STONE REVIEW (2020)

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It may surprise no-one reading this that I am a big fan of Australian games. I will rally behind any Australian developer and shout about their games to my poor Twitter followers until the end of time. So, it may come as no surprise that when I heard that Convict Games’ STONE was releasing for Nintendo Switch I had to get my hands on a copy.

STONE is a third-person interactive story where the player controls a foul-mouthed koala whom effortlessly portrays the stereotypical Aussie bogan named Stone. Did I mention that this alcoholic koala is somehow a private investigator? Despite Stone’s very rugged edges; the player is immediately drawn into a situation where one feels sorry for the permanently stoned protagonist. The game begins with Stone finding his apartment trashed and the love of his life kidnapped. Panic sets in as he receives a call confirming his worst fears and with no recollection of the happenings of the previous evening Stone has to retrace his steps to find his partner -an artistic bird called Alex- before it is too late.

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As the story progresses the player discovers more about not only the whereabouts of Alex but the events in Stone’s life prior to this moment. There are gritty elements that when linked together paint Stone in a different picture than that of which he presents himself as. There was a story line in particular that I personally wished would have been touched on more which had to do with a potential mistaken identity. The story in STONE was engaging for the most part but often felt like it did not have enough time to expand on necessary story elements that would have drawn the player deeper into the mystery of the game.

As the game is an interactive story; the majority of game play consists of the player using the joysticks to move Stone forward and control the camera. There is a map of the city which allows you to choose wherever you want to go; however choices are limited as there is not a lot to do in the areas unless you are progressing the story further. Conversation is the bread and butter of the game and the player is often given a choice as to whether respond in a soft or hardass manner to what is being said. It is clear that the game originally released on iOS however the story is engaging enough that the simple mechanics are not an issue.

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The game included numerous Australian references and slang that got a chuckle out of me. From beer being referred to as liquid gold to Stone making fun of the tiny houses in England – I felt very much at home whilst playing STONE. Ironically, even as an Australian I found the accents a little jarring at first – especially Alex’s accent. After a few minutes though I was used to hearing them and in a way it was kind of comforting to hear Australian accents in a game for once. Even as someone who doesn’t drink and is as far removed from the life that Stone lives as possible it was nice to have that representation in the video game – roadies and all!

One thing that I did enjoy was the game featured a lot of interesting music from a plethora of up-and-coming artists such as Ilkka S, Warchief, James Tottakai. The music plays through different areas of the game and can be listened to at the Record Shop. The game also boasts a collection of classical movies. At one point you find yourself watching one such movie during the game. I must say it is the first time I have watched a real moving inside a game. There are a range of other classical movies that you can view in-game too such as Sentimental Bloke, Night of the Living Dead & Story of the Kelly Gang. Props to Convict Games for including a Kelly Gang movie in the game.

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Overall, STONE is an easy game to pickup and play. The story is engaging and incorporates some twists and turns that are truly surprising. The references to Australian culture are entertaining – especially if you love a drink or two. The characters are all interesting in their own right although it would have been nice to have Stone’s backstory fleshed out more instead of the occasional hint as to what could have transpired. In the end I do not believe that I can say that I have experienced a game quite like STONE before and that in itself means that I have to say that it is worth the experience – just maybe not in front of your children.

Score – 3/5
The developer graciously offered me a copy of the game for review purposes.

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