imaginarylab and VLG Publishing‘s classic point-and-clicker Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town follows in the footsteps of classic pirate adventure stories with a modern twist.
Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town (PC)
(Italy 2020, developer: imaginarylab, publisher: VLG Publishing, platform: PC)
Young boy Willy Morgan finds a letter of his father Henry Morgan 10 years after the archaeologist’s disappearance, leading him to a hidden pirate treasure that is connected to the Bone Town people.
Shattered pirate dreams
Bone Town is a place that is full of pirate stories, but its glorious days are over, because throughout the years it has become almost a ghost town. With an abandoned amusement park and a run-down hotel, the writing is on the wall that not a lot of money can be made anymore. Most of the people remaining are descendants of famous pirates and still have high hopes and dreams, although these usually involve getting out of the place.
Hunting for treasure and storytelling
This is a great premise for an interesting setting and memorable characters. The treasure hunt is motivating at first, as one looks for clues, in particular pieces of a map that the current townspeople have inherited from their pirate ancestors, and learns about their individual histories. However, the instant one acquires the necessary item, each person will have served their purpose and is forgotten. Just as the locations are lifeless, the people’s only raison d’être seems to be for solving puzzles, making it difficult to care about them.
The story starts out mysterious, but it ends up being less exciting, as one simply collects the map pieces and is observed by an unknown person whose identity doesn’t come as much of a surprise, either. Henry Morgan’s disappearance is explained, too, but it’s just as disappointing, while the cliffhanger ending makes it obvious that the short playtime of 4-5 hours hasn’t resulted in much story progression.
Too good a character to be true
It doesn’t help that Will Morgan is simply a boring character whose comments are neither funny nor insightful. The writing in general lacks the wit and originality of The Secret of Monkey Island which was clearly the inspiration. Too many adventure game or pop culture references (that are also prevalent in the neverending achievement notifications) don’t make the writing any more intelligent, either.
Puzzle solving with no highlights
The puzzles are mostly logical (except when opening a cookie with a hammer on an anvil), entertaining and suitable for beginners, but they’re nothing special. For example, providing a checklist for bike components or the missing map pieces is a nice touch, but finding objects in the silliest of places without any sense or reason prevents the player from taking the town and its people seriously.
Breaking up the linear mold
At first one can only go to a few places, but the very linear structure is soon dissolved, opening the whole town up for immediate exploration. This is overwhelming for the player with an increased number of characters, places and even more objects to carry around. Despite items that aren’t useful anymore being discarded immediately, it feels less like an adventure with interconnected puzzles and more like a shopping or to do list that has to be worked through. Of course this can be said about other adventure games, too, but these usually have more suspense or humor to keep the player engaged throughout the puzzle solving process.
Good-looking and okay-sounding
The graphics are nicely done, with well-drawn backgrounds featuring photographed objects and some great artwork displayed in paintings and the few cut-scenes. Characters look good as well when they’re in motion, but unfortunately during conversations their repetitive animations and expressionless faces turn them into lifeless automatons.
Music is excellent and atmospheric, although the pieces could have been a bit longer, as the loops are very noticable when one stays too long in one location. Voice acting isn’t the best, either, as it’s hampered by awkward pauses and intonation, especially with the main character. This is a shame, because the actors’ and actresses’ voices fit quite nicely.
Inspired by classics, but not an instant or future classic
Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town tries very hard to sell itself on nostalgia, but compared to classic LucasArts adventures, it hasn’t much to offer except for some very nice visuals and a great soundtrack.
While the idea of exploring a former pirate town is interesting, story and characters aren’t very exciting. The humor is tame and doesn’t offend anyone, making it more suitable for a younger audience. However, growing up with Guybrush Threepwood might still be a much better proposition, as it entails imaginative and memorable puzzles this game sorely needs to stand out.
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