Just Bones is a fast paced, 2D puzzle platformer game by Elephant Games for the PC, Mac and Linux. It is the kind of game that sounds pretty good on the surface but in actuality it has problems. Story wise, well there is no story unless you look on the description which states that you were a mage whose magic went wrong and you become a skeleton wanting to become human again. What a fantastic idea, but where is that in the actual gameplay? There is a video which Elephant Games put on YouTube which explains this. However, I like to be involved in the game I am playing. Having said this though, the story is pretty intriguing if you are willing to look it up!
I confess, I could not get the hang of the controls with Just Bones as they seemed to work against me at every obstacle. I had to fight the controls rather than use them smoothly and this was a massive issue for me. The jump control (W) stuck nearly every time I needed to jump and this made me fail as well as the grab control (Q) not working, picking up whatever instead of the thing I wanted to grab… I was unable to finish the game as I ended up getting rather frustrated and wanting to throw my computer out of the window. This being said it does not, by any means, make Just Bones a bad game, merely my version (possibly!) being a bit buggy and/or my computer being too slow. I know many people have enjoyed Just Bones when they have played it, and so did I the first few levels and then I started to fail and I couldn’t go any further.
Graphically, Just Bones has an extremely retro feel, making use of the popular indie choice of the classic 8-bit style, popular in the 70s with games such as PacMan because of limited resources now used for ease and keeping the price low on development. Just Bones, although comprised of pixels does not mean it is lacking in graphics, the colours, for example, pop especially the blue flames around the skull. There are a few issues with the graphics most notably the lack of character animation which makes it seem unnatural (doesn’t move like a skeleton) and the gameplay has trouble flowing due to this.
The music of Just Bones is similarly retro in keeping with the style of the game overall, one track that loops (does get slightly annoying) and the sound effects of jumping, digging, failing and winning all having distinct sounds. I got rather sick of hearing myself fail over and over again! However, the music fit the game and I can’t complain, there is always the mute button! The melody is quite up tempo and the beat is catchy, without seeing what game it belongs to it would be hard to distinguish the games meaning due to the nature of Just Bones. However, the music definitely fits within the retro platformer and that is certainly what this is!
Just Bones is an extremely fun idea, putting together your character and finding your way over the dastardly difficult levels using different techniques is fun but it would help to have a little more free direction. You earn ‘keys’ at the end of a level and you can use them to earn hints as sometimes you do not have what you need for a hint and this can be irritating as it is easy to fail when you are unsure of your direction. This was ultimately my downfall. I would pass a challenging obstacle and then I would try and jump onto a platform and do something wrong, having to restart the entire level again only to get trapped at the same obstacle as I did before.
The level design is largely responsible for this, the puzzles are on the hard side after a certain part of the game, there is quite a big jump from being fairly simple to suddenly being difficult and this made Just Bones one of those games where it expected you to get the idea pretty quickly and there was no room for not getting it. This for me took away some of the enjoyment because the more time you failed at a level the less rewards you would earn even after receiving three stars.
Overall, Just Bones, was a difficult puzzle platformer, it was enjoyable to a certain point and it definitely had a retro feel that made me want to open some old school games (even made me want to play my boyfriend’s old Gameboy!) and so couldn’t be considered bad in any way! If you are up for a challenge, give Just Bones a go!