by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town is, in most ways, nothing new. A point-and-click adventure that sticks to genre clichťs, itís the playerís journey of a few hours to find items, walk around, and solve puzzles, armed only with the ability to click. Yet, instead of feeling tired or overly-familiar, Willy Morgan radiates an aura of nostalgic charm, beckoning the player back to a time of lighthearted whimsy.
The titular Willy Morgan may seem chipper with his quick wit and disarming sincerity, but pains of the past shoot to the surface as he receives a letter from his father, at this point having disappeared under mysterious circumstances a full 10 years earlier. The letter, sent around the time of the strange disappearance, contains an address and hints that the events surrounding his dadís disappearance are more than they appear. And so, Willy sets off on a journey of discovery.
A Spooky Setting
Like any good adventure game, point-and-click or otherwise, the setting carries much of the experience, as much a character as anything else. In this case, the player is tasked with navigating the titular Bone Town. Apparently a formerly thriving tourist destination that was even more formerly a pirate haven, Bone Town has fallen into disrepair. Filled with an engaging menagerie of locations and towns-folk, itís the perfect mix of the normal and the absurd. Armories and blacksmith shops neighbor a hippy-run music shop. An antiquated library flanks a start-up bar run by a gamer. The anachronisms may not make any logical sense, and the game is better for it. Things are dark but never evil. The bad guys scheme and plot, but only cartoonishly so, giving the whole mystery a sense of story-book wonder that would be at home in the pages of a childrenís book. Itís brought to life with beautiful art mixing 2D and 3D assets that really sell the Saturday-morning-cartoon feel of the journey.
That being the case, itís unfortunate that Willy himself comes off a bit lifeless. While the background art is delightful and the mystery of Willyís father is engaging, Willy never seems more interested in it than one might sound giving a stranger directions to the nearest gas station. His voice doesnít change much whether heís reading a letter from his father, piecing together clues, or dealing with unsettling townsfolk. I understand that a game like this doesnít lend itself to heart-wrenching monologues or anything like that, but there are times where WIlly sounds a bit more like a good text-to-speech bot than an engaging voice actor.
The town is also a bit too empty. The only people you see are the singular characters inside each location. While I understand the town isnít doing so hot, a few townsfolk or side-characters might have livened things up just a bit. The ones that are there, though, are pretty interesting. Some play a bigger narrative role than others, but each one plays to their quirks and makes for some memorable encounters.
Navigating the Clues
While navigating these colorful characters, the game does a fairly good job of walking the line between clues that are too easy and too challenging. The tough part about making these types of games is that whatís painfully obvious to one person may seem completely out of left field for another. Thus, there are bound to be sticky places somewhere for everyone, but only once or twice did I find myself truly stuck for any length of time (once in the very beginning involving some oil, and once later on in regards to a sea bird). As long as you twist your brain to work with surreal game logic (of course you can 3D print something based on a polaroid photo of it) youíll be rewarded with some clever puzzles and just the right amount of backtracking.
As Willy works his way through various clues and locations, the larger mystery, one of an old pirateís gold, unfolds interestingly enough. Some may find the game to be a bit brief (my play-time was about three hours), but, by keeping things on the shorter side, it doesnít overstay its welcome. The ending wrapped itself up a bit quickly, but it succeeded in closing things in a satisfying way.
Point-and-click games may not be as high-profile as they once were, but games like Willy Morgan show that they can still be fun, rewarding escapes. While some innovation may have given people more reason to grab this over older classics, those looking for a classic adventure experience should look no further.
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Appealing visuals, charming story, clever puzzles.
Lead voice actor isnít very compelling, setting is a bit too empty, doesnít do anything particularly original.