Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town Review – PC

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Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town is the latest attempt at recapturing the essence of those epic adventure games of the 90’s.  I’m very familiar with those games, as I got my start with the original Leisure Suit Larry back in the late 80’s before moving on to playing so many Sierra games (the entire library actually) that they hired me.  And when that gig ended I did some time with LucasArts working on a little game about monkeys and islands.  I’m not trying to post my resume here but merely stating that when it comes to adventure games, especially pirate-themed adventure games, I know what I’m talking about.

Willy Morgan does a fantastic job of capturing the look and feel of those classic games, delivering a fantastic presentation of hand painted backgrounds for more than 50 locations you’ll get to explore throughout the story of Willy’s search for his missing dad.  There is this whimsical art style that is totally authentic to the classics like Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion despite the amazing upgrade in visual fidelity that thirty years of tech brings to the table.  I challenge you to find a straight line in this game.  Every bit of architecture, piece of furniture, and interactive object is created from sweeping curved lines giving the entire game a dreamlike cartoonish quality that is undeniably charming.  The game is highly scalable for various PC’s and considering the art style looks nearly as good in 1080p as it does in 4K.

The audio package is impressive when it comes to the awesome soundtrack with more than two hours of music and the fun sound effects that bring the world to life.  The voice acting is all over the place with about half of the 15 characters offering quality performances.  Thankfully, Willy sounds great, even when he prattles on for lengthy doses of exposition.  I did love when he occasionally breaks the fourth wall to address the gamer directly.  It’s worth noting that nearly everything in the game has a verbal description if you right-click on it before actually interacting with it.  Sadly, much of the voiceover work was merely average with a few characters simply reading their lines off the page with no context or emotion.

Adventure games live and die by their puzzles whether those are item based or conversational interactions.  This is where Willy Morgan stumbles a bit.  Dialogue trees are linear and more of an exhaustive process of eliminating all the topics rather than trying to go down a certain path.  Some topics don’t even disappear once asked.  Inventory puzzles are also not that challenging with the required item often found very close by its place of use.  Even the practice of combining items to create a new item is rarely used.  The only real challenge is finding some of the better-hidden objects in the intricately detailed backgrounds, but there is a hint system that puts an orange dot on all interactive points within a scene which helps avoid pixel hunting.  Goals are obvious and their solutions are just as obvious, but then you have moments like when I was trying to return a key to the innkeeper and it wouldn’t let me so I just tried to leave and it said, “Oh, I better give him back his key” and then did it for me in a scripted moment.  In a game that is already lacking in content and interaction why steal something like this from me?

This is a classic point-n-click adventure with no support for a gamepad, but thankfully the game can be played with just a mouse since using a keyboard is not an option for my setup.  Left-click to interact, right-click to look at, and mouse wheel to open inventory and you click anywhere to move.  I did like the ability to double-click an exit-arrow to instantly change scenes since there is a lot of backtracking in this game.

Seasoned adventurers will likely finish this game in around 3-4 hours; less if you use the hotspot hints.  The puzzles aren’t very challenging and the conversation trees are linear and short.  There are a lot of great ideas and fantastic design aesthetics going on with Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town, but the whole thing just felt like the first chapter in something greater.  Perhaps Telltale has got me used to episodic content, or maybe I am still remembering the 20+ hours it would take to finish those classic 90’s adventures, but Willy Morgan was more of an appetizer than a full meal.

This is certainly one of the more professional attempts at reimagining and recreating those classic adventures games I grew up with.  Everything from the look and feel to the puzzles and conversation all evoke fond memories from three decades ago and I loved all the Easter eggs, many of which were targeting Monkey Island, but there are still a few misfires when it comes to difficulty, length, and notable lapses in quality.  If you are totally craving an adventure game with some authentic 90’s roots then by all means, give this a shot, otherwise you might want to wait for a sale before you make your way to Bone Town.

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