Bone: Out From Boneville
opens with its protagonist, Fone Bone, and his two cousins lost in
the desert. Right away, adventure gamers will see that this is not
a traditional adventure gaming moment – the desert looks normal
enough, but the characters are anything but ordinary. The cousins
Bone are cartoonish, off-white and vaguely humanoid. They don’t
wear pants. They have used up their last supplies of food and
water, but seem to have an inexhaustible supply of cigars. In this
moment of crisis, their personalities show through. Cousin Phoney
complains. Smiley brightens things up (or makes things worse,
depending on what you make of his singing) by performing Camptown
Races on the banjo. Fone tries to figure out how to get them
out of the desert before they die of thirst.
Bone is an interactive story with a point-and-click
interface, viewed from the third person perspective. It’s based on
the graphic novel series by Jeff Smith. Bone: Out From Boneville
(the graphic novel) is colorful, funny, offbeat and oddly
endearing. The game shares these characteristics.
“You Know, Us Bones Are Awfully Fattening” – Fone Bone
Bone’s strengths (I’m talking about the game now) are its
characters, dialogs and environments. The game is in full 3D.
Environments can be somewhat blocky and don’t feature as many
details as do many adventure games with 2D environments. Still,
they are attractively presented, with a different palette for each
setting and the use of bright colors as accents. Once past the
desert (which is lovely by torchlight) and into the Valley, Bone
reveals a world that is straight out of a fairy tale. There’s a
sunlit forest, a rocky stream, and a tree house in a clearing.
You’ll meet a crusty old farmer, frolicking possum babies, and bugs
that talk. You watch the drama as this fairy tale world meets the
Bone cousins, who don’t look too much like humans but act that way –
bringing the best characteristics of humanity (and some of the worst
too) into the Valley. Like all fairy tale worlds, evil lurks in the
Valley – there are hungry rat creatures and a more baleful presence,
manifested as a menacing voice.
The writing in Bone is excellent. There is quite a lot of
dialog, and I enjoyed all of it. There aren’t that many game makers
who can write consistently funny dialog up to the standard of the
classic LucasArts games, but the developers of Bone meet this
challenge (perhaps because some of them once worked for LucasArts).
You can skip some of the dialog if you choose, and you can click
through each line by hitting the space bar. But the heart of this
game is the interaction between characters, and you’ll miss some of
that if you skip or abridge what they have to say to each another.
“Does Ugliness Run in Yer Family?” – Phoney Bone
Voice acting suits the characters very well. All the voices were
enjoyable, but my favorite was that of Phoney Bone. Phoney’s
character has an edge to it, which is an effective contrast to the
likeable Fone Bone and the laid-back Smiley character. Phoney says
exactly what’s on his mind, he eschews any consideration of other
people’s feelings, and he uses the occasional expletive, in addition
to the new “don’t say” words – “shut up” and “stupid.”
The game’s cutscenes are so smoothly blended with the regular
gameplay that you are barely aware of them as cutscenes. Animation
of the characters is good, and is in keeping with their cartoon-like
appearance. The Bones’ eyebrows, which hover just above their
faces, are animated with great flair. Each Bone has a
characteristic walk, based upon his large feet – Phoney trudges,
Fone toddles, Smiley slip slides (when he moves at all). None of
them run, except during the chase sequences. There is one character
with – how should I say this – a “normal” human face. Facial
animation here is more problematic, and (for some reason) is better
early in the game than late in the game.
The music in Bone is varied, and adds to the ambiance of
the locales. I liked it through most of the game, especially in the
opening menu, though I did grow tired of the antic music in the
The ending of Bone: Out From Boneville is a satisfying
one, with the fulfillment of one aspect of the game’s original
quest. The Bone games are planned as a series, and there are
a few hints late in the game as to mysteries yet to be solved.
There is a dream sequence (or perhaps a flashback) featuring the
sounds of a fierce battle and some strange glyphs spangled with
stars. This leaves me with questions in my mind and an eagerness to
see how the story is continued in the next volume.
The Long and Short of It
There are a couple of problems with Bone, and I sincerely
hope that these do not call a halt to the series, because there is a
great deal to enjoy in this game, and a huge amount of promise for
First, the game is short – I finished it the first time through
in four hours. With my young son also playing and replaying it, I
estimate that we’ve received about fifteen hours of enjoyment from
the game so far. Bone is only available via download. I
downloaded it in less than five minutes using a cable modem, but
downloading the game using dialup will take considerably longer.
“We’ll Devour You Quite Messily” – The Rat Creatures
I experienced two glitches while playing the game – once the
flame from a torch became separated from its source. This was
resolved by quitting the game and then reloading.
The other glitch occurred during the final chase scene, when the
game repeatedly minimized itself as Fone was running, terrified,
from the monstrous rat creatures. Clicking on the task bar at the
bottom of the screen brought me back into the game, usually at the
stage where Fone was just about to be overrun and consumed. Again,
quitting and reloading solved this problem.
I also experienced some technical problems with activating
Bone when the game was first released. My problem was solved by
Telltale’s technical support, which responded to my email rapidly
and with unusual good humor. The problem should be eliminated for
anyone now downloading the game.
“Hey Kids – Up For Another Game?” – Fone Bone
Which brings me to the final issue: some of the gameplay in
Bone features traditional puzzles. But most of the challenges
are what you would expect in a game aimed at an audience that is,
well, not action-oriented exactly -- but movement-oriented. Several
challenges involve repositioning the player character over and over
until you trigger a reward, such as a cutscene or a stealthy
escape. Usually these challenges are time sensitive.
There are two mini-games that are variations on hide and seek,
one of which is surprisingly difficult because it is awkwardly
clued. Bone does contain one of the best hint features I’ve
seen -- this will be a significant aid to the gamer unused to these
types of challenges. There are also two chase sequences that seem
to go on forever. The last chase, which is the more difficult of
the two, does not contain any place to use a saved game before the
final cutscene is triggered. To enjoy the game’s culmination and
find out how the story ends, you must win the final chase on your
“What’s Yer Point?” – Ted’s Big Brother
Bone: Out From Boneville aims at a wide audience of gamers
– adventure gamers, casual gamers and youthful gamers. In one
sense it succeeds best with the youthful gamers – my nine-year-old
son played it three times straight and loved it. Dialog in the game
is set up so that (though he didn’t know it) the game was expanding
my son’s reading skills. Still, if Bone were aimed primarily
at this youthful age group, you wouldn’t expect the humor to be
quite so sophisticated, or for other things to appear in the game –
the use of expletives, for instance, and the use of cigars as a
treasure hunt item.
Will Bone succeed with casual gamers? It very well might,
though the story and the focus on getting to know the characters
makes it a game that is not easily played for an hour, left for a
week, then picked up again for another hour of play.
How about adventure gamers? This is the audience most likely to
hear about Bone. Many fans of LucasArts will want to know
what a team with a LucasArts pedigree is producing, and these fans
will probably feel right at home in the game. Adventure gamers in
general will enjoy its droll humor and the promise of more appealing
interactive stories based on the series. Gameplay, however, is more
movement-oriented and time-sensitive than the typical adventure
gamer is expecting to see.
Quick List for Bone: Out From Boneville
Third person perspective, point-and-click interface. A charming,
fairy-tale-like story with funny dialog and engaging characters.
Excellent voice acting.
Some time sensitive challenges, including two chase scenes. A
wide variety of puzzles – inventory challenges, a strategy puzzle,
sequences in which you must position the player character in exactly
the right spot. No sliding tile puzzles, one easy maze, no sound
puzzles, no puzzles in which color discrimination is necessary.
Eight save slots – twice that many would have been about right.
Two easily resolved game glitches. The game is stable. You can
die, but are brought back to the moment before you end up as a
potential steak, stew or quiche. Expect about four hours of
gameplay (longer if you’re incompetent at the chase scenes). The
game is a fun replay, especially for youthful gamers. Bone: Out
From Boneville is available via download-only by clicking here -
This game is aimed at a wide audience of gamers, especially those
who enjoy idyllic, yet unconventional worlds, spirited characters
and snappy dialog. Ideal audience: families that game together.
Final Grade: B
Note: The glitches mentioned in the “We’ll Devour You Quite Messily”
section of this review -- including the activation problem -- have
all been eliminated in the current downloadable version of Bone: Out
From Boneville. The current version also allows you to bypass some
of the mini-games, including both chase sequences, if you choose.
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