Arrest of a Stone Buddha is the latest title by Yeo, developer of The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa published by Circle Ent. Is this going to be another “hit” for them or just a flat out miss?.
Arrest of a Stone Buddha is honestly a little more of an experience than it is a “game”, for those expecting another Friends of Ringo it may be worth checking those expectations at the door.
The game is set in 1970s France and puts you in the shoes of a veteran hitman. He circles a date on his calendar and finds himself walking up the aisle in a church. The click of a gun permeates the church before its drowned out by a gun shot, the hitman must slowly and methodically make his escape.
Visually Arrest of a Stone Buddha looks very similar to The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa, sprite based graphics in 2D settings. I will say the setting visuals are actually much stronger than “Ringo” and are brilliantly draped over the course of the narrative.
The soundtrack and sound effects for Arrest of a Stone Buddha are brilliant, the songs playing in the background perfect fit the atmosphere of the game, the credit song is beautifully powerful and the first gunshot of every hit feels like it has split the heavens.
The narrative seems to take plenty of cues from classic John Woo films like The Killer and Better Tomorrow. While Stranglehold managed to capture the over the top gunplay of those films, Arrest of a Stone Buddha captures the pure essence. The dribs and drabs of story give you enough to fill in your own gaps, you have a good idea where the story is going but then again do you?.
The gameplay complements the narrative brilliantly. Without going into too much detail, the main character just wants to whittle time down between hits, it’s where he seems to feel most alive. This is perfectly shown with the impactful action sections and the rather shallow and inconsequential sandbox gameplay.
Character movement is slow, you go at walking speed across the screen, you can draw your gun, aim at the most dangerous targets, disarm foes and steal their guns and use two handguns at the same time.
The main character certainly isn’t in a rush to get anywhere, fortunately he disarms, shoots and aims much quicker!.
After you make your escape you meet up with your handler for your next mission, after that you’re free to wander the town, drink in the bar, do a very little amount of shopping, view a film, visit the museum, as soon as 18:00 rolls around you can pop a sleeping pill, every couple of days you’ll start the next hit and the action gameplay starts again.
This is the gameplay loop throughout the story, while not the most varied it serves its narrative in a most effective way. The action sequences can be difficult but I found myself going into an almost zen like state when it finally clicked with me and it felt great. I was very thankful for the downtime between hits!.
Arrest of a Stone Buddha has several difficulty options, Easy, Normal and for when you finish Insane. My initial playthrough saw me at just under 4 hours, this involves alot of deaths!. The ending was quite a strong one and certainly suited the game and I believe there is another ending and some things I may have missed.
The curiosity of the game, the fun gameplay and engrossing music meant that almost instantly after my initial playthrough, I started a New Game on a higher difficulty, something that I rarely do.
While I can see Arrest of a Stone Buddha isn’t going to suit everyone, I do believe it will get a somewhat cult status amongst fans of the films I previously mentioned. The gameplay is the right kind of basic where it feels great to succeed and every death leads to a “just one more go”.
Yeo is crafting some genuinely exciting titles, The Friends of Ringo Ishikawa isn’t one we had the chance to review but would HIGHLY recommend the title and following it up with Arrest of a Stone Buddha shows that the developer isn’t just a one trick pony. Our eyes will be firmly on Yeo and his output in the future as one of the current creators able to invoke feelings from us using games.
Arrest of a Stone Buddha isn’t for everyone. It’s hard hitting, it’s unique and genuinely a special title. A very rare and beautiful case
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