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BONE: Out From Boneville

Reviewed by  Mr. Bill and Lela


Over the years, we have mourned the loss of several of the great gaming companies, and none more so than when Lucas Arts decided to quit producing adventure games.  And we have often wondered whatever happened to all of those talented people who used to work there.  The ones who created the great classics like Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max, Loom, Monkey Island, and Grim Fandango.  So when we heard that some of the former employees had joined with others to start their own little adventure game company (called Telltale Games), and that they planned to do a sequel to Sam & Max (they now have the rights to it), of course we had to check them out.

We found that they have already produced a couple of games.  The first, available only as a download, is a card game, Texas Hold 'Em!  Poker, that comes complete with a tableful of realistic, wily opponents.  We simply had to have it...  and it's a real hoot to play!

But the second one, available as a download or on a CD, is this little adventure game called Bone.  We wanted to see if they still had that certain knack that Lucas Arts was so famous for, if they could still suck us in and hold us captivated with their characters, game play and dialogue.  So we bought it.  It's a relatively small download, only about 58 MB, but it nevertheless took us a couple of hours to download.  We still have dial-up out here! (moan)

Both the characters and the story in the game come from a wildly popular cartoon book series, Jeff Smith's epic Bone Saga, for ages 8 to Adult.  It has reportedly sold over a million copies worldwide and has received many prestigious awards.  This little game, Out From Boneville, is an interactive version of the first volume in that series.  As we understand it, Telltale has plans to develop the entire series as games, which will be 9 games in all.  Each game will be complete in itself, but with ongoing characters and the developing story.

And the main characters in this story are absolutely priceless!  We assume that they're supposed to be bones, but they look for all the world like Casper the Ghost, with feet.  And they have that same appealing and endearing quality about them.

They are 3 cousins.  Fone Bone, the main character and unlikely hero of this tale, is an adorable little good-hearted munchkin who goes around trying to diplomatically keep the peace and take care of everybody.  Then there's Phoncible P. Bone, otherwise known as Phoney Bone.  He's the little scheming, cranky, self-important screwup who got them all into this mess.  Naturally he wears a sweater with a big star on the chest.  And finally there's Smiley Bone, an apparently light-hearted, good-natured sort in a bowler hat, who smokes cigars and loves nothing better than to sing and play on his banjo.  He drives Phoney absolutely bonkers singing 'The Old Gray Mare'.

As the game begins, we find the trio lost in the desert.  Apparently Phoney was run out of town when one of his grandiose schemes went awry, his two cousins went after him, and now none of them knows how to find the way back to Boneville.  To make matters worse, they soon become separated and can't even find each other!  And so the adventure begins...

This is a linear, 3D, 3rd Person, point & click game with a smart cursor, optional subtitles, a very small inventory, and a built-in tutorial for those new to adventure games.  Sounds can be adjusted and there's a game manual available for download online.  The simple interface has obviously been professionally designed.  It's very easy to navigate and includes several notable innovations that we wish all developers would use.

For one thing, they've made it easy to have a conversation between several characters at once, by simply making a choice of any of them available in the dialogue tree!  Then there's the on screen Hint button, the best hint system that we've ever seen, which includes 5 hints for each puzzle, ranging all the way from a gentle nudge to the complete solution.  It makes walkthroughs totally obsolete!  But what really impressed us was the fact that absolutely everything in this game is done with the mouse, even any running, jumping or dodging!  No need to use the arrow keys here (as so many of the big companies have found it necessary to do).

You play first as Fone (later on as Phoney) and you soon find yourself wandering through a lovely fantasy world of mountains and valleys, deep forests, clearings and streams.  The colors are vivid and rich, and there's a surprising discovery around every corner:  a cavern, a treehouse, a farm.  And the excellent soundtrack suits each scene perfectly.  But it is the weird and wonderful assortment of oddball inhabitants that you encounter (both human and nonhuman) who make this game so unforgettable.

There's Ted the talking bug, and his BIG brother;  the lovely Thorn who steals Fone's heart, and her crusty, cow-racing Gran'ma Ben;  the scary, but hysterical, quiche-eating Rat Creatures;  the exasperating, game-loving little Possum Kids;  the hooded and menacing Kingdok;  and last but not least, our own personal favorite, the laid-back and bored Red Dragon.  The voice acting is perfect and the witty dialogue rivals the best Lucas Arts games.  We especially enjoyed the argument between the two Rat Creatures, and the conversations between Fone and the Red Dragon.  But it was all good.  We smiled all the way through the game, and went around quoting from it for days ("stupid, stupid Rat Creatures!").

Obviously the game (like the cartoon books) is aimed at kids probably more than adults, and the puzzles reflect this.  Most of them are strategy or logic puzzles, with a few that are inventory based, and none of them are difficult.  Several are delightfully different from the norm and many are very funny too.  The story-telling puzzle was great, and the one of Phoney vs Big Brother hysterical.  But there are 2 action puzzles or chase scenes (where you run, dodging and jumping obstacles) near the beginning and the end of the game, which your kids will love, but you probably won't.  Don't panic though, you will be given the option to bypass each of these two areas after your first attempt.

We really had only one complaint about the game, and it can easily be fixed in future games.  Basically this game was way too short.  We finished it in about 4 hours.  The book that the story comes from includes much more, but it wasn't used in the game.

We have definitely become BIG fans and we would buy any future games that they produce in this series.  The ending to this part was great, but we can't wait to find out what happened in the past between Gran'ma Ben and the Dragon that was hinted about near the end.  And why is Thorn having such bad dreams about her childhood?  And just what nefarious scheme is that creepy Kingdok up to with Phoney?

The game is clever, original, and most of all, just plain fun.  One of those rare gems that the whole family really can enjoy.  With that kind of great writing, and just a little stronger game development, the Bone Saga could become a long-running classic adventure game series.  We certainly hope that it does, because it will delight kids everywhere...  from ages 8 to 80!

  October 2005  Mr. Bill and Lela



Full View Screenshot


Developed (2005) and published by Telltale Games.


Rated:   E   for Everyone


Minimum System Requirements:  Windows   MAC


Where To Buy This Game:


Walkthroughs or Hints:

"Hints and Solutions" available within the game!



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