by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Okay, I’m going to be honest: When I heard “Hip-Hop Stoner Noir”, I was thinking Heavy Rain meets Wayne’s World or something to that effect. I expected something irrelevant and stupid, but still entertaining. STONE is really something special, especially for the price of the game (15 dollars~). It was made by Convict Games, and they have really done something special here. It’s not a very long game, as point-and-click style adventure stories tend to be on the short side. There’s at least one replay in it, by making different decisions in how you treat other people in Oldtown. In the press release, they said that “STONE may not be for everyone” and that’s certainly true. It’s surprisingly liberal with how the characters are portrayed and without spoiling the story, it’s pretty deep and tells an important life lesson that some of us probably need to know, or needed to know earlier.
So we know the “genre” of STONE. It’s a Hip-Hop Stoner Noir. Noir titles are typically detective stories with lots of twists and turns, and this game is no exception. The story is about a Koala Police Academy washout-turned Private Investigator. His “Chookie” Alex is missing mysteriously, and he’s woken up by a call that Alex is gone, his life is over and they’ll never see Alex again. Stone can’t remember a single thing about the night before, thanks to being blackout drunk. So he does what any good P.I. does: Takes a leak, messes with his Drum Pad, has a smoke, and sets out to figure out whodunit. Well, maybe that’s just how I did it. It’s a pretty linear story, where you go from scene to scene across five Acts, each with several chapters of their own. Each character is fleshed out and interesting in this furry Australian world. As you move from bar to club, to the cops and more, you’ll have two choices on how you approach people: “Hard Ass” and “Soft Touch”.
Private Investigators are known for that “Hard Boiled” style of interrogating, where they go in, being a belligerent, aggressive jerk. It’s popular in a lot of fictional media. But that’s not always the right way to approach a problem. I honestly picked which to use depending on how I felt about the current character and what they were telling me. Sometimes you need to be aggressive, and sometimes you need to lay the charm down on people or lie your way out of a situation. Stone himself is a rude, selfish, alcoholic jackass. Over the course of this story, he grows a lot in a short amount of time, and you learn through flashbacks what happened to Stone and Alex. He trips a little, sees things, has weird dreams, and through these things, Stone learns more about himself, about Alex, and about what exactly has happened to cause them to be kidnapped or disappear. I won’t spoil the story and how it ends, but I really didn’t see it coming.
It’s A Long Road to Recovery: 4.5/5
As you play, you’ll open up a map that lets you visit other locations and relax between story locations, in case you want to unwind. This story gets pretty deep pretty fast. You have the club, where you can listen to amazing techno music, you can play Rock/Hip-Hop at the bar, or you can do my personal favorite side-activity, you can go to the movies! They have a nice variety of public domain films to watch: What Happened to the Kelly Gang?, The Night of the Living Dead, Haxan: Witchcraft through the Ages, and more at this cinema. Stone’s flat also has a MIDI pad to make music on, if that’s what you want to do. Back to that soundtrack, there is a nice variety of artists, and I loved every track I heard. Ryan LIttle, Ilkka S, Color Dolor, Noah Kin, Warchief, and others. Personally, Warchief and Color Dolor were probably my favorite artists in the game. The only real gripe I had was that hideous purple/pink banner for all of the text/dialogue/etc. The game itself is visually smooth, but that was pretty jarring.
The game itself is fully voiced, has colorful, interesting characters, from Foxes, Mice, Koalas, various birds, Alligators and more besides. The game itself is only a few hours long at the most, but for what they are asking for, it’s more than worth it. I went into STONE thinking that it was going to be a weird comedy about a bumbling idiot P.I., but by the end, I definitely had changed my mind. I had gone on a wild rollercoaster of emotions, and learned a little about myself. Frankly? That’s a good thing. None of us are perfect, and if we can learn a little something at the same time? That’s a pleasant bonus. I don’t really play many Visual Novel style games, but I love them as a concept. STONE is definitely one that gave me hope that the genre is as strong as it’s ever been. Convict Games made the game “they” wanted to make. They told the story they wanted to without reservation, and I respect that. I highly recommend STONE as a story that an open-minded story fan needs in their life.
Note: A game key was provided for review purposes.