If you are a regular reader of my reviews and editorials, you may be aware that, as well as being a fan of video game soundtracks, Warhammer 40,000 and causing general havoc, I also enjoy point and click adventure games.
So the opportunity to play an early version of Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet, by Application Systems Heidelberg, was one I was pleased to accept. I’m a fan of the Monkey Island series, with its mix of piratey swashbuckling and anachronistic humour, and this game looked like it would deliver more of the same.
In this game, you play a character called Nelly Cootalot, who fancies herself as a fearless pirate and saviour of birds. She is tasked by the ghost of her old mentor – the dread pirate William Bloodbeard – with defeating the villanous Baron Widebeard and freeing his army of enslaved water birds. To do this she will need a ship, a crew, and some idea of where Widebeard is going and what he is after.
There is a lot that I really like about this game. One of the biggest factors is the humour. The game mixes pirate gags with pop culture references without letting either of them overpower the experience. A lot of the jokes are throwaway one liners that made me smile. For example, an early character Nelly encounters is the stern naval officer Commodore LXIV. Those of you who are familiar with Roman Numerals will quickly notice that this is a reference to the Commodore 64. There many others throughout the game and each one will make you chuckle.
Another thing I really enjoyed is the puzzles themselves. The game follows the traditional formula of having a few tasks to accomplish before progessing to the next chapter of the story. For example, in the first section you are stranded on an island and have to a) find out where Baron Widebeard is going, b) find out which boat is going in the same direction, and c) convince Commodore LXIV to let you leave the island. Each one of these leads to various kinds of shenanigans, from using a plank found on a beach to reach a roof of a shack to helping a retired admiral to beat a scottish lord, a french aristocrat and a cuban dictator in a grand national-type race. And I am not making that up.
The puzzles are very cleverly done. There were only one or two places where I became truly stuck and unsure how to proceed, however I was able to get back on the right track by retracing my steps and making sure I had spoken to everyone about everything. The rest of the time, once I’d found the relevant items, it became clear what I was expected to do. There are a few occasions where the game doesn’t outright tell you what item you will need, instead it provides clues and information to allow you to work it out yourself. When you do so, and when it is the correct solution, it’s very satisfying.
I should say something about how the game looks and sounds. In short, it looks and sounds amazing. The graphics are excellently drawn, with smooth animations and just the right amount of off-the-wall wackiness. The voice acting is top-notch as well, with each character given a very accomplished performance. Special mention must go to Tom Baker – he of Doctor Who fame – who not only narrates the introduction to the game, he voices one of the most prominent characters who aids Nelly on her quest. There are also some catchy tunes in the background that stick in your head for a while.
I must admit that there are a couple of niggling issues that interfered with my experience. In one area – the Chinatown area to be exact – Nelly turned into a black shadow. She still moved and interacted as normal, she had just turned black. That wasn’t so bad. What was a bit more intrusive was a few places where the inventory would stay on the screen for a few seconds after I had selected an item from it, which meant I couldn’t interact with anything in the main screen until the inventory had disappeared. That was a bit more frustrating and it really disrupted the flow of the game. There was also an issue where the inventory wouldn’t display all the items I had and wouldn’t scroll, which necessitated a restart of the game to fix.
Once again this is a good, solid game that I’m really enjoying. If I’m being brutally honest the main storyline is a bit hard to keep track of at times, but the individual stories and puzzle sequences more than make up for it. I haven’t finished the game yet – there’s a lot to do and see – but I am well on the way to doing so. I would definitely recommend this game to anyone who likes pirate games, zany humour, intelligent puzzles or just a fun time. If there were to be any sequels I would definitely be very interested in them.