It might look like a deleted scene from Bojack Horseman but STONE offers a stoner noir-esque experience much along the same vein as The Big Lebowski and Inherent Vice. Let’s jump straight in and see if it can match that bold statement.
You play as Roy Stone, an alcoholic anthropomorphic koala bear who wakes up one morning after a heavy session the night before to find his boyfriend, Alex, is nowhere to be found. Using his lacklustre private investigator skills, he takes it upon himself to find Alex and return things to normal.
The first thing that is immediately obvious with STONE though is that the voice acting isn’t particularly good. In fact, if it wasn’t for the splash screen announcing the game was funded by Film Victoria, I would have questioned the legitimacy of the Australian accents. The voice acting feels very wooden and laissez faire, and the urgency of a man looking for their lost lover doesn’t come across as urgent at all as a result.
There are a lot of Australian colloquialisms included as well, so the appearance of a glossary detailing what all these mean is welcome, particularly as this comes in on the humorous side.
The game starts with a simple series of environments such as Stone’s flat, the local bar and an open all hours nightclub that appear to be full of people, but only one of them can be interacted with in each area. The whole process takes about 25 minutes and by that time you are halfway through Act 2 before anything opens up. It’s a telling sign that one of the biggest gameplay features is that you can press the Y button at any point and strike up a cigarette. But for some reason whenever you are smoking Stone cannot walk or do anything else. Typical man.
The game hits a high point when it does become much more open; Stone can visit a sauna, choose from one of the licensed tracks to listen to – which in fairness are pretty good – or visit the cinema. Here you can watch full length black and whites including The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Night of the Living Dead. These are certainly in keeping with the stoner noir feel but aren’t required to continue the story, as nice a touch as they are.
The story itself can be completed within two hours; there is a satisfying conclusion to the plot in the epilogue but the majority of the game requires you to travel to the same three locations, repeatedly interrogating the owners of said establishments. The majority of them don’t like Stone, and I can understand why, as all he appears to do is ask the same question over and over again, despite doing any actual private investigating.
More annoying is the fact that these conversations tend to just stop mid-flow. Rather than interacting with a character once and the full conversation playing out, you are having to press the A button several times to get the full conversation, and there doesn’t appear to be any consistency as to when the conversation breaks down, requiring the players input again.
Even graphically the game lets itself down. We’re not expecting Red Dead Redemption 2 levels of graphical clarity here but some of the textures look ugly and this game wouldn’t look out of place on the Xbox 360. Character models come across as a bit cartoony, which isn’t a bad thing as they could look like extras from Bojack Horseman, so it is a shame they aren’t shown off to their full potential.
Other graphical issues exist too. Stone tends to wear sunglasses when outdoors but if he is in a conversation, sometimes these are the only items of Stone that will load in when the other person is chatting.
When Stone isn’t questioning the same individuals, we are treated to some decent moments. There is a fever dream – a stoner staple – and some flashbacks to give further context to just how important this missing Alex is to Stone. The interactions Stone has with a group of British foxes are also high points, but these are just a little too infrequent.
There are 13 achievements in total, and all are as easy as the game itself. So much so, that ten of them can be unlocked by finishing the main game and epilogue, with the remaining three requiring only the tiniest bit of extra effort to earn as well.
STONE on the Xbox One compares itself to films such as The Big Lebowski and Inherent Vice, and in the odd moments it is. But even in a game that is barely two hours long, these moments are too far apart, and the filler is very disappointing. There is little to no interaction within the environment and the inhabitants, but then that might not be the worst thing since the voice acting is so wooden. Sadly, this Stone sinks to the bottom of the pile.