Iâve been reviewing games for about four months now here at Mouse N Joypad. I have played some really good games and some really bad ones. I assume most of the people reading this prefer playing good games as opposed to bad games, and I can concur with those sentiments. As a reviewer though there is a certain dynamic I have with the more publicly maligned latter category of video games.Â
What rough times: even a cute, little red fox was a vicious S.O.B in Paleolithic times.
Call it a weird hybrid of schadenfreude and growing up watching too much Mystery Science Theater 3000, but as someone with the onus of having to critique it comprehensively, there is a sense of entertainment in spending time with a bad game. Then again, as a reviewer, we must be definitive in our stances; bold, and self-confident. We deal more in blacks and whites rather than gray areas. Cause of this very fact, and because of the existence of games that tend to fall somewhere in-between either being bad or good, here lie some of our (reviewerâs) greater challenges. I can say with utter confidence that at the moment the name for this particular challenge for myself is called Stone Tales.
The first game from Yellow Worm Studios, Stone Tales tells the age old tale of two brothersâ escapades in trying to gain notoriety as being the two bravest men in the land. Untypical of most video games, this story takes place in the Paleolithic period. Even more of a rarity, the game plays out in the form of a 2D platformer styled after the remnant of cave paintings left behind by the actual Paleolithic Man.The effect is pretty striking, especially with how dedicated the developers were in wanting to maintain that authenticity. From the fluid, albeit subtly janky (a purposeful effect, I am sure) animation to the simple and crude details (i.e. male genitalia that resembles an inverted triangle), the execution of visually personifying these paintings are nice. Concerning this particular philosophy in approaching the visuals, the game Apotheon comes to mind if I had to compare it to another game. Whereas Apotheon had the slightly more realistic Greek pottery paintings to draw from, Stone Tales revels in inaccurate shapes and oddly-proportioned characters of the people, places, and things of everyday life in that era. Yet crude, the visuals maintain a level of believability through this minimalistic approach.
I wish the same could be said for the gameplay itself. As the game revolves around this relationship of two brothers, it asks the player to control both of them in conjunction. Similar examples from other games are the aptly titled Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and, probably more mechanically identical to this particular game, ibb & obb. Stone Tales tries very hard to emulate those two games, but perhaps if there were more time in implementing gamepad support, or the ability to play with another player, they would have been able to do so in a much more intuitive fashion. As I had mentioned earlier, you play as two brothers: Uga and Buga. Uga is the younger and more agile of the two whose defining ability is throwing spears. Buga is the older and more powerful of the two whose ability to wield and shield prevents any attackers from killing his less defensive brothers. Both brothersâ left and right movement is controlled by the A and D keys.
âBuga push over large standing log so that player has temporary relief from unnecessarily stressful controlsâ
Ugaâs spear throwing is controlling with the holding down of the left mouse button -hold down longer for longer throws, shorter for shorter throws. Bugaâs shield is controlled with the left mouse button. Lastly, both brothers have separate keys to control their jumping: the space bar for Uga, and the W key for Buga. These controls though orthogonally make sense, take a bit of time to get used to. The game is all about getting into a rhythm of defending first with the shield, and then focusing on offense, which in-time I could down solidly enough. The movement, on the other hand, can be more of a hindrance than not.
Concerning obstacles, this game is your typical platformer, which means plenty of jumping, plenty of lighthearted fighting, and then more complex jumping as the levels progress. As I stand back and look at the game, what was initially handed to me in terms of a challenge was fairly facile. The first two levels of the game I reviewed last week, Red Game Without a Great Name, far outweighs any hurdle presented in Stone Tales, and yet Red Game felt like an easier task. I believe this unwelcomed difficulty rests in the counterintuitive movement controls. For example, every time I had to jump in the game, I had to in a rhythmical movement, like playing the piano, press the space bar and then W key to have Uga and Buga jump, which even writing it down sounds like an interesting way of controlling two characters at the same time. When gaps between platforms become wider, or more rapid as they did during the gameâs chase sequence level, or relying more on timed jumps like during a dream sequence level, it is just asking for too much from one player. To be honest, it took me much longer to finish the game than it should have for the very reason that each level took so much out of me both mentally and physically that I had to take long breaks in-between.
If I sound very definitive in stamping this game as a bad game, I apologize. This game does have a unique visual style that hones in on a time in history that very few games have been able to recapture well enough. It is just a great shame that the mode in which you are given liberty to carry out in this world is at odds with both you the player and with the simplicity of the world. And as a reviewer, I must give my stance and say that I just can not recommend this game to anyone.