It’s easy to compare the opening of The Stoneville Mystery to A Link to the Past‘s start, given that both occur on a dark, stormy night, with our leading lad waking up to investigate a disappearance. For Link, it was following after his uncle and listening to Princess Zelda’s telepathic call. In The Stoneville Mystery, young Johnny wakes up to find his father’s bed empty. Out he goes, into the rain, into the land of blue filters and loud crashes of thunder, to do some fetch quests, read a few books, and bring peace back to nature. All without a single sword swipe, too.
You control Johnny from a three-quarters overhead perspective with the [WASD] keys, using [Z] to interactive with anything he can press against. Most of the descriptions are fairly simplistic, but a few are humorous, and a couple of spots need to be interacted with to get a specific item to help you progress, so I then ended up examining everything to ensure I missed nothing. It’s a gamer’s problem, y’know. You do have an inventory (that is too large considering you never acquire more than two rows’ worth of items), as well as the power to save anytime, anywhere. As you explore the town and the western forest area, you’ll meet a handful of characters, all who seem to serve a purpose save for one pirate and the girl fishing in the middle of a thunderstorm. I liked the inclusion of the creepy witch, who went about her potion-brewing in very gray territory, but all good fairytales are brimming with darkness. Did you know that in the original version of Snow White, the Queen is forced to don hot iron shoes at the end and dance until she drops dead? Yeah, Disney altered that a smidge.
The Stoneville Mystery is a straightforward fairytale about angry woodland spirits. It eventually boils down to Johnny collecting five blue shards which can then be created into a hearthstone and returned to its proper place in the temple. Once you do that, the game ends abruptly, though it has a cute bit of credits to go through afterwards. I found the puzzles to be varied enough, but nothing too challenging. You have to avoid monsters, activate statues in a specific order, give people the item they most need, and acquire enough gold to buy that silver key from the lingering town merchant. You can’t get stuck or screw yourself out of moving forward. The game takes place over a couple of large areas, as well as indoors, and I really like hearing the thunderstorm muffled while inside the warm, well-lit inn. Just felt really good.
I enjoyed The Stoneville Mystery at a laidback pace, interacting with everything I could while drinking my evening fill of two cups of coffee. I saved three times total and saw the “game over” screen twice, once from a flame spirit and the second from an angry skeleton I was not prepared for. If you have around thirty minutes to kill and a fondness for sprite-based exploring, I recommend it. You can download a free copy of the game here.