Bone: The Great Cow Race
Wendell: "The last one was fun, but don't get me wrong, it was too short".
So begins Bone: The Great Cow Race with this opening line. Wendell is talking about The Great Cow Race that is the pivotal event in this instalment. I suspect, though, that he might also have had in the back of his mind the previous (and first) instalment of the Bone Saga. Indeed, that first offering, Bone: Out From Boneville, was fun, but it was too short. This second instalment has considerably more meat on the bone and is all the better for it.
A quick recap to begin with in case you haven't met the Bone cousins in their first electronic adventure, Bone: Out From Boneville. They stepped right out of the popular comic books from writer and artist, Jeff Smith. Fone, Phoney and Smiley are a highly entertaining trio brought to us by Telltale games in episodic form following the comic books. The story here continues on from the first game and, just in case you haven't taken that first trip, I won't elaborate here. Suffice it to say Bone: The Great Cow Race centres around the cow race and, though it would be better to take the first journey before embarking on this one, it isn't absolutely essential. Having said that, as there is going to be a whole series of Bone computer games following the comic book story, what a good idea to start at the very beginning.
So this Bone adventure is longer than the first one, it's more complex, so it isn't quite as easy. This time, instead of two characters to accompany, you get to assist each of the three Bone cousins as they move through their part of the story and carry out the tasks assigned to them. For much of the time each character 'lives' in a different part of the gameworld and to solve certain puzzles you need to switch from one to the other. Switching characters is just a matter of clicking on their icon in the upper right corner of the screen.
This weaving back and forth makes the journey a lot of fun, though never too frustrating as the 'hint' icon (a question mark) is still at the bottom of the screen to help out. If in doubt, just click on the question mark for a short sequence of gradual hints, though the game is well-clued as the characters themselves will point you in the right direction as well as giving good hints for solving puzzles.
There are conversational puzzles, items to collect, and games to play. And, of course, there are some hilarious moments ... don't mention 'soup' whatever you do ... and be prepared for an oversized, grumpy bee, and an obliging cow that looks very tasty. There is also a smattering of incidental hotspots to activate meaning that the game world springs to life as the characters peer under pots, smell flowers, kick stones or poke at bottles. If you don't want to miss anything it's well worth looking at or using everything you can just to see what happens.
The graphics are excellent, if anything even better than those in Bone: Out From Boneville. The gameworld is bright a breezy with lots of bits and pieces to paint a detailed picture. Familiar characters return from the first game including Grand'ma Ben, Thorn, and the possum kids, and there is a string of added extras including Wendell and his bickering brothers. Occasionally actions trigger cut scenes where the shady rat creatures are back, along with a new nefarious character, weaving in the greater mystery surrounding the intermittent mishaps of Fone, Phoney and Smiley ... hmmm ... someone has committed an unfortunate misdemeanour.
I did note in my review of the first episode that the main characters didn't look quite as refined as other characters, and this hasn't changed. But who cares, they have just as much charm. The eyebrows still have it! They are as eye-catching as ever as they whip up and down and accentuate the antics of their owners, and I just love the way Phoney walks.
The music matches the graphics, it's bright and catchy and changes in sync with the story. Very professional. As is the voice acting. All the character voices are excellent which was surely made easy by the well written dialogue. You will be chuckling a lot, trust me! Conversations are handled in exactly the same way as in the first episode, with tiny character portraits sitting above a speech bubble. Just select which character you want to address and they will take their turn in joining in the conversation.
Bone: The Great Cow Race is a point and click adventure game with a selection of cursors for walking, talking, looking and picking things up. It's extremely simple and, just to be sure, there is a default tutorial mode which explains the various actions. You can toggle the tutorial on and off in the Options Screen, and do likewise with the hints and subtitles. There is also a full screen/Window option and a Laptop mode.
This latest Bone episode also comes with a Who's Who listing to introduce the main characters, which is a thoughtful new addition. Remember to take a peek if you're a first-time adventurer with the Bone cousins.
In a nutshell, Bone: The Great Cow Race is a bundle of fun. There is a short loading period each time you change major locations but it didn't bother me. Once more it's an adventure that all the family can join in and play, kids and adults. Hopefully there won't be too many squabbles over the computer, although why not play as a team and share the fun?
Just visit the Telltale website where you can find a demo of Bone: The Great Cow Race to test it out before you buy. For purchasing there is the option to download the game with online registration providing a code to 'unlock' the download, or there is also a boxed version available if you want Bone to sit on your shelf. You can also purchase the first game now as a boxed version or buy the two episodes together.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 2006.
All rights reserved.
Windows XP or Windows 2000, DirectX 8.1, 140 MB Free hard drive space, Newer 3D Accelerated Video Cards: 800 MHz P3 processor (or better, Older 3D Accelerated Video Cards: 1.5 GHz processor (or better)