends more time seeking a resolution from the bottom of a bottle, rather than spending his time solving crimes. This anthropomorphic koala bear wakes one morning to find his apartment trashed, and his boyfriend Alex is gone. Every room is trashed, a phone call confirms his worst fears, he will never see Alex again, he believes he has been kidnapped. Can you untangle this deeply entwined mystery? Can you put together the pieces from the night before to find the clues to solve the puzzle? Follow the instructions and prove to the world that you are the Private Investigator you claim to be.

Developers Convict Games have created a funny, be it short, film Noir style detective drama, filled with cliched accents and foul language, this title will have you cringing and laughing as the plot evolves. As you take control of Stone you are given the freedom to take the softly, softly approach, or try to play bad cop. Either way the outcome will always be the same, the game will push you towards the end of the scene and on to the next element of the plot. 5 Acts and an Epilogue await you, each is broken down into bite-sized chunks, and the whole game itself takes approximately 1 to 2 hours to complete, like I said this is a short Film Noir style detective game. The town map has a number of locations for you to choose from, the majority of the action plays out in three areas, Stone’s flat, the “Echo club”, and the “Smoky Possum”. You continually flit between these locations harassing the proprietors of these establishments for clues to solve the crime.

Like the lead character, all other NPC’s that you interact with are animals with human characteristics. Each is destined to help or hinder you during your investigation. One thing is clear, Stone is not a very popular bear. His brash attitude and cocky approach to life rubs his fellow animals up the wrong way, mix that with his unpredictable nature when he’s consumed too much alcohol, and it’s a recipe for disaster. Try and tame this Koala, as there is only so far that humour and a loud shirt can get you when you are trying to find your missing boyfriend.

When I first started playing it was obvious that the developers had focused their energy on creating a witty story, rather than polishing the visual aspects, the graphics really are dated, and somewhat rough around the edges; though I did enjoy the unusual take on film Noir with the more than occasional splash of Magenta. Graphical anomalies occur in nearly every scene, 2 examples that were glaringly obvious; the mirror is missing in Stone’s apartment, the frame is present and an option to interact with the object is available, Stone even comments on his appearance. The second was much more irritating, none of the character animation matched up with the dialogue. This wasn’t an issue if you happen to be looking away from your screen, but like when you stream a program and it buffers, the lag from the visual, to the audio is really frustrating.

If you place the visual element at the lower end of what Convict Games achieved with this title, then you simply have to look at their high point which is the audio. The music choice and the licensed songs that they have selected really do add variety and suit the genre perfectly. If you are wanting to waste some time, you can visit the record store and select any of the game’s finest songs. The almost ham acted voiceover work would be dreadful, if it wasn’t so funny, I particularly enjoyed the proper cockney Fox gangsters. The dialogue had a tendency to play over itself, both parties to the conversation, fighting to be heard first. This was irritating to say the least, subtitles were provided throughout, but this was another reason to feel that the title was not polished, and felt rushed.

The development team’s desire to keep the story moving made it too easy for me, within each scene you would be asked to complete a number of tasks, none were difficult. You were either told with a clear instruction presented in the top right hand corner of the screen, or you would see a pink orb floating by the offending object, I personally would have preferred to be able to use some detective skills, and searched each location thoroughly without the assistance of obvious hints. Not only would this have added a level of difficulty, it would have also helped extend the gameplay length, red herrings could have also been thrown into the mix to make the options in the dialogue more varied with alternative outcomes.

The controls were exceptionally easy to pick up, a basic tutorial was given when first loading the game, but this was not really required. Koala’s are not known for rushing anywhere, and Stone certainly matches this pace. He ambles everywhere, slowly moving his way from one location to another trying to get to the bottom of his problem. I’m not sure if Koala’s have the inability to perform more than one task at a time, if I’m honest, I’ve never really had grounds to research the matter, but this Koala doesn’t seem to be able to smoke and walk; light up a cigarette and his pink sandals are glued firmly to the ground, odd I know, but maybe that’s what smoking does to a Koala?

I’ve highlighted some negative moments from my experience with Stone, but it really does have some great plus points, moments that just make playing the game worthwhile. The script is clever and very funny in places, it had me laughing out loud, there are several out of the blue surreal scenes where you end up talking to your toaster and finding out that his name is Nigel, and that he needs a friend. Sir Quack a Lot, your trusty bathroom duck also gets in on the action. You also are treated to some Noir-esque flashback scenes which help to define the story. This truly isn’t going to be a game that will be to everyone’s taste. With an extremely short story, and limited reasons to return to the title once it is complete, I feel that even at its low price it may be considered too expensive for a 2 hour maximum playthrough. I’ve been fortunate to be able to play some fantastic detective adventure games, and the most recent one being Blacksad. Stone unfortunately falls way below that level, with so many missed opportunities to make this a great title, and a challenging interactive story. I believe that Convict Games has unfortunately missed the mark on a number of key areas.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Stone Review
  • Gameplay - 6/10
    6/10
  • Graphics - 4/10
    4/10
  • Sound - 8/10
    8/10
  • Replay Value - 2/10
    2/10
Overall
5/10

Summary

Waking to find a trashed apartment, and a gap in your knowledge is bad enough. But when your boyfriend is missing as well, things start to turn ugly. Who can you trust to help you solve the mystery, and bring your partner home?

Pros

  • Excellent soundtrack.
  • Amusing dialogue.
  • Easy Achievements list.

Cons

  • Dated Graphics.
  • Far too short.
  • No challenge throughout the story.
  • Dialogue and animations are out of sync.