Mr. Bill's Adventureland Review
Reviewed by Mr. Bill and Lela
What we have here, fellow gamers, is something we rarely see in today's world... a company that actually listens to its customers! We're talking about Telltale Games, the new small group of very talented developers who created this wonderful series, and to say that we are impressed with them is an understatement.
This game is the second episode in their brilliant re-creation of Jeff Smith's famous award winning BONE saga, a long running comic book series that has sold more than a million copies worldwide. It is the charming story of 3 adorable little 'bones', cousins who find themselves lost in a strange and threatening land, and their adventures while trying to find their way back home. We fell in love with them when we played Telltale's first episode, Out From Boneville. We sent for all of the cartoon books (the comic book series bound into 9 book volumes), read them, and were blown away by how good Telltale was at bringing the story to life.
And we weren't the only ones. Apparently everyone loved the game! But despite all of its charms, there were certain things in that first game that many adventure gamers complained about. And much to Telltale's credit, they really paid attention to the feedback from their customers.
When gamers said there was a glitch in the game that caused it to crash at one point, they promptly issued a patch to fix it. And when some adventure gamers complained about the two 'action' sequences (chase scenes), they actually went back into the game and created a way to bypass those puzzles (after trying them once) for the benefit of any future purchasers of the game. When dial-up users complained about the hassle involved for them in downloading the game, they made a CD version available for anyone who prefers a hard copy. And when they heard that some players objected to the cost for such a short and easy game, they even reduced the price per episode.
Even more impressive is the fact that they also immediately applied what they had learned to this game, The Great Cow Race, their second episode in the series. It is longer, more complex, and more challenging. And best of all, the entire game (including the cow race itself) is pure adventure, with no 'action' sequences. Kudos, Telltale! You have earned both our admiration and our respect.
It isn't really necessary to play the first game in order to play this one, because Telltale has thoughtfully included a 'Who's Who' for the characters in the Main Menu that also brings you up to date on the story. But we would highly recommend that you do so anyway (and they offer both games bundled together), because otherwise you'll miss all of the hysterical interactions between characters and great original puzzles in that first game. And since this fascinating story is being published as a series, we think that you'll wind up regretting it later if you don't see it from the very beginning.
The story here begins to unfold where the first game left off. Gran'ma Ben, Thorn and Fone Bone return to the farm to pack for their trip to the county fair and annual cow race that is held in Barrelhaven... only to discover that the marauding Rat Creatures have burned the farmhouse! But Gran'ma Ben, ever practical, is not to be dissuaded. She points out that for one thing, they'll all be safer in town. Besides, she has raced against the cows every year (and won!) for as long as anyone can remember, and she's not about to let a little setback stop her now.
Of course the lovesick Fone Bone will follow Thorn anywhere, plus he hopes to find his missing cousin Smiley Bone there. And Phoney Bone has already gone on ahead, intent on making a killing with a get-rich-quick scheme for betting on the cow race. So off they all go to Barrelhaven...
All of the great features of the first game are back, along with several new additions and improvements. Once again it is a 3D, 3rd person, strictly point & click game with a smart cursor, optional subtitles, a very small inventory and unlimited saves. Music, voice, sound effects and graphical quality can all be individually adjusted, plus you can choose Full Screen or Laptop mode.
There's the built-in tutorial for those who are new to adventure games. You can still talk to different people in a group by simply clicking on their icon. And that wonderful onscreen hint system is back. It makes a walkthrough totally unnecessary by supplying 5 hints per puzzle, ranging all the way from a gentle nudge to the complete solution. In fact, the only addition that we can suggest for future games is to add a "Loading..." note to the lag-time blank screen that sometimes occurs between scene changes, so that players know the game is still working.
The 3D graphics and music were very impressive in the first game, and believe it or not they've gotten even better. Many small details have been included in the environment just to make things look realistic, as well as to increase interactive discovery fun. The characters look more natural too. Thorn in particular is much more appealing. And the lighthearted music is so good that we downloaded it separately so that we could enjoy it whenever we wished.
Old characters are fleshed out as the story evolves and we learn more about them. The possum kids are even cuter, less exasperating, and the menacing hooded figure (that we glimpsed only briefly in the first game) is now part of the story and practically drips venom and evil intent. Gran'ma Ben is simply marvelous, one tough old lady with a mysterious past who quickly turns into a blushing, simpering schoolgirl when being courted by an equally tough and handsome man. We loved her little 60-mile-warmup routine that she does for the race. And make sure that you don't miss the hysterical Rat Creatures having another one of their arguments as the closing credits roll!
There are lots of new characters to have fun with too. We especially enjoyed the shirtless sweet-talking honey merchant as he tried to seduce Thorn and the wonderfully sensitive soup vendor. The dialogue is great and the voice acting superb. Fone's attempt to talk that monster Bee out of killing him was absolutely priceless.
Smiley is indeed found in Barrelhaven, so this time you alternate between playing as all 3 cousins. Each has their own set of puzzles to solve, and you can easily switch between them by clicking on their onscreen icons. The puzzles are part of the story, and all are original and fun to solve, but we particularly enjoyed the chicken coop key puzzle, the love poem with Ted the Bug... and of course that great (and surprising!) strategy cow race puzzle.
We really, really like what Telltale is doing with this series. Like the old Lucas Arts classics of the past, they are indeed games that everyone can enjoy, both children and adults, and we highly recommend them!
© May 2006 Mr. Bill and Lela
Developed (2006) and published by Telltale.
Rated: E for Everyone
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: Pentium III 800 MHz Processor with Newer 3D Accelerated Video Cards or Pentium IV 1.5 GHz Processor with Older 3D Accelerated Video Cards; Windows 2000 / XP; 3D Accelerated DirectX 8.1 Compatible Video Card; DirectX 8.1 Compatible Sound Card; 248 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; DirectX 8.1; Mouse
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Walkthroughs or Hints: