The classic LucasArts point-and-click adventures of the '90s never went for special effects and blast-'em action: instead, they won lifelong fans with their cartoony yet sophisticated characters, fiendishly inventive puzzles, and constant, witty narration. The team at Telltale Games—which includes several LucasArts vets—unapologetically sticks to the template and updates almost nothing: Their flagship game, an adaptation of Jeff Smith's award-winning Bone comics, looks like it could have shipped 10 years ago. Aside from including a few mini-games, it loyally follows its ancestors, with likeable protagonists, cute but static backdrops, and a bottomless supply of humorous voiceovers that accompany even the dead ends and red herrings.
Telltale is developing the Bone game as a series of separate, brief installments. The Great Cow Race marks episode two of the series, and while it won't take more than an afternoon to finish, it tells a satisfying story from the point of view of each of the three Bone cousins: greedy Phoney Bone, who tries to cheat everyone in town even though they have nothing to offer him but eggs; slappy-go-lucky Smiley Bone, who winds up with the hardest puzzles; and earnest Fone Bone, who's smitten with the lovely Thorn, even though she comes off as about 12 years old. It all builds up to the titular race, where you'll outrun a galloping herd of cows—and that's when the animation finally kicks into gear, making the big finish more exciting than you'd expect.
Beyond the game: The Bone movie and other non-comic projects never materialized, but the games offer a faithful, engaging retelling of the comic series' story.
Worth playing for: While The Great Cow Race seems easy compared to Grim Fandango or the Monkey Island games, it offers a few stumpers. But try not to use the in-game tips too often, or the game will be over before you know it.
Frustration sets in when: Some of the characters you'll speak with ramble on so persistently that it's hard to tell when you're headed down the wrong path.
Final judgment: Even if you aren't an old-school adventure fan, Bone is charming enough to make up for its ease and short length.