An Aussie stoner noir story — Stone caught my attention immediately with this descriptive phrase. As a third-person, interactive story, you will be walking around titular character Stone’s watering holes while searching for the love of his life, Alex. His partner has gone missing and a phone call threatening him to let Alex go for good sets this private eye off on an adventure throughout their town looking for answers. Unfortunately, Stone doesn’t hold up, as its short playtime and total lack of depth make it a game that squanders its attention-grabbing style.
Stone is a grizzled detective who wakes up to an empty bed. After a phone call confirms his partner has been kidnapped, Stone must travel from location to location in search of any hints as to Alex’s whereabouts. Being completely narrative-driven, Stone’s story had to be on point to keep the player motivated to continue, and even though the playtime time came it at just under two hours, I still found myself quite ready for its conclusion. Flimsy writing and dialogue choices that don’t actually lead you down different paths take you on a linear tale with a twist, where the twist isn’t all that exciting. Even though some of the content is admirable, I found a lot of filler to be commonplace.
As the developers name it, this is an interactive story, meaning you won’t have much to work with in terms of gameplay. It felt a bit like one of the Telltale Games releases, but with less gameplay, which is saying something. Beyond choosing what to interact with, causing a one-liner from good ole’ Stone, you don’t have anything to do but sit back, select locations from menus, and listen.
Even within the confines of the storytelling, there just isn’t much to see and learn. You have just a couple locations to visit throughout the story, where you will be bounced back and forth between bars trying to ask the same questions, searching for new answers. The number of characters you interact with can be counted on one hand, and none of them have deep personalities or inspiring stories of redemption to help things along. You almost spend just as much time in the menu screens and loading times as you do wandering through the same locations, finding the one character you can speak to, and finishing up the dialogue.
Oddly, the stoner portion of that catchy phrase that drew me in feels farfetched. Mentions of marijuana or stoner culture are completely missing, beyond your ability to start smoking while standing idly in a location. It was surprising that this title was marketed in that fashion when it has nothing to do with the story and isn’t mentioned in dialogue outside of the initial tutorial.
Graphically, Stone is alright. I like the fact it felt a bit like a 3D Night in the Woods, but bugs and clipping show off a lack of polish hidden behind this decent-looking title. As well-made as the characters have been rendered, environments are bland and empty, and when you can’t interact with the majority of things in any given area — Stone really needed more to look at.
The only other things keeping you around are the ability to watch short, classic films on your TV or at the movie theater, and some really killer indie musicians who have allowed their tunes to make it to the record shop in town. This soundtrack is one of the more unique ones I have had the pleasure of experiencing in some time, but it is such a bummer this album of up-and-comers is thrown in as a way to give you something small to do on the side rather than it being front and center. The tracks are presented boldly to you as you play, which I appreciated, but I felt like it still needed to be more of an emphasis based on what this total package offers.
Stone was a disappointment, almost from top to bottom. I entered this experience thinking this could be a really intriguing title, but it wasn’t. Even if you can set the playtime aside, there just isn’t much to do here, and what you can do isn’t enjoyable. These artists who created the sounds for this title need a much bigger shoutout, as there is some grade-A tuneage here, but the background music isn’t enough to elevate this one past all of the shortcomings.
Stone fails to hold up against the trendy descriptions and catchy phrases. Having a linear, short, and boring story, matched with a lack of polish and zero gameplay creates a package that is hard to suggest to anyone. If you’re looking for some recommendations for talented indie musicians, Stone has your back, but otherwise it was a disappointment.