GobLog Review of Bone: The Great Cow Race

If you were born before 1995, the chances are that you experienced at least a few adventure games while growing up; you’ll also probably recall how enjoyable a number of them were, with their memorable characters, worlds and storylines. Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, Broken Sword — you know what I mean.

Although the genre is largely a stale pile of rubbish that attempts to be overly serious nowadays, Telltale Games (which is also developing the upcoming Sam & Max Episodes) is attempting to keep the genre alive in the form of its “Bone”? series, based upon the comics of the same name. This is the second episode in what is to be a long stream of them, and it a traditional point ‘n’ click adventure game in every sense of the term. It’s not particularly knee-slappingly funny, but it doesn’t take itself very seriously either — something that really kills a lot of more recent adventure games for me, especially when every other genre out there does the whole seriousness thing so well.

Now, when the first episode came out last year, I was fairly disappointed: the lack of a massive budget certainly showed, and a lot of it looked flakey at best; in addition, the actual gameplay seemed very uninspired during the demo, with an almost infamous hornet chase sequence being the most notable example of inadequacy. The second episode is now upon us, and Telltale have evidently kept true to their word in listening to community feedback and amending issues; although I’ve only played the demo (which comes with a very fair amount of gameplay), it is definitely an improvement. Not brilliant, but an improvement.

The visuals are generally a lot more realised: the world feels more vibrant, there seem to be more polygons lavished upon the environment, and there are no lame sprites being used which stand out like sore thumbs as there were in the first episode. The gameplay also has a bit more of that classic feel to it, and I enjoyed having a good look around the world — which has plenty of interactive elements now, by the way — and listening to the main character’s reactions. The puzzle aspect is alright too, although there wasn’t that much of it in the demo.

Moving onto the sound: very good! The soundtrack (download for free) has some nice melodies to it, and it is well produced; the voice acting is also very stellar for the most part, although the girl that the main character seems intent on boning sounds like a preteen — that just doesn’t sit right with me. Despite the quality music, however, it’s used a little strangely at times: when you change scenes, the loop begins all over again, even if it’s the same piece of music. There is also one part where you go into a quiet area, and the same music is used but with a dodgy filter thrown over it which just seems completely pointless; I think I’d have preferred it if it were just quietened down.

Although the interface is very well thought out, and the 3D is smoothly blended with the point ‘n’ click, getting around the world is a bit cumbersome at times. At one point, I found myself having to go back and forth from one end to the other during a certain honey puzzle; this might be fine if you already know what to do, but having to put up with the main character’s slow movement speed while experimenting and working the puzzle out for yourself is downright irritating.

Because the camera follows you around in a fixed way, it’s not possible to just throw your mouse over to the other side of the scene and double-click on the exit to get there instantly as you could in older point ‘n’ click titles, meaning that you have to manually trapse across each screen, clicking on the ground to continue as the camera gradually reveals more and more. The whole game also generally moves a little slowly at times: in one particular area, you have to climb up a tree; when you do so, you’re treated to a short climbing animation. Now, this is great at first, but when you’re climbing up for the sixth time it starts to once again venture into irritation territory. Conversation bubbles could also vanish a little more quickly when you decide to skip them, such as when dialogue is caused to repeat by clicking on an object multiple times and you don’t want to hear it again.

Criticism aside, it is a very charming game, and I’m fairly certain that I’ll purchase the full version at some point once I’ve finished with the other games on my plate; at £7.50 for the entire episode (which clocks in at between four and five hours of gameplay, allegedly), I’d be daft not to. I highly recommend getting the demo and just giving it a try, as it really is a big improvement on the original. You can also catch up with the storyline very quickly thanks to a bunch of notes on the main menu about all of the characters, so don’t worry about being too confused despite having not played the original episode. I picked it up very quickly, anyway.

If you want to try out the 101mb demo, which can be upgraded to the full version without any extra downloading, point your clicker here. If you want to watch the trailer first, although there’s only so much excitement that can be put into a trailer for a slow paced adventure game, go here instead. For a catch-up video of the first Bone episode, this is what you want. Remember to make your thoughts on it known so that Telltale can work on ironing out flaws for the inevitable successor, which should be beginning production before long — if not already! I personally am looking forward to it, considering the progress that’s been made between the first two episodes. It can only get better, right?

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