Game Reviews

Stone review - "An adventure game about a high koala that plays by its own rules"

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| Stone iOS
Stone review - "An adventure game about a high koala that plays by its own rules"
| Stone iOS

Adventure games can sometimes feel too esoteric - like you need to know a special language to play them, but you've only learned a few words and those are the words for "what?" and "eh?" Stone doesn't fit into that category, though. Instead of being driven by a bizarre internal logic, it's the story here that pushes you along.

There's no object combining, no annoying moments where you just mash at your inventory and stumble across a solution - it's an adventure in the sense that you're discovering more and more about the characters as you go, not in the put-the-cheese-in-the-sock-and-give-it-to-the-guard sort of way.

And for the most part that's brilliant. You're never stuck, you're never wandering through screens, and you're never frustrated at the innate unfairness of the game's world. But the different tack isn't without problems of its own.

Stone me

The game sees you playing a marijuana-smoking koala named Stone. After waking up to find your apartment trashed and the love of your life gone, you set out to solve the mystery. Unfortunately your own memories of the night before are hazy at best, so you need to piece things together from the other characters you meet.

You'll also be piecing together the story of Stone's life - of the things he's done to get to the position he's in now. In spite of the cute, animal-based characters (even the crocodiles are adorable), there are some dark themes here that wriggle their way into the experience.

There are also jokes, and one-liners, and that bitter-but-hopeful tone that only the best noir can manage to capture. Stone is a character you root for almost in spite of the things you find out - he's flawed but redeemable like all of the best heroes in fiction.

Stone iOS review screenshot - Picking what to say to a bird

Mechanically, the game isn't the most inspired. You're mainly wandering around with a couple of joysticks, tapping the screen to interact with different items. Even when the game stops holding your hand, it's still decidedly linear. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing - sometimes you just want the story to flow.

Of course, the problem is that if that story doesn't grab you, there's not much else to try and cling onto in order to keep playing. It's well written, and there are some really interesting characters to discover, but in the end it's lacking that super-sharp tension that's going to ensure everyone sticks with it.

This is like an indie film, one with a cult following - indeed there are shades of The Big Lebowski here, as well as plenty of other dark, quirky comedies. Some people are going to love it, and parrot the jokes and one-liners to one another in dark pub corners for years. Other people, well, they're just not going to get it.

Not for everyone

And that's fine - not every game has to be for everyone. It's just a warning that the bite the game has is very dependent on you - and even on the mood you're in when you start playing. There's no action here, and the conflict stems from the interactions you have with other characters and yourself - and those interactions are driven by the slow drip reveal of clues and twists.

Stone is equal parts charming and dark, and it manages to walk that super-wobbly line with mostly sure steps. When it scrabbles for footing, you're going to notice, but it doesn't happen very often, and never for long enough to keep you away.

This is an adventure game with a small a - one that doesn't really fit into the shape that we'd associate with big A Adventure. But it takes you on a journey all the same, and if you get swept up in that journey, you're going to stick around for the whole ride.

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Stone review - "An adventure game about a high koala that plays by its own rules"

Stone is an adventure that plays at its own pace, and if you're looking for something slow, thoughtful, and funny, you're going to love it
Harry Slater
Harry Slater
Harry used to be really good at Snake on the Nokia 5110. Apparently though, digital snake wrangling isn't a proper job, so now he writes words about games instead.