Impressions: Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town

A bold, adventurous boy receives a letter from his long-lost father, pointing to a sinister location known only as “Bone Town”. Once in Bone Town, the boy soon learns that his father’s disappearance is connected to the missing pieces of a pirate treasure map. Where are the map fragments hidden? Who can he trust, and who knows more than they’re letting on? What random items strewn about the town will end up becoming invaluable to his quest, and which can be safely discarded? Willy Morgan’s got to find these answers quickly, or he might wind up walkin’ the plank or sleepin’ with the fishes!

Developed by Imaginarylab and published by VLG Publishing, Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town is a pirate-themed point and click adventure inspired by the classic Monkey Island series. The developers even added a sneaky shout-out to their inspiration – you can find a book authored by one “Threepwood” in the Bone Town library. Play as the titular Willy as he explores Bone Town searching for the missing pieces of Captain Kidd’s treasure map and attempting to uncover the truth about his father’s unexplained disappearance.

The letter that started it all!

Gameplay is fairly standard for the genre – travel through a series of stationary maps, investigating interesting areas to find useful items and clues. Acquire treasure map pieces by solving multi-step puzzles which typically require examining, using, and sometimes combining items from your inventory. Talk to NPCs for hints, background lore regarding Bone Town and its former pirate inhabitants, and information about the missing explorer Henry Morgan.

Playing Willy Morgan can best be described as a mix of satisfaction and frustration. Some of the puzzles were quite clever, and solving them led to plenty of neat “ah-ha!” moments which one hopes to encounter while playing a point-and-click game. Others were confusing or illogical, requiring solutions which made zero sense and forcing me to just “brute force it” by trying out various items in my inventory. There were even a few moments when I had to put the game down and simply take a break for a few hours to mull over potential puzzle solutions.

Helpfully, the game offers the ability to highlight points of interest on each screen in the form of orange circles. Less helpfully, there is no way to set these circles to automatically appear. You must re-click the button or re-enter the keyboard command to turn them on each time you move to a new location, even if you are revisiting somewhere you’ve already been. Additionally, the game lacks a proper hint system. Examining an item sometimes causes Willy to speculate on its possible uses, but there is no definitive way to say “I’m stuck, I have no idea what to do next, game please give me a hint, thank you.”

The game’s fast travel system takes the form of an old map – very pirate-y!

Unlike its inspiration Monkey Island, unfortunately, the writing for Willy Morgan is rather hit or miss. There are some genuinely funny moments – Willy discussing grog with the town librarian comes to mind, as does the obsessive chef who loves nothing more than rattling off a seemingly endless menu of chicken dishes ranging from the palatable to the bizarre. However, for each of these moments, there’s an equal (or perhaps even greater) number of times when Willy will examine an indicated spot only to say some variation on “Nothing here” or “I don’t need this”. I hope that the finished version of the game will take advantage of these moments to explore Willy’s personality and sense of humor, or perhaps his backstory – he mentions having visited Bone Town before with his father, but apparently has few memories of any of the locations around town. As of right now, a good chunk of the “points of interest” simply feel like filler designed to pad out the game.

Additionally, the developers do not seem to have taken advantage of the number of jokes you could make when your game is primarily set in a location called “Bone Town”. I assume Willy Morgan is meant to be a kid-friendly title, but the jokes practically write themselves!

Not…exactly the kind of park I’d like to visit

Curse of Bone Town does feature an eye-catching art style, with slanting lines and irregular angles reminiscent of Monkey Island or a Tim Burton animated film,. While playing the game, you really got a sense of exactly what Bone Town was: a failing, mostly-abandoned town slowly rotting and fading away, barely propped up by the locations and attractions created by its pirate founders. I especially loved the “amusement park” – Willy walks through a gate shaped like a giant, snarling clown face (possibly inspired by Australia’s real-life Luna Park), only to find a disappointing abandoned lot playing host to a single carnival game. Definitely my favorite location in Bone Town!

Unfortunately, while the art style was excellent and quite appealing, the rest of the game’s aesthetics were not so polished. Only Willy’s lines were voiced (though this, again, is something which could be altered for the finished version) and while some locations had interesting music (again, particularly the “amusement park,” with its abandoned-carnival calliope tune) most of it was fairly repetitive and generic and did not make much of an impression on me.

Game mechanics generally worked fine, but Willy moved so slowly that getting around locations became a chore. While you can double click a map marker to leave an area quickly, no such ability exists to move Willy around within a given screen – and the boy is slow. This makes navigating through the town’s larger locations very tedious, especially as the game’s fast travel system does not open until after you have progressed a significant amount through the story.

Every good pirate town needs a weapon shop!

Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town is a generally enjoyable point and click adventure with several elements that currently feel quite unfinished, in particular its inconsistent tone and puzzle difficulty. Fans of the genre will likely enjoy it, while those new to the point-and-click formula might find themselves stuck at several key points with absolutely no idea regarding how to proceed.

This piece was based off a preview copy of the game provided by the developer, and does not necessarily reflect the finished product.

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