Back to Stone GBA Review

wLwsPLwkTB? vRUQQPUs9T? 6xCyfwCP4n? Nah, contrary to what you may think, I’m not just typing nonsense – these are passwords. PASSWORDS, remember them? Y’know, those things from the times before battery back-up and other more convenient saving methods existed. They became a relic of a time gone by, an archaic method of recording one’s progress, when the art of writing down a 32-digit code differing slightly depending on your remaining ammo, health, how many enemies you’ve killed, and location became a simply case of hitting “YES” when prompted to “overwrite your last save”.

So, with that said, what on earth were “Hidden Floor” (the people who bestowed the unspeakably poor Crazy Frog Racer games upon this world) thinking when they decided that in this – ofall games – a 15 hour+ adventure, this was the best, most time saving, gamer-friendly way to store your game on a portable system?

They were probably thinking “this is just another budget title, production line video game. We don’t even need to TRY and release something of a high standard as long as our overheads are happy.”

This is a French-developed game, a country where they don’t exactly speak the Queen’s English, but even so – starting your quest inside a “DONGEON” is not only a hilarious spelling mistake, but a sign of some of the laziness on display.

You play as some nameless, generic hero in a world where monsters rule and they’ve been experimenting on human slaves. So far, so standard; nameless, generic hero survived his testing and has now been “blessed” with the power to turn everything he touches to stone. What does this mean for him? Creating structures to overcome obstacles? Turning various simple items into solid items of destruction? Hell, an epic story arc where you spend your time searching for a cure, unable to even touch your one true love out of fear of turning her into a lifeless statue and the internal struggle of that horrid situation?

Nope – it means block puzzles. Lots and lots of block puzzles. Have block puzzles ever been fun? I mean, Devil Dice was a cool twist on the game staple and God of War at least made them tolerable (with Kratos’ frankly brilliant ability to drag, slide and push in any direction, and just kick them to their desired location if needed), but other than that they are one of those clichéd parts of modern gaming that we’d all be better off without. Even Twilight Princess made me want to slice open the backs of my knees with how terrible the block pushing was.

Each enemy you defeat turns into a solid cube, which you can push around the areas before they shatter after a short amount of time. Most areas are cleared by pushing the block onto a switch and collecting the rewards – rinse and repeat. There are items that can imbue the blocks with abilities, such as making them unbreakable and turning them into an ass-kicking sidekick for you, but all that does is add a few extra elements to the fact you spend an awful lot of your time playing Back to Stone pushing blocks onto switches. I’m sure the idea of turning your enemies into cubes to solve puzzles sounded amazing in some board meeting, but in practice it makes for an incredibly dull experience.

The rest of the gameplay is made up of platform sections, with the isometric camera angle, twitchy controls and muddy graphics all conspiring to make even the simplest of leaps a potentially fatal one for the pixelated “man-esque” shape you manoeuvre around the screen. If you squint, he bares a passing resemblance to the guy on the box, but for the rest of us who like to play video games with their eyes open fully, he’s little more than a smear.

Back to Stone was to be “One of the surest bets for GBA adventure this holiday season”. Christ, if I got this for Christmas, the only place it’d be going is “Back to shops”.

3.0 out of 10