Monday, July 11, 2011

A Jolly Surprise - some thoughts on the buccaneer puzzle simulation Jolly Rover

I had no idea I had ever purchased Jolly Rover. I can't for the life of me wonder how that might have happened. Where it not for Valve's achievement challenge, I would likely never have remembered that it sat there, unplayed, among my Steam collection.

That would have been a shame. I was expecting to trudge for half an hour in a children's game - after all, it's a game about pirate dogs - and I found myself engrossed in one of the nicest Secret of Monkey Island homages I've known.

Homage. That's a curiously absent word in the world of videogames. Copy, clone, remake,"spiritual successor" are terms much more commonly employed, and in truth, there are few games worthy of being called "homages", games that successfully thread that fine line between gentle nods at what went before and doing their own thing. Jolly Rover nails it.

It nails it with the main character, a lovable, resourceful fool, but a fool all the same. It nails it with it's light hearted tale of swashbuckling that touches all the classic monkey island troupes - pirate life, voodoo magic, silly romance, spiritual advice from dead parents - without outright copying them. It nails it with clever puzzles that bring on the funny without being needlessly obtuse.

And the dialog is so nice. It's not Portal 2, of course, but it's nicely written and delivered with care, and while being happy about this is more indicative of the low standards of writing and acting in games than it is about this particulars game quality, it still is more enjoyable for it.

Jolly Rover is a very simple game, to be sure, and made simpler even by the overabundance of crackers, that can be given to your pirate companion in exchange for puzzle solutions. It's also on the short side, clocking at around 6 hours for a very through play. But it is a very happy game. It takes me to my happy place, a place of talking pirate dogs.

I score it an YAAAAAAAAAR!

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