Bonelab is here! But should you buy it?
| Tony Mowbray
When Bonelab was first announced back in 2019 under the codename Project 4, it instantly became one of the most anticipated VR games of all time. Players expected the same highly-rated gameplay as its predecessor Boneworks, only bigger and better.
Does Bonelab live up to all the excitement? In this article we cut through the hype and break the game down to help you decide. First, let’s take a quick look at what Bonelab is all about.
Bonelab is a physics-driven action adventure game with a big part of its charm coming from the way it lets players' do what they like. In the world of Boneworks, the possibilities are almost endless. Parkour across rooftops, take out enemies with slow motion mid-air shots or take them down using a frying-pan; it’s up to you.
You play an outcast who’s been sentenced to death but escapes their fate via a hidden pathway that leads to a series of challenges set out in an underground research lab. There’s a core story and six main areas to explore. Each of these six areas can be thought of as mini–games with their own objectives.
These mini-games might give you the task of taking out enemies as quickly and as accurately as possible or holding out for as long as you can against wave after wave of bad guys. There’s parkour modes, physics bowling and a sandbox area, which includes the ability to spawn enemies and an armory of different weapons. Mod support is also included for user generated content.
Bonelab’s high level of interactivity and realistic physics system allows for some of the most enjoyable and immersive combat experiences I have had in VR. But Bonelab is by no means perfect, it certainly suffers from some issues and the type of gameplay it offers might not appeal to everyone. So let’s take a closer look at what Bonelab has to offer, starting with its strengths.
• Brilliant physics - Bonelab features some of the most fun and craziest physics I have experienced to date. It lets you play how you want, allowing you to pretty much interact with everything, from shell casings to traffic cones. You can dispatch enemies in any number of creative ways limited only by your imagination which can lead to some hilarious and magical moments.
• Great presentation - Bonelab is a neat and polished package. The visuals are a treat and come accompanied by a quality soundtrack to boot. Bonelab also looks good and performs well on the Quest 2, which is particularly impressive given the headset’s limitations.
• Lots to do - There’s a core campaign filled with action and puzzles that should take around 6-8 hours to complete. Beyond that, Bonelab also features a lot of varied gameplay activities with mini-games and modding support that adds potentially limitless replay value.
• Jankiness - Whilst the physics are one of the most impressive aspects of Bonelab, they are also one of its problems. Like many physics based games there’s a certain level of jankiness that can create situations ranging from funny to downright annoying. For example, limbs get caught in the geometry, objects get accidentally picked up or dropped, and certain actions like climbing can be frustratingly glitchy.
• Not for newcomers - If you are new to VR, you may want to put off getting Boneworks for now as it isn’t the most friendly introduction to the platform. The game can get REALLY intense. You’ll experience jumping, flipping, gut wrenching falls, and exceptional speed. All of this makes for an uncomfortable experience that can result in motion sickness, even for VR veterans.
• Unnecessarily frustrating - Whilst I enjoy games that don’t hold your hand too much, Bonelab takes it to the extreme. There’s no tutorial, even for the most basic of things, requiring the player to figure out everything for themselves. This type of cryptic gameplay can leave you feeling stumped and frustrated.
• Feels like a tech demo - Whilst Bonelab has a campaign story, it’s not the traditional cohesive plotline you might expect. There’s notepads scattered throughout the campaign that players will need to read to try to make sense of what’s going on. The storyline is quite thin and the campaign doesn’t offer much in the way of compelling level design or puzzles. The weak campaign, brief mini games and absence of objectives on some of the levels can make Bonelab feel a bit like one big tech demo, which might not be for everyone.
All in all, Bonelab is a bit of a niche title. If you are after a physics-driven sandbox experience and can tolerate intense action with a bit of jankiness, then you will likely love it. However, if you’re hoping for something with an engaging narrative and strong campaign, you might want to look elsewhere.
Bonelab is now available to buy on the PC, Rift and Quest store for the price of $39.99 USD.
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