Mr. Bones (video game)
North American cover art
|Writer(s)||E. Ettore Annunziata|
Mr. Bones is a multi-genre video game conceptualized by E. Ettore Annunziata, developed by Zono and published by Sega for the Sega Saturn in 1996. The soundtrack to Mr. Bones was composed and performed by Ronnie Montrose, with cutscenes and art assets done by Angel Studios.
DaGoulian, a mad philosopher who believes that one can only "ensure the survival of good by making evil thrive", sets out to purify the world with evil. By playing a special set of drums powered by science and alchemy, he is able to tap into a primal power which he calls "skeletal magnetism" (or "skeletism") and summon the dead from their graves as his skeletal soldiers.
One inmate of the cemetery, however, is pure of heart and is thus resurrected not with red (evil) skeletism, but with blue (good) skeletism. Because of this, he retains his free will. This fact is quickly noticed by DaGoulian, and he orders his newly created army to destroy this rebel, who calls himself simply "Mr. Bones."
Mr. Bones soon becomes determined to stop DaGoulian's plan. He must find a way to counteract the evil of red skeletism before DaGoulian's minions catch up to him.
One of Mr. Bones' most distinctive qualities is in it having very few levels which share the same style of gameplay; with only a few exceptions, almost every level looks and feels different from the rest. Some levels simply change the camera perspective, while others offer up their own distinct genre. The most common thread running throughout the game is that of an action/platform game with slight gameplay and viewing angle variations per level, but at times the styles diverge far more drastically, ranging from a music/rhythm game to a Breakout-style game to a game of memorization. Once a level has been beaten, the player can return directly to that level from the main menu any time they choose.
In lieu of a normal health bar, Mr. Bones has a supply of skeletism. When his skeletism level drops, he gradually loses body parts, being reduced to just a skull and spine at his lowest levels. His lost body parts remain in play and can be reattached, though unless Mr. Bones regains skeletism the reattachment will be fragile and even landing from a significant height will cause the parts to fall off again. The game's physics also take Mr. Bones' state of completion into account; for example, if he has lost both legs he will crawl with his arms, and cannot run or jump. In most levels, Mr. Bones can shoot a beam from his hand which destroys enemies and restores his skeletism level. He can also restore skeletism by collecting blue items.
The cinematics were designed and directed by Allen Battino, who also performed the role of Mr. Bones via motion capture.
The music was composed by musician Ronnie Montrose. This was part of a larger trend of established musicians in the late 1990's who composed music for video games, with other examples being Ian McDonald composing for Wachenröder and Stewart Copeland composing music for Spyro the Dragon.
Mr. Bones polarized reviewers, who sharply disagreed on whether the gameplay was bizarre and extraordinarily original, or mundane "hop n bop" platforming. GameSpot's Tom Ham gave it a modest score but a relentlessly positive review, applauding the unique stage designs, varying perspectives, titular character, beautiful and eerie visual design, and blues-rock soundtrack. He summarized the game as "a cool, musically interactive, multi-level scroller that's surprisingly fun to play." The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly were also enthralled, with Dan Hsu summarizing, "Mr. Bones is completely unique - you can tell that some true geniuses worked on this project." Most of them commented that the different gameplay types in the many levels are consistently ingenious and fun, though Sushi-X said the gameplay is weak, and that it is the humorous and audio-visually stunning full-motion video cutscenes which make the game enjoyable. In contrast, Scary Larry of GamePro completely panned the game, citing "unfinished graphics", unfairly difficult enemy AI, and "insipid hop-n-bop gameplay." He said the music is a positive point, but the spoken word background in "Glass Shards" is annoying. A Next Generation critic commented that the concept of the game is refreshingly unusual but that most of the levels use "fairly average" side-scrolling gameplay which does not live up to the originality of the concept. He still concluded the game to be moderately appealing due to its humor and especially its massive length. Lee Nutter of the British Sega Saturn Magazine said that, due in part to its much delayed PAL conversion, Mr. Bones was outdated by the time of its release in the UK. He contended that the different gameplay types just make the game feel like a generic platformer with a lot of out-of-place mini-games. However, his main criticism was that the game is too distinctively American.
- Mr. Bones Disc Two (CD-ROM). Sega of America. 1996.
- "Mr. Bones: The Blues Have Never Been this Fun". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 89. Ziff Davis. December 1996. pp. 236–7.
- "Sega Gamers' Day". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 87. Ziff Davis. October 1996. p. 112.
- "Dem Bones". Sega Saturn Magazine. No. 9. Emap International Limited. July 1996. p. 11.
- "Jeu vidéo et Yellow Magic Orchestra : deux faces d'une même pièce". Jeuxvideo.com (in French). Retrieved 2018-11-13.
- "Review Crew: Mr. Bones". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 89. Ziff Davis. December 1996. p. 85.
- Ham, Tom (December 1, 1996). "Mr. Bones Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
- "Mr. Bones". Next Generation. No. 25. Imagine Media. January 1997. p. 178.
- Nutter, Lee (June 1997). "Review: Mr Bones". Sega Saturn Magazine. No. 20. Emap International Limited. pp. 66–67.
- "Saturn ProReview: Mr. Bones". GamePro. No. 100. IDG. January 1997. p. 112.