Bone Marrow can best be described as 2048 with a cosmetic overhaul. You know, 2048, that game that everyone was playing on their phone a few years back?
Bone Marrow is an attempt to bring similar gameplay to console, but instead of just matching numbers and combining them to try and get to 2048, you have a character on the board that you control. And instead of matching just the numbers, you match items too. These correspond to health, armor, or weapon upgrades, and with every set number of moves your character is able to pick the items up.
However, when you can pick items up an enemy will spawn. Some of these enemies will be able to pick up the items as well, which will upgrade them. So the goal is to try and pick up the items and use them for yourself, while avoiding letting the enemies get them.
To win, you need to defeat all of the enemies that spawn over the course of multiple day and night cycles. You lose if your character takes too much damage and dies, but it’s possible to heal and gain armor to stay alive.
It sounds like a neat concept, but it just doesn’t mesh as well as I’d hoped. Really, there are two quirks that ruin any sense of strategy. The first is that you can continually slide the blocks one way, even if nothing is being moved. This prevents the game from ending when it is filled with items. Instead, you can just pick up items to make more room for things to spawn. The second is that items will spawn randomly on the board, even in spaces where you might be sliding items that are already on the board.
This makes it pointless to try and plan out how you are moving items across the board, because items will eventually just spawn in your way and interrupt what you are doing.
You can couple that with the fact that you don’t fail if you fill up the board, and so this makes playing Bone Marrow incredibly simple. Instead of thinking things through, it’s possible to win by just swiping up and down constantly; picking up items until your character is too strong to lose.
The easiest way to do this is to wait for a weak enemy, like the rat, to spawn. The rat can’t pick up items so you can just keep sliding up and down to pick up items while it doesn’t grab anything. Only one enemy spawns at a time so as long as you never hit the rat, you could do this indefinitely. During my time with Bone Marrow it got to the point where I didn’t want to bother trying to plan things out because it worked just as well to lazily swipe in two directions, over and over again…
There is one flaw to this strategy, though. Whenever you attack an enemy, your remaining attack damage is reduced by half every single time. Even when attacking a rat with 1 hp, you could have 500 attack damage and you’d immediately lose half of it. It might be a way to avoid having a player just build up items between rounds, but I would much prefer having an incentive to actually think things through. And that really is the main issue I have with Bone Marrow as a game.
There isn’t an incentive to play smart or think things through. There are penalties for playing a certain way, but I want the game to reward me when I do things right, not punish me when I play it a different way.
The levels don’t change much either, just getting smaller as you progress through different areas. The enemies also get retextured and while there are a few different characters to choose from, the overall mechanics of the game don’t change at all.
One nice thing is that it is easy to pick up the full quota of 1000 Xbox Gamerscore. In fact, it only takes about 20 to 30 minutes to grab it all; randomly swiping to eventually get there.
I have a hard time recommending Bone Marrow because it really is 2048 with a few changes that are difficult to care for. And 2048 is free too, whilst the gameplay is more suited for mobile play. The reason 2048 did so well as a game was because of how you could mindlessly play it for a few minutes while out and about. But, for me at least, when I sit down to play Xbox, I don’t want to play a mindless swiping game.
Bone Marrow is an affordable game and it does give an easy 1000G, but there are free games that have similar mechanics, and are far more enjoyable. It’s hard to recommend.
Swipe over to the Xbox Store to pick up Bone Marrow