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About the StorySeptember 23, 1908. Win this game, and your Giants will have the National League pennant almost within reach. You've done your part. You've just made a base hit, putting McCormick on third with the winning run in the ninth inning. It's all up to Bridwell now. Or perhaps not.
Your name is Fred Merkle. You're about to become famous.
Which leads us to our subject: three weeks ago saw the release of the first narrative baseball game. Bonehead is written by Sean M. Shore, and tells the story of New York Giants first baseman and teenager Fred Merkle, whose baserunning gaffe in the final week of 1908 helped cost his team the pennant and dogged him the rest of his life. Your goal is to re-enact that day, beginning with standing in line at the train station on the way to the stadium.
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Play This Thing!
It's a structure that promotes sympathy rather than identification. You the player are not Fred. You know things Fred doesn't know, you don't know things he does (like the ins and outs of swinging at various pitch types). Your goal, to see the story through and find out what happened, is very much to Fred's disadvantage, as he would have had a happier life if things had gone differently in that game.
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The Digital Antiquarian
Bonehead is the true story of the ďmost infamous play in baseball history,Ē one which demoralized the 1908 New York Giants in their battle against the Chicago Cubs for the pennant and earned for Fred Merkle, your avatar and the star of the game, the sobriquet of the title. Iím always happy to play any IF that is not set aboard a spaceship or in a fantasy kingdom, and this setting feels particularly fresh, with its occasional period photographs and some very nice descriptive writing. It doesnít hurt that I quite enjoy the game of baseball, and, while I donít really know that much about its history, never object to learning more. And Shore is well up to the task, writing always with a light, usually slightly comic touch. Interestingly, his narrator breaks the fourth wall frequently to speak directly to us / Merkle, an unusual approach that works very well.
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Number of Reviews: 3
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Related reviews: fictionalised, historical, Spring Thing 2011, baseball, sports
The game recounts a famous 1908 screw-up that defined the career of Fred Merkle. From the outset, in no uncertain terms, you're informed that the disaster is coming and that it will scar your life. Yet you still keep working towards it, through a difficult commute and an indecipherable morass of baseball terminology. The game is broken up by flashbacks that imply the main story is just a flashback. There are obvious debts to Photopia and 1893: A World's Fair Mystery; one could choose worse models. It seems diligently researched.
Bonehead has a number of conflicting, emergent morals, some of which the author certainly didn't intend. The point could be that Merkle was a clueless blunderer, only barely holding on moment to moment, and some horrible mishap was inevitable; this comes out of gameplay, and contradicts statements that Merkle was actually pretty savvy. Another is that Merkle is a sort of sticktoitive hero, unable to give less than his all even when it leads to his destruction; this feeling hangs around the story even though it makes no chronological sense. Another, probably closer to the intent, is that even solidly competent people fuck up all the time; whether a fuck-up goes unremarked or haunts you your entire life is largely a matter of luck.
Bonehead's main flaw is a tendency to cheesiness that it can't quite sustain; there's that historical-fiction thing where you always meet significant historial figures who are just now thinking about something that will ring down the ages, and there's a Hollywoodish moment of Touching Redemption. Overall, though, a really strong debut.
You are taught about baseball in the game, including how to catch and how to hit the ball.
There is a lot of simulation-based information in the game (they tell you exactly what to do for different types of pitches), and so I thought that most of the puzzles would be simulation-based. However, at least two of the puzzles are traditional parser puzzles.
I enjoyed the writing and graphics, and it made the game come alive to me. The chatter of the crowd, the words of the people around you, really transport you to the past.
Great for fans of baseball, history, simulation games, or a good story.
I wanted to enjoy it because I think empathy and the ability to learn from a time and place are great strengths of the IF medium (and I'm still firmly on the author's team, as it were), but having to participate in certain character interactions felt like a chore, there came points where it's necessary to perform specific unintuitive actions using unfamiliar language (the bag situation, specifically), and while the early puzzles were straightforward (distract Person A to retrieve Item B), the walkthrough carried me through the awkward final stage which I felt was unplayable otherwise.
Baseball aficionados or historians may feel differently, and there are two deeper and altogether more complementary reviews available by Emily Short and Jimmy Maher at the time of this writing. For the rest, there's always Wikipedia.
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