The Stone

Review by Orb

The Stone is a anomaly as far as games go, and a very intriguing one at that. The game is purchased in the usual game box, but this is where the similarity to other games ends. Inside the box the player finds a necklace, which is a stone with strange symbols printed on it, and two small booklets, one a getting-started guide to accessing the game, the other an unusual document that gives the player a peek into the creator's mindset and the world of The Stone. Oh yeah, and it gives the access code to get in.

The Stone is an online game, accessed via the stone necklace and entry code that came in the package. Once signed up, the player is allowed into the community of The Stone. The site itself is darkly, elegantly designed. There is much to explore and see, in addition to the overall game.

Upon clicking the button for the main gaming area, called "The Immediate," the player is taken to her own personal screen showing a large geometric grid with white dots in the center of many of the sections. Each dot signifies a new puzzle, and once a puzzle is successfully completed the dot turns grey, so the player can track her progress at a glance. The player is given an allotment of white dots—once these are all changed to grey, more are given.

Puzzles are plentiful, and plenty hard. A riddle or some sort of conundrum is presented on each screen. Most are just images, some with words and some without. Some have an accompanying question, but all have a small box underneath for the player to submit her answer. These are absolutely not easy puzzles, and they require a tremendous amount of study and brainpower. Some require that the solution be found by studying the subject through searches on the net. The answers, we found, were often hidden in other websites, and these would have to be investigated to solve the riddle.

However this sounds, the riddles are far from boring, and the discovery of an answer to them becomes a sort of quest. I felt an ever-increasing degree of amazement at just how the designers put them together and combined the elements of a hunt for the answer with the images on each puzzle page. Each puzzle screen also has a link for clues, which are almost always needed and provide much fodder in the hunt for the answer.

As far as the graphics go, the screens for each puzzle are quite beautifully drawn. The graphics are on an equal par with the rest of the design of the site. As the graphics are the puzzles themselves, they are to be pored over and studied, and it is very apparent that an incredible amount of work has been put into each.

The riddles are best solved by working with one or more other people. The most success I found came with combining the mental acumen of two or more people with the puzzles. Even so, the puzzles take a considerable amount of time to work out, and as they are completed there's a fair amount of pride at filling up the personal game screen with the grey colored dots signifying completed puzzles.

The site also has a series of puzzles made by other players that can be played, and this area is called "The Movement." In this area, the player is treated to another new grid, this one a concentric circle with the same system of white and grey dots. There is also a section of the game to "find your Other," which in layman's terms is the guy that has the same necklace symbols that you have. My necklace mate has apparently not checked in, but I remain hopeful, just so's I can see what other things the site offers for a pair of necklace holders, rather than just the lone player.

Another fascinating aspect to the design is the area called "Buried Clues." This is a real-world game where game items have been buried in real cities, and players must work together, sometimes in the real world, to accomplish finding these, if their Stone addiction carries them this far.

Finally, The Stone website offers a community area where players can talk to each other in a forum setting. There usually are seasoned players around to answer questions and give others helpful nudges. You will never find any outright solutions here, however, as the spoiler is a community no-no, and players demand that each strives to find her own answers. This area offers many forums, all covering various aspects of the games. The most amazing thing about this is it is an absolutely busy, teeming community all of whom are very much into The Stone as a pastime.

The Stone provides real bang for the buck, allowing the player to do many things that a conventional computer game does not always provide, a community of people all playing the same game, a chance for one to devise her own puzzle to stump others, an online "buddy" to find, puzzles that take one across the Internet in search of clues and an answer, and a real-life treasure hunt. It's pretty much up to the player just how much or how little of this she wants to enjoy and partake in. But at the very least, if you enjoy anything cerebral, get it for the puzzles and play it with some friends and/or family—you'll have a blast.

(You can find some free sample puzzles on The Stone website.) The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Abject Modernity Internet Creations Inc.
Publisher: Abject Modernity Internet Creations Inc.
Release Date: 1999

Online Game

Four Fat Chicks Links

Player Feedback

Screenshots

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System Requirements

Internet connection
Netscape or IE v. 4 or later
Windows 95, 98, NT, or Macintosh

 
   
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