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Bone Marrow – Review

The mobile game 2048 is a staple of mindless casual puzzling, but there is inherent planning and skill involved to play it very well. I’ve always wondered if the mechanics of the game could transfer well to a bigger game and Bone Marrow, whilst not the first, does just that. It places 2048 into an RPG battle game, turning your moves into battle actions.

Each area has its own pixel art style but the gameplay loop remains identical.

If you’ve not played 2048, the idea is that random number tiles are placed on a grid that fills up. To keep going, you’ll want to slide all the tiles in one of the four compass directions and any tiles of the same number merge into one tile and double their number. You keep going until you reach 2048. The same principles vaguely apply here but instead of purely having cubes you’ll have attack, defence and health tiles that all slide into each other as you move your knight around the board. Obviously there is a skill in wandering around the board to try and build up your character, which is how the ‘day’ part of the game works. There are weak enemies on the board too which are cannon fodder for your character.

The real challenge comes when ‘night’ arrives. Onto the board will come a boss character with plenty of health, defence and attack points. Not only does a move on the board help you out, it will also now tip tiles into your enemy. You have to be careful not keep tipping attack points onto the boss as you’ll be in for a world of pain. Often moves are choosing the least beneficial move for your opponent rather than the best for you, or moving a very powerful tile that might have multiplied several times away from enemy reach and closer to you to grab. Once of the annoyances of this is that often you can receive a powerful tile and because your stats are boosted for a temporary time, you might not be able to execute a move with it, so it all goes to waste. This becomes a problem late game when the bosses are tanks that need slowly winding down. It’s also worth noting every attack halves your attack damage back down again so its like the game wants you to drag out encounters.

Night time is where the boss encounters come in. Corner them and boost your armour to cakewalk it.

There is however one flaw with all of this gameplay – corners and walls. You can’t always do it but sometimes you can box enemies into corners or walls and simply pummel them until they die because they can’t escape. You can simply alternate back and forth, attack – health/defence collect – attack. It is often my go to early game because your character is so weak that playing the game properly feels like a death wish at times. It’s an odd quirk of the game design and Bone Marrow does little to incentivise other ways of playing. This is because armour is incredibly powerful in the game. As mentioned earlier, every attack halves the next attack damage available, but if you have at least some armour left, it’ll soak up anything until you hit zero. Usually you are able to absorb an attack, grab the armour for a defence stat boost and soak the next attack up until the boss is slowly but surely worn down.

Bone Marrow is also quite a short game, covering four worlds across the Middle Ages inspired character bios and biomes. In reality, the muddy and dark colour palettes and heavy pixilation doesn’t endear itself well outside of gothic art fans. The other problem is that very little changes from level to level aside from colour palettes and maybe a weaker enemy. It feels more like a proof of concept tied to a cheap price point rather than feeling totally fully fleshed out. Nice ideas, but perhaps it needed a little more play testing to iron out some of the kinks.

Bone Marrow
Final Thoughts
Nice twist on 2048 but is too easy to cheese the gameplay to make it feel like an engaging casual strategy game.
2048: The RPG is a nice idea.
Some decent, if murky, gothic middle age pixel art.
Gameplay is very unbalanced and easy to manipulate.
Short yet repetitively samey.

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