Avast ye! Spoonbeaks off the port bow!
September 23, 2007
Recent years have been good for the pirate community. A trio of blockbuster films has resurrected the swashbuckling epic, and “talk like a pirate day” has caught on as a pseudo-holiday. More importantly, the hipster caucus has placed pirates somewhere above dinosaurs and only slightly below ninjas in the pantheon of the ironic, silly, and retro. Yet, there have been precious few quality pirate games in recent years. Although Sid Meier’s “Pirates!” was a welcome remake of an old classic, the grizzled gamers among us have been seeking a successor to “Monkey Island,” one of the great pirate adventure games of yore.
Thankfully, that peg-leg-shaped void within our souls can now be whole again, thanks to Alasdair Beckett’s “Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy.” “Spoonbeaks” follows the adventures of pirate captain Nelly Cootalot as she attempts to find out why the titular spoonbeaks, odd but particularly cute birds, have disappeared from the tropical Barony of Meeth. Armed with only her wits, pluck, and an accent from the vicinity of County Durham, Nelly must navigate both the island and the unsavory sea-dogs inhabiting it if she is to get the bottom of the mystery.
From the get-go, the game seems like a grand, careful production. The graphics are amazing: not only are they smoothly animated in high resolution, but they have a style that fits perfectly with the picaresque storyline, like a vibrant cross between Tim Burton and James Kochalka. The effect is enhanced by a number of sprightly sea shanties that subtly complement the action on screen. The interface is similarly well appointed, as well as streamlined, and should be easy to pick up and play even for non-gamers.
The puzzles, too, are a well-balanced blend. There is a healthy proportion of old-school inventory puzzles, but although there are fewer dialogue-based puzzles, they remain sharp. Although a few solutions are a little more obscure, talking to the island’s many quirky residents can often yield enough hints, although these exchanges are great fun on their own.
Even though “Spoonbeaks” shares many positive attributes with classic adventure games, it feels vitally original. All of the different features come together to form an experience that seems cohesive and unique; it would be impossible to imagine any element of the game, from the graphics to the witty banter, being any different from what you see. Should you be fortunate enough to play it, your idea of games, or of pirates, for that matter, will be all the richer for having done so.
Recommended to anyone who has at any point wished they were a pirate, and highly recommended in lieu of seeing the last two of those recent pirate movies.