Some dismiss it as mere myth; others believe it was part of an elaborate conspiracy fabricated by Sony to improve the credibility of its inaugural console. Well, allow me to let you in on a little secret, friend: the Sega Saturn did exist. And it was good!
Yes, it may have been the ginger kid of the console world, but the unpopular system saw some fantastic exclusives that have sadly been relegated to the dusty space beneath our memories along with the console itself. Well, I’m here to grant one such title a final encore before the curtain closes on it for good: allow me to introduce Mr. Bones (stop giggling in the back).
Mr. Bones places you in the shoes – or rather the fleshless feet – of the eponymous skeleton, resurrected to join the ranks of the dastardly DaGoulian’s skeletal army. Due to his general awesomeness, however, Mr. Bones retains his free will, his eyes glowing blue instead of red. So, it’s up to him to convert the malevolent red-eyed skeletons into benevolent blue-eyed ones in each of the multitude of circumstances our size zero protagonist finds himself.
Following its 1996 release, the game achieved almost cult status amongst ardent Saturn fans (all three of them), praised for its originality and playability, with most levels featuring unique controls, angles and game mechanics. The format of Mr. Bones is essentially a myriad of mini-games that range from the Absurd to the Zany, most of which are trippier than a spliff rolled in an M.C. Escher Rizla.
One such wacky level has you playing keepy-ups with a partial skeleton on top of an immense skull, with the camera then zooming out to reveal a slightly more complete skeleton atop an even larger skull, effectively suggesting a seemingly endless chain of skeletons of ever-increasing size bouncing on top of one another.
Another, and perhaps the most memorable, of the 22 levels sees you playing an electric guitar to a mob of angry skeletons. Each button on the pad represents a riff, and it’s your job to freestyle these riffs into a passable tune, converting the red eyes to blue.
Other levels in the rarer-than-rocking-horse-turd game include platform stages, breakout-style puzzlers, revamped adaptations of games like defender and tempest, as well as original levels that require you to assemble jokes, fly a skeletal pterodactyl or play a set of drums, to name a few.
As well as its originality, Mr. Bones boasts a blend of live action and FMV sequences the quality of which was hitherto unseen, and is embellished with a brand of quirky darkness that wouldn’t look out of place in a Tim Burton movie. As well as groundbreaking visual effects for its day, the game is glued together with an incredible blues soundtrack – composed by legendary guitarist Ronnie Montrose – which is at times aptly haunting and forms the basis of some of the more memorable levels.
Never has a character epitomised ‘cool’ as unequivocally as Mr. Bones (well, except perhaps Cool Spot): he’s a wisecracking, guitar-jamming skeletal antihero. Plus, he’s black (probably). Due to peering back at the game through a retrospective haze of nostalgia, I’m probably forgetting how frustrating some of the trickier levels are, but Mr. Bones is certainly an eclectic journey and remains a unique experience, even after all these years. In fact, I can’t help but feel that PSN and Xbox Live would be the perfect place to exhume Mr. Bones once again.