Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town aims to recapture the lightning in a bottle of the ’90s point and click adventure, walking the familiar grounds of puzzles, pirates and punchlines. While not the yuk-a-minute joke factory of some of its predecessors, the game has all the potential makings of being a great entrypoint for the genre.
Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town is the debut title developed by Italian studio imaginarylab, and the first point and click adventure from VLG, a narrative-focused publisher with a diverse selection of earlier titles including the experimental, play-by-chat, online RPG Extremelot and Homer’s Odyssey, a card-based visual novel of the original epic. Following the titular Willy Morgan, players piece together the mysterious disappearance of Willy’s father in the declining Bone Town, collecting helpful odds and ends, meeting colorful characters and solving puzzles in the usual point and click vein.
The game wears its inspirations on its sleeve, stuffing itself with plenty of Easter eggs. From The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle references in the first seconds of gameplay to tips of the hats to everything from The Blues Brothers to Marvel comics throughout the game, the developers clearly have a lot of love for the kind of ’80s and ’90s pop culture their game draws on.
While not hesitating to acknowledge its roots, Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town takes itself a tad more seriously than the LucasArts canon it acts as an homage to. While there are plenty of humorous character interactions that could use a little punching up before final release and fun, background sight gags, the main story plays the risk of danger in the world with complete sincerity. It’s a take that has mixed success as you investigate a seedy criminal element all the while in a place called “Bone Town.” Not once is the name “Bone Town” given the slightest knowing wink, and with only a handful of dark, absurdist jokes played perfectly straight, I’m unsure if it’s either a hilarious prank on the player or the most innocent localization oversight ever made.
The story moves in a quick, straightforward way with the usual adventure game puzzles and dialogue, though without LucasArts’ trademark quips and less abstract puzzle solving mechanics. A potential drawback for some genre veterans, the simpler gameplay could actually make Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town a good entry point for newcomers to point and click. Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town also includes some very appreciated quality of life improvements over the old adventure titles–things like fast travel between rooms and around the map and an “item hotspots” locator remove some of the playtime padding point and click can have of trudging back and forth for items, or mindlessly spam clicking a room for anything to add to your inventory.
Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town’s art style is reminiscent of adventure classics, adding a bit of modern polish, with character models landing somewhere between the modern, post-2D Disney and Laika Studios. There are also some clear cinematic influences, with an attractive opening cutscene borrowing some shot composition from film. The sound design is equally notable, with decent voice acting in the game’s current state, thoughtful background effects that capture the settings, and music evoking memories of Donkey Kong Country and Terraria, with eerie, theremin-esque melodies reminiscent of space age pop instrumentals like “Telstar.”
There are a few things that could use touching up before final release, the occasional graphic vanishing bug or the text auto advancing a little too quickly, but on the whole Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town feels like it’s shaping up to be a nice, easy-going entry for the genre, especially for new players.
Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town is scheduled for release on Steam later in 2020.
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. Patreon.com/3CR
You can also catch us streaming games we’re reviewing and staff favorites at twitch.tv/bokor