Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mr. Bones For Sega Saturn

Mr Bones for Sega Saturn is an unusual game to say the least. In it, you play as the skeletal remains of a blues guitarist, the titular Mr. Bones. He abruptly wakes from his eternal slumber and finds himself in a graveyard surrounded by an army of skeletons with glowing red eyes. They've all been reanimated by the evil wizard DaGoulian, who wants to conquer the world. However, Mr. Bones managed to retain his free will, so he takes it upon himself to stop DaGoulian and his freaky deadite army.

Mr. Bones is essentially a collection of 20 some-odd mini games connected by the occasional full motion video cutscene. Most levels in Mr. Bones are of the side-scrolling platforming variety, but it also throws in some rhythm games, memory games, shooters, puzzles, and the like. The amount of variety in the game is impressive; almost no two levels play the same in Mr. Bones. You may be running from a tyrannosaur skeleton in one level, and telling jokes to a crowd in the next. A few common elements tie the levels together, though. For example, Mr. Bones loses bits of himself as he takes hits, to the point where he's reduced to a skull and spine bouncing around the level. Scattered throughout the game are replacement arms, legs, hips & ribcages that Mr. Bones can use to reassemble himself. His only method of attack in levels that have enemies is a short-ranged lightning beam that sucks enemies of their vitality and adds it to his own. It doesn't sound like much, but once acquired, it makes the platforming levels exceptionally easy, as nothing can get close enough to deal damage anymore.

Given that the main character is an ex blues musician, the game's atmosphere is thick with the blues. Tasty blues guitar licks permeate the game's background music in each level. Our hero gain access to a magical guitar from a blind, blues-playing hermit, and he uses this guitar to liberate the souls of Dagoulian's deadite army with the power of music. Hell, one of the levels even sports a disembodied voice opining at great length on the nature of the Blues. It's all goofy as can be, but in a game as self-effacing and silly as Mr. Bones, it actually works. Mr. Bones himself is eternally unflappable and optimistic in the face of overwhelming undead opposition.

Unfortunately, the game lacks balance in its levels. Some levels are way too easy, while others are controller-smashing hard. The very first level in the game is frustrating enough to make players swear off Mr. Bones forever. The variety in the levels is nice, but the player is too often dropped into new, confusing, and downright punishing situations that nearly guarantee instant death. It may take three or four playthroughs to even get the gist of what's happening in a level, which is even more frustrating as you only have one life. If you run out of health and die--again--the game ends and, after an agonizingly long loading time, Mr. Bones drops you back to the title screen. You can reload any level you've unlocked from the options screen, but there's no continue option. Mashing the start button, as one is wont to do after dying umpteen times, just starts the game over from level 1. This is Mr. Bones' major failing, and in my opinion, it keeps it from achieving videogaming greatness, despite its clever level design and memorable characters. I firmly believe that, with a little more playtesting, Mr Bones would have been a household name in video gaming. However, if it ever earns a re-release, or if you still have a Saturn lying around, I recommend playing it and experiencing a rare, truly unique video game.

Thanks for reading my review! Up next is the granddaddy of all CD-ROM games, The 7th Guest.

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