Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town Review

August 10, 2020
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To say that adulthood is the most decidedly mixed thing a human can experience is the understatement of the decade. On one hand, it’s great to finally reach that magical age where you can set your own bedtime, eat ice cream for every meal and are able to drink that magical substance from Russia,  best known as vodka. On the other, though, setting your own bedtime almost never ends well, eating ice cream for a week straight will give you diabetes and Russian science juice is a lot more expensive than your parents made it seem. With those harsh realities in mind, you may find yourself wanting to return to the time when all you needed to worry about was not soiling your pants, and failing the invention of a time machine, you’ll have to settle for replaying the games of your childhood to get back into that mindset.

This is where Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town comes in. Styling itself after games from your childhood like Monkey Island, the game starts like all adventure games start. You take control of a kid that bears more than a passing similarity to a younger you than you’d like to admit, receive a letter from your long lost not-Indiana Jones dad with instructions on how to find him, and without questioning anything, set out on a grand adventure.

It’s called art, mum, look it up!

With that seemingly straightforward task in mind, you quickly find yourself point-and-clicking your way through the usual adventure game experience. You’ll need to solve seemingly simple puzzles that end up having overly complex solutions, interact with character archetypes of the pirate variety, and make a few dialogue choices that don’t change much in the game’s story. You’ll uncover weirdly dark secrets that never lead anywhere, learn life lessons that aren’t applicable to anyone over the age of twelve and explore a world that isn’t half as big as the game makes it seem. 

Although all of this would’ve made for a decent enough game in the 1990s, in 2020, they make Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town feel like a game that’s failed to keep up with the times. The first puzzle in the game is the best example of this: in order to travel to where your dad is, you first need to assemble a bike from parts lying around your house. Some of the parts are fun to find, like a handlebar that’s stuck in your fridge. Other parts, like a wheel, however, require stupidly obtuse solutions to find. 

To understand how messed up the logic is requires spoiling an early puzzle, although in truth you'll likely thank us for it anyway. In order to get the second wheel for your bike, you first need to get sunscreen from your bathroom, then heat it up on a specific lamp instead of on a microwave or stove, then you can use it as lube on a dream catcher that’s bolted to a wall in the room you start the level in. Once the bolt is lubed up, you then need to find a wrench that’s in a random toolbox in a different room, use the wrench on the dream catcher, grab the dream catcher and finally you can attach it to your bike and be on your merry way. Puzzles like this make up the vast majority of the game, and because of that, they quickly become an annoyance when you realize that you’ll simply have to solve another one in a few minutes.

Eric Clapton agrees

It’s always easier to look simply up a quick guide on YouTube, which makes it hard to get invested into the game, and this is something that’s only made worse by the game’s awful writing. To put it simply, the dialogue in Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town just doesn’t sound good. Almost every line in the game seems like it was translated from Russian to French to English with Google Translate, and the result is a total lack of flow when anyone in the game is speaking. There aren’t any options to put the game into another language that might sound better, either, so you’ll likely find yourself skipping cutscenes to save your ears from the annoying noises in the game. 

What makes this especially bad is that the cutscenes you’ll be skipping aren’t even interesting if you do opt to listen to them. The story of Willy Morgan is as generic as game stories come. Your father unexpectedly went missing ten years ago, you get a letter from him, you set out on an adventure to find him, and after a few hours of filler, well — we won't spoil the ending but you can probably work it out. It’s cliche at best and dumb at worst, and when considering how awful the writing is in the game, it means that the only way to enjoy the game’s story is while under the considerable influence of alcohol. 

Really, the only redeeming quality of Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town is that it’s visual and sound direction are both decidedly solid. Neither is much to write home about, but when considering how dated everything else in the game feels, both are enjoyable in their own right. The graphics are appropriately cartoony and the music does a good job of evoking nostalgia of adventure game classics.

Who keeps coffee in the fridge? Why are the bananas in the fridge? Where’s all of the beer?

However, this can’t come close to saving a game that’s somewhere between outdated and atrocious. With its cliche story, awful writing and annoying-at-best puzzles, there’s little to enjoy in a game that would’ve been overlooked even if it had been released two decades years ago. For those who enjoy classic point-and-click adventure games, there are definitely better options on the market. And for anyone who simply wants to relive a time before they fell in love with Smirnoff, renting Gremlins 2 is an infinitely better use of your money.

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Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town would’ve been a decent game if it had come out in the nineties, but as one that chose to be released in 2020, it only serves as a reminder of how far games have come in the past thirty years.
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.