Review – Stone (Xbox One)

Stone looked like a game with an irresistible premise. A noir adventure featuring a pot-smoking koala, set in an Australian town full of hip hop and weird animal characters. This sounded like something that would at least intrigue me with how different it is from the rest of the offerings out there. While this is true, I also ended up playing a ridiculously short game with very bad graphics and not a lot of gameplay to begin with. Talk about being a missed opportunity.

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He looks as enthusiastic as I do when I go clubbing.

The premise for Stone is pretty simple. After waking up with one hell of a hangover, the titular stoner koala finds out his boyfriend is missing, with some mysterious voice calling him and telling he won’t come back anymore. Given the fact you’re also a private investigator (making this the second game starring a hungover detective I played this month), it’s time for you to explore your surroundings and look for clues in order to find your “chookie”, as the game likes to call him. At first, the game sounds promising. Your koala protagonist is charming enough, both in terms of visuals and his voice acting, and there’s even a tiny little puzzle you need to solve before being able to leave the house.

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The game also features a few old-school Australian movies that have already fallen under public domain.

Everything goes down under (and not in the intended Australian way) the moment you leave your house and go straight to a nightclub and are greeted with copied and pasted character assets, poor lighting effects, and a clunky framerate. I had to find someone, talk to him a few times, then go somewhere and find someone else to talk to. That’s what Stone ended up being like until the end of its ridiculously short campaign: going from A to B, then from B to C, then from C to B again, and so on, always talking to the same half a dozen people in the process. The controls themselves aren’t bad, as you barely use a third of the buttons on the Xbox controller, but man, talk about being excessively simplistic. There’s also a dedicated button for you to light up and smoke a cigarette. I don’t know its purpose, but you can do that if you want.

What made me want to play Stone to the very end wasn’t its underwhelming story full of disappointing “twists”. It was its sound design. Truth be told, the game features some well-voiced characters (as well as some laughably bad performances) and a really good licensed soundtrack comprised not only of Australian hip hop, but also some alternative electronic beats and even some excellent hard rock songs that completely caught me off guard.

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Yep, somehow Kanye also exists in this furry version of Australia.

There’s little else that needs to be said about Stone, as it is so short that writing this up may have taken as much time as beating the damn game itself. It features some nice ideas and a great soundtrack, but it fails in its execution. Its gameplay is underwhelming, it doesn’t know whether it wants to be a drama or a homage to The Big Lebowski, and most importantly, it’s painfully short. It might be interesting if you’re looking for a game with a hip hop vibe, but don’t expect much from it.

 

Graphics: 4.0

Giving credit where credit is due, Stone has some neat ideas when it comes to its art style. Too bad the overall visuals and terrible framerate don’t do them justice.

Gameplay: 5.5

There’s nothing inherently bad with the gameplay, as it is responsive enough and the game uses very few buttons to begin with, but it’s extremely simplistic, with almost no puzzles for you to solve. There’s also a button dedicated to smoking a cigarette, because reasons.

Sound: 7.5

The voice acting ranges from laughable to actually pretty good, depending on the character onscreen. The collection of licensed songs included in the game is easily its highlight.

Fun Factor: 4.5

Just like its visuals, there are good ideas in here, and the story is even a bit interesting at times, but Stone is quite boring when it comes to being an actual game. It’s also very short.

Final Verdict: 5.0

Stone is available now on Xbox One and PC.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of Stone was provided by the publisher.

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