Brought to you by the same creator that gave us The friends of Ringo Ishikawa on Xbox not long ago, Arrest of a Stone Buddha is largely built on a similar engine and style. It does however execute its premise and game design quite differently. That said, The friends of Ringo Ishikawa was hastily ported to Xbox, and unfortunately Arrest of a Stone Buddha isn’t much better either. This is a poorly optimised release with little to no effort made in basic menu presentation or settings. It almost feels like a raw test build uploaded to the Microsoft Store, and so it leaves a pretty poor impression from the moment the game is booted. Unfortunately, despite some cool and novel ideas, the rest of the game that follows doesn’t do much to impress either.
Arrest of a Stone Buddha has one of the coolest opening sequences as you find the protagonist sitting in church, before walking up to the man praying at the altar and shooting him right in the back of the head. As soon as this happens, henchmen start swarming the church and all of a sudden, you’re just like John Woo, shooting all sorts of weapons and dual-wielding pistols too. Then as you step out of the church the henchmen keep coming, and coming, and coming, until there are so many bodies stacked up that it’s time to drive off. This opening sequence does a great job of setting the mood for the game, but just as quickly it also shows how limited and superficial the core gameplay is.
As it turns out, in Arrest of a Stone Buddha you are a lone hitman navigating the mean streets of urban France in the 1970s. Assignments come in regular intervals, and during off-time it’s about getting through a mundane day by roaming the cold streets. For what it’s worth, the game does have a strong sense of atmosphere and some novel ideas, but everything just feels flat and superficial in execution. Arrest of a Stone Buddha obviously takes after The friends of Ringo Ishikawa, and while the former may have a bit more structure in its pacing, the latter definitely has more gameplay substance.
The core gameplay action involves shooting in a 2D plane, as missions generally involve taking out a target before dealing with a near infinite army of henchmen. At first, the idea of mowing down wave after wave of goons with all sorts of firearms can feel pretty cool, but the novelty wears thin rather quickly. There’s very little variety to the shooting, and there is no real sense of level design in the missions either.
The biggest problem is that the mechanics and systems are just too vague and at times even non-existent. The basic movement is cumbersome and limited – you can’t even run in this game during combat – as all you can do is walk with hands in pocket. There are different ways to shoot, such as the quick draw and shooting while ducking, and importantly you can disarm, and also literally break arms of enemies, to get all sorts of firearms.
As cool as this all may sound, the biggest problem is that the game has no HUD display of any kind; nothing to indicate what kind of gun you’re holding or how much ammo you have left. Worst of all, there is nothing that states how much health you have left as without warning your hitman can simply drop dead after being a bullet sponge for several minutes.
The out of mission segments simply involve passing the time. There’s a café, cinema, galleries, and other distractions. Your hitman even needs to take a dose of sleeping medication before bed. Unlike The friends of Ringo Ishikawa though, there are no stats to develop here, and so these segments simply serve as atmospheric filler between the bland missions.
In all, Arrest of a Stone Buddha is a superficial and empty video game. Despite having some novelty in its setting and ideas, there is simply no semblance of coherent game structure or practical gameplay mechanics. It almost feels like a concept to what could have potentially been a very cool 2D action game, but as it stands Arrest of a Stone Buddha is a pretty meaningless one; one that has been poorly ported and presented on Xbox.