Ever wondered what it would be like to be a gay, private investigator Koala? Well, now you can experience the reality with indie STONE from Convict Games. Brought to you from Ex-Remedy designer Greg Louden, STONE is an, ‘adventure’ walking simulator that follows investigator Stone as he searches for his kidnapped boyfriend Alex. I’ll be honest, I loved the sound of this game just from that description and putting aside anything else I say about this game, I applaud any studio that creates something not typically produced. Fortune favours the bold after all and we should all be championing studios that colour outside the lines and give us something the big publishers won’t.
The story is simple, where’s Alex and what happened? I love a good mystery and though this is no L.A Noir the intrigue is certainly there, to begin with. As a private investigator the hopes are that something dreadful has happened and some yuppies you put away have taken your nearest and dearest, but as we progress it seems the truth might just be simpler than that. There’s no real backstory, not that the game needs it but it does move slowly. It’s linear and certainly not what I would call an ‘adventure’ but walking simulation, yes. Still, it’s not your typical story and for that I am grateful. Following the somewhat disappointing ending, there is an Epilogue chapter whose purpose seems to be generally reassuring you that it’s all okay in the end, and your friends that really don’t seem to like you, actually do. To be honest, I’m glad they put it in because without it the game would’ve been just a little too hipster for me.
I will say the graphics, art style, music meld nicely and present a cool experience like something out of The Big Lebowski. Featuring mainly Hip-Hop, some techno and rock you feel as though you’re being run through your friend’s obscure music list, but it works well for the game.
Gameplay is straight forward, you interact with objects and converse with characters in order to gain information and further your search. There’s a hard ass option and a soft option when it comes to dialogue, but both appear to get you from A to B and I certainly had no trouble progressing despite mixing it up. Some reviewers have said the choice factor gives the game some replayability but I’m not convinced it would make a difference to the final outcome.
The characterization is good but not polished, I could see the difference in personalities but wanted more. This also applies to the dialogue, Stone’s aussie accent is authentic but I can’t help feeling had it had a raspier, older tone to it like those from say, Sin City, it might’ve worked better with the ‘noir’ theme. Most conversations come across as bland and I feel as though there might’ve been missed opportunities to make it a little more tongue in cheek.
The game promotes itself as mature, with crude humour, drugs and alcohol, but these interactive features aren’t really anything to stress about. Smoking is doable but doesn’t achieve anything, drinking makes the graphics fuzzy and the so-called ‘trip’ came about without taking any drugs, so I assumed it was a dream. These aren’t your average interactive features it’s true, but there almost redundant.
Unfortunately, the general pace of the game feels slow. It gets repetitive and nothing really exciting happens despite having an explore aspect to the game. You can watch classic films at the cinema and dance a little at the club but maybe some collectibles would’ve been nice so it felt like it had a purpose.
Some actual investigating would have been a cool tool. Discovering objects that held significance to the story or actually having to convince someone to part with information would have provided an edge to an otherwise easy experience. The story reveals itself without you really having to do anything but go from one place to the next and feeling like you were actually having an impact on the gameplay would’ve have heightened it. The game’s message is somewhat lost on me, but then I don’t think I’m their target audience. Perhaps there isn’t one and that’s the point.
STONE isn’t a BAD game, in some ways, it showcases a game unlike many on the market and the fact that it features an LGBT relationship and has some adult themes is interesting. It’s unlike anything I’ve played for a while and its story and characters did intrigue me. But I was left a little disappointed. For two hours of gameplay, it just comes off feeling a little unpolished and lack-luster. It has some cool aspects and is probably a game you could really unpack if you had to write a 1000 word essay on it. But unless you’re the audience these guys intended it for, I might suggest you give this one a miss.
Grab STONE HERE https://store.steampowered.com/app/907770/STONE/