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Bone Marrow review for PS5/4, Xbox Series X/One, Switch


Platform: PS5
Also on: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Developer: Huge Pixel
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: T

If you’ve ever played the mobile hit 2048 (or any of its many imitators), Bone Marrow is going to feel awfully familiar. You have a board, you move tiles around trying to match them, and the more you match the bigger the numbers get. As I said: awfully familiar.

The twist here is that the game leans into its dungeon-crawler trappings, giving you a character on the board who occasionally fights rats, snakes, demons, and other enemies. Those tiles you match come into play, since both your character and the enemies pick up every tile they crash into during daytime (the board also has day/night cycles, and at night you can’t fight), which raises all their stats.

While it’s an interesting idea, there are a few problems with its execution. First, Bone Marrow does a terrible job of explaining itself. Eventually you realize there’s a little more to it than simply shifting the tiles around and trying to create matches, but you don’t reach that understanding with any help from the game. Having played 2048 before will help, but not in any significant way..

Second — and why Bone Marrow really isn’t all that interesting — once you figure out how the game works, it becomes very obvious how shallow it is, and how easy it is to game the system in order to make your character hugely overpowered. There’s no incentive to attack your enemies; rather, you can simply move around the board, gobbling up health and shields and swords, occasionally attacking when the mood strikes you. In fact, even that is somewhat optional — early on in my time with the game, when I was at a point where I knew how it worked but not how to make my character overpowered, I was still able to make a playthrough last forever simply by moving everything in random directions on every move.

Obviously, Bone Marrow’s developers should be applauded for trying something new with such a familiar formula. There’s a good idea to be found here, for sure. But if you want something with any depth, this definitely isn’t it.

Ratalaika Games provided us with a Bone Marrow PS4/PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: B-