"What the game lacks in complexity, it makes up for with simple charm. Bone quite nearly drips with personality. Every bit of dialogue is an opportunity for a wry quip or a zany grin-to-yourself kind of line, all of which are delivered with stellar voice acting. Where else can you find a stuffed chicken for a vendor who makes soup with 'a pinch of sawdust', or tangle with a giant honeybee that has a New York tough-guy accent? Nowhere, that's where."
Nowadays it seems like the primary concern development teams face when creating a new title is complexity. Those working on an FPS ask themselves How many enemies can we get on screen at once? Those working on RPGs might think How many menus can we fit inside other menus? So when a point-and-click game like Bone: The Great Cow Race comes along and preaches such a simple and clean interface, maybe it's difficult to take seriously. Then you play the game; you still probably won't take it seriously, but you will enjoy it.
The fact that the game isn't going to put you through some kind of mental olympics is apparent from the moment you start. Everything is rendered with a cartoonishly low polygon count and simple textures, the visual style actually compliments the clean-cut style of gameplay well. Bone's based on a comic book, afterall. The characters are incredibly expressive, and the art has a simple elegance that captures its graphic novel roots.
Within minutes, you'll be intimately familiar with every control you'll ever need to use. Point and click. Click people to talk. Click the ground to walk. Click things to...do things. The game never requires a large tutorial, everything works just about as you would expect it to. You can explore the entire fairground where the game starts in a few minutes. Fone, the game's ghots-like primary protagonist, quickly alienates suitably less odd looking femme Thorn on a normal day at the fair, and then sets off to woo her back.
So then, where's the enjoyment to be had? Everywhere, really. What the game lacks in complexity, it makes up for with simple charm. Bone quite neatly drips with personality. Every bit of dialogue is an opportunity for a wry quip or a zany grin-to-yourself kind of line, all of which are delivered with stellar voice acting. Where else can you search out a lost stuffed chicken for a vendor who makes soup with 'a pinch of sawdust', or tangle with a giant honeybee that has a New York tough-guy accent? Nowhere, that's where!
However, there's more there than just fun and games at the fair. One of the game's most interesting features is the ability to switch the focus from Fone Bone to his cousins. Phoney and Smiley both provide a notably different style from the quiet, brainy Fone. Unlike their cousin, Phoney and Smiley start out at a local tavern, working to pay off a debt that was no doubt the fault of one of Phoney's dodgy schemes. And while it seems sort of obvious that it'd be hard to con anyone when your name is 'Phoney', darn it, he tries, usually to great comic effect.
The real reason that this feature is worthwhile, however, doesn't lay with the fact that it adds more opportunity for giggles. Instead, it allows you to work towards solving the game's puzzles from multiple angles. If something isn't clicking, change your perspective, and maybe you can find a hint that way.
The largest bone to be picked with Bone, is the game's meager length; it's the sort of game you can beat in a lazy afternoon, and while such attempts at keeping the experience from becoming too overbearing generally work well for the game, in the case of length...not so much. Just about the time the game really seems to get rolling, it's over. Sure, the game is part of an episodic franchise, so there's more to come, however, that just means that you have to look forward to dropping more money later on for what could very easily have been part of this installment.
Minor complaints aside, Bone: The Great Cow Race is a worthy throwback to a struggling genre. Point and click adventures were the gaming place to be years ago, and this title proves that they can still keep up with "greater" genres now. Putting aside obscure controls and vast complexity in favor of simple fun and laughs isn't a bad idea, and there are plenty of each to be found here.
Freelance review by Josh Higley (May 18, 2007)
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