Bone: Out From Boneville was the first adventure game from Telltale Games. They had just set up shop one year prior, immediately following the news of the cancellation of Sam & Max: Freelance Police at LucasArts. The original Telltale staff was comprised of mainly those who had worked on Freelance Police at LucasArts, and they had a lot to prove in their new venture.
While the crew had proven themselves to be capable of producing well-received adventures under the LucasArts umbrella, they had not had to run the whole show themselves. They had a much lower budget than they had at LucasArts, so they had to find a way to work within that budget. They also had formed their company on the premise of episodic gaming, a concept that, in 2005, was still in its infancy. No one had yet come up with a business model that made episodic gaming a viable commercial endeavor. Despite the legacy behind the team, the odds were not in favor of the small upstart.
They had released one game before Bone, a casual poker game that was originally a test for their in-house Telltale Tool engine. The game came out better than had been expected, and the team decided to make the game a commercial release. The game, despite not being an adventure, did alleviate a few fears. The voice acting was good, the writing was funny, the banter between the computer players was enjoyable, and the music fit the game. Even before their first adventure game release, Telltale had shown that they could do a fine job in the sound and writing departments.
But writing a small casual game was much different than writing a full adventure game, so no one knew what to expect from Out from Boneville. When the game was released, the result was a good adventure game that didn’t quite reach the heights of the LucasArts adventures but was a step in the right direction.
The game was a very faithful adaptation of the first book of Jeff Smith’s popular Bone comic. The characters were faithfully rendered in a 3D look that looked like the comic characters. The storyline was in-tact and just a few elements were changed to make it flow better as a game. The major change is that the snow scene is not here. The game seems to take place over the course of one day, as opposed to several in the comic. But, that change does not make the game any less enjoyable, and is really a nit-pick more than anything. I was new to the series when I first played the game, and only read the Boneville comic a few months ago. I enjoyed the game despite having no previous knowledge of the characters, and obviously the lack of the snow scene did not even enter my conciousness. Probably only the most diehard Bone fans would care about the change.
The characters are all voiced well, and the music is wonderful. The music here is by Telltale standard musician Jared-Emerson Johnson of Bay Area Sound, who has provided the music in almost all of Telltale’s games.
There are a few drawbacks to the game, which are a result from this being Telltale’s first adventure game. They hadn’t yet mastered the concept of episodic gaming, so the game seems a bit desolate in places, and is quite short. The scene with Fone Bone traveling the mountain at the beginning looks nice, and is very faithful to the book, but as a game it feels a bit drawn out. The middle is the most fleshed out of the bunch, and, although the game is aimed at a younger audience, it includes puzzles that are pretty fun even to an adult.
Another problem that arose from this being Telltale’s first adventure game is that some of the puzzles require you to do something exactly as the programmers wrote it, and what seems to be a natural solution to a puzzle won’t work. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen often, and when it does happen the programmer’s intentions to the puzzles are pretty easy to figure out.
The game was later released in a director’s cut which was created with input by Bone creator Jeff Smith. The director’s cut version has since replaced the original on the site. All orders that are placed now will receive the director’s cut version. The directors cut version improves on the original in many ways. The model of Thorn has been improved to more closely resemble the comic, and the actress has been changed as well. The new actress does a great job and sounds like the you’d expect Thorn to sound based on her appearance. The game has also been lengthened a little bit, since more story set-up has been added thanks to a wonderful cut-scene at the beginning and a more concise ending of the game.
I enjoyed this game despite the technical hiccups and the desolate feeling in the beginning. Once the game gets to the second act, the game becomes quite enjoyable. It’s just a shame the game ends so soon. Thankfully, the length and the sparseness of the surroundings were addressed in the second game, and the price has since been lowered since it’s original release. There is a bundle pack available for both games that definitely makes this relatively game much more worth it for the price.