You don’t have to play Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town for long to understand where its influences lie. Taped on Willy’s bedroom cupboard is a poster for Day of the Tentacle, the classic LucasArts adventure, and there are references to one of its best-known puzzles when you try to interact with Willy’s microwave. And it’s not too long before you are popping down to Bone Town (hur-hur: it’s the title that just keeps on giving): a rundown, pirate-themed hovel that could have been lifted wholesale from Monkey Island.
There are many, many references within Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town – the Marvel universe, Indiana Jones and The Goonies get more than one each – but the LucasArts comparisons are the most pertinent. This is a game in search of the magic, cleverness and colour of a golden-era LucasArts point-and-click adventure. To its credit, it gets close.
The adventure begins in Willy’s home, with his mother off exploring the world while he’s left home-alone. Ten years ago to the day, Willy’s dad – Henry Morgan – went missing in the nearby Bone Town and is now presumed dead. But wait! A letter drops in through Willy’s letterbox, postmarked to today by his father. It kickstarts an adventure, as Henry has left clues to the whereabouts of a long-lost pirate treasure map, which has been split into multiple pieces and tucked around Bone Town.
Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town gets the most important bit right. The controls in a console point-and-click adventure can often be its downfall, but the one used here is among the best we’ve encountered. Other adventures take note. Most of its success comes from its simplicity: it opts for only two interactions – Look and Use – and they’re mapped to the X and A buttons. The inventory is easy to access with a tap of the Y button, and there’s rarely more than one screen’s worth of items to sort through at a given time.
But Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town goes further than just simplicity. It chucks in tools that make navigating its world completely frictionless. It has a neat double-tap feature where you can press A twice on an exit and immediately use it, rather than wait for Willy to catch up. The B button highlights the stuff in the environment that you can investigate. But even better, Willy gets handed a map in the early moments of the game, and you can open it up from your inventory and immediately travel to any of Bone Town’s locations, as long as you have been there once before.
These combine to make Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town an absolute breeze to play. Point-and-clicks are traditionally more at home on PC, but this system largely snorts at the suggestion. It may have some old-school click-to-move controls, but everything else feels right at home on an Xbox pad.
Graphically, it gets high marks too. We had to acclimate a bit to the character models – they’re higher res and almost claymation-like, while the backgrounds are more painterly – and they’re on the inconsistent side, with some characters being more detailed and realistic than others. But generally the world is varied and satisfying to explore. Items pop from their environments, attracting your cursor, and it’s never unclear what’s going on. There was room for a touch more weirdness, but that might be Guybrush Threepwood talking.
It’s in the writing where Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town falls down hardest. It’s not a bad story by any means: it’s simple and short, with the map-fetching taking up ninety percent of the play time. It just steps into a couple of muddy puddles. The first is that it comes up short on humour. It clearly wants to have you clutching your ribs, but Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town never really raises much more than a smirk. Willy is more snarky than funny, and the characters aren’t as outlandish as the writing thinks they are. It needed a bit of absurdity, maybe some pratfalling, to get it out of its creative rut.
The second is that it all feels a bit familiar. That doesn’t apply to the puzzles which are, to Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town’s absolute credit, extremely logical but also reasonably fresh. It has a fantastic knack for including items that we’ve never used before in this kind of game – a 3D printer, an automatic baseball machine – but which leave you plotting about how they might be used.
Where it is familiar is in the setup. Willy is collecting map pieces from pirates in an effort to find treasure, and that is – pretty much – the second act of The Secret of Monkey Island 2. Bone Town even has the faint edge of Phatt Island. We had a resounding sense of deja vu as we played Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town, and we’re not convinced that playing Secret of Monkey Island 2 is a pre-requisite for feeling it. It’s such a simple and commonly used trope, and it’s the only thing you’re doing throughout.
Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town took us roughly four hours to complete, which is – in point-and-click terms – not a stupendously long time, yet it’s asking for £16.74 for the privilege. That’s a reasonably large ask, and if you’re looking for pound-for-pound value for your purchases, then it might be too much. Just know that Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town does everything in its power to ensure that your time is spent well: there is no time-wasting or backtracking here thanks to the map and other usability tools.
Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town won’t have anyone running about, cheering the return of the point-and-click adventure. Its ambitions are nowhere near that high. Set your expectations to ‘LucasArts homage that feels good to play on console’, though, and there is fun to be found. It might even scratch an itch until that Ron Gilbert-led Monkey Island sequel turns up.
You can buy Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S