Bonehead is the story of Fred Merkle, a player from the early days of baseball whose small mistake cost him a key game and haunted him the rest of his life.
It's one of those rare games that tells you up front you're headed for disaster. Interspersed passages from an unidentified narrator sketch in poor Fred's later life and all the humiliations that lie ahead of him, while you the player just try to get him through the day.
This creates suspense. Every little thing in the course of your climactic game is freighted with the potential for disaster, because as the player you know that things are going to go terribly wrong, but not how.
At the same time, you're actively working to bring on Fred's humiliation. There are a lot of ways for the game to conclude with some minor screwup, some trivial error; but those aren't the approved ending. So you go back and keep playing until you arrive at the moment of true disaster.
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. Some reviewers have mentioned finding this strange or alienating, but I personally found that it was actually easier to like Fred as a person because I wasn't expected to see him as myself. It was the bit of distance between us that made sympathy possible.
Similarly, that distance means that the game's tragic structure doesn't feel like a gotcha. I, the player, have not in any way been tricked or fooled. I got my winning ending -- the one where I find out what happens.
Bonehead is easiest to play if you know a bit of baseball terminology; while it does attempt to teach the relevant information, some players found this section overwhelming or confusing because they didn't have a frame of reference. For me -- a casual and occasional baseball fan but without much grasp of the nuances of pitching and hitting -- the educational portions were just about right, the story confidently told, and the structure compelling.
N.B.: Bonehead was built using Glulx. To play the game, you need to install a Glulx interpreter on your machine, and download the game file. We link to Glulx interpreters for PC, Mac, and Linux above. Those new to interactive fiction may also be interested in the introduction found here.