by Dylan Blight (PC)
A hungover koala detective, STONE wakes to find his chookie Alex has been kidnapped. YOU need to find out what happened.
Stone, a koala, awakes with no recollection of his night prior, his keys are in the sink and his head hurts, but most importantly he has woken to a mysterious call telling him his life will never be the same -- his chookie and partner, Alex has been kidnapped.
After waking to such news of course Stone’s one goal is to find his love and so he sets out to local bars and clubs they would frequent in search of clues. You’ll venture into several locations including a bowls club, bar and nightclub while meeting a cast of characters that include British underworld Fox’s and a Detective Devil -- that’s indeed a Tasmanian Devil -- in search of Alex and who’s kidnapped them.
If you combine The Dude from The Big Lebowski and Doc from Inherent Vice you have Stone. He’s a P.I, dresses in an unbuttoned shirt, smokes a lot -- which there is a button to activate -- and has a one-syllable name he prefers to be known by. He has similar personality traits to The Dude and Doc as well: sloth, single-minded, drunk, kinda lost.
Stone doesn’t really have the 70’s inspired vocabulary though, instead, he speaks like a walking amalgamation of every Australian slang you hear often, sometimes, barley and -- wait, do we say that? As an Australian that doesn’t say "mate" at all outside of sarcasm (sorry), but does work in retail I can confirm some people do indeed throw it around as often as Stone. However, some of Stone’s -- or the game as a whole -- vocabulary does reach a point of trying too hard to be Australian A.F and international audiences, fear not as the game does include a handy guide to Aussie English.
Although it can often be quite funny, STONE does fall victim to its own writing at times, especially when it falls too hard into the Australian A.F hole of jokes. The voice acting is also hit and miss. Even the voice of Stone, Ethan Watson, who can deliver some really great lines, but struggles with the nuance needed in the delivery for others. A lot of the acting is very wooden at times as well, although it doesn’t get so bad it ruins the game, it is definitely noticeable.
What helps alleviate some of the writing and acting issues is the superb character design and art featured in STONE. Each character is designed wonderfully from their general anamorphic design to what they’re wearing. There is an artbook at least digitally available and that’s something I’m really interested in looking through.
STONE is inspired heavily by a lot of art it seems, from big cinematic ventures to underground street art. Alex is an artist, with their paintings viewable in several locations throughout the game and you also have the opportunity to watch six different films like Night of the Living Dead. Of course, you can watch these films online a lot easier and quicker, but a lot of what makes STONE great is taking moments to just live in its silly world. In the nightclub, you can press a button to make Stone dance and I did it for several minutes every single time I was there because it’s fun and ridiculous to watch a Koala dance to techno and hey, maybe that’s art. By the time I’d wrapped Stone's story up I was ready for one thing though and that’s a DDR tie-in.
What makes spending so much time in the nightclub fun also is the banging soundtrack. Developer Convict Games calls STONE a ‘hip-hop stoner noir’, the hip-hop in that solely comes from Stone’s love for the genre and the use of several songs in the game. Music is a big part of the game in a lot of aspects though, from the nightclub interaction fun to changing tunes on a jukebox in a bar, music is even playing at the bowls club. Song titles appear in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen too, so you can jot down quickly any you like which is great.
STONE is a quick two-hour dip into the fair dinkum world of Stone, a bloke with a good heart, but needing a right knock on the noggin as he can be a bit of a drongo. A bit more hard yakka could have pushed STONE into something bigger, but it’s still a bit of a larrikin and possibly best enjoyed with a cold one or two.
(I had fun, but feel STONE could improve the script and acting, but would still recommend for silly antics and art direction)
Developer: Convict Games
Publisher: Convict Games
Platforms: Windows (reviewed), Mac
(STONE code provided by the publisher)