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This morning, I am supposed to be going to the final Maelstrom event, but instead I have an ear infection, so I am at home. So I asked my local friendly IRC bot for a recommendation of something to play (Picked randomly from my Steam games list):

08:37:28 [@Aquarion] Lampstand: What should I play?
08:37:30 [@Lampstand] Aquarion: Jolly Rover
08:37:42 [@Aquarion] … I own that?
08:38:29 [@Aquarion] Huh. I own a point and click adventure game called Jolly Rover.

I must have picked it up as part of a bundle, because I had no memory of it.

So, what we have here is a point and also click adventure game in the classic 2D style, Cartoon graphics, Somewhat wacky characters, in the genre which only exists in Graphic Adventure Games: Comedy Pirate With Voodoo Universe.

Except this time, they’re dogs.

Lets start mechanically. The engine is good, and the graphics and animation are passable, although slightly low res for a 2010 game. They have included three levels of hinting system, where first you can highlight all clickable objects (and objects with no new responses come up with a different colour label, which is an awesome thing that more games should do), A second where your wacky – and otherwise mercifully silent – animal sidekick will give you a vague clue as to your best direction, the third where you can feed the same sidekick on of a limited resource (not scare, though) for further hints. As a result, you’re never really stuck due to lack of knowing what you should be doing.

It sticks a pin in its own balloon to a certain extent by dancing so very obviously on the shores of Monkey Island. The writing is solid, and occasionally good, but the invitation towards comparison with the sabre-sharp dialog of a lot of the Lucasarts classic doesn’t do it a lot of favours. At its best, it’s better than the weaker bits of MI scenes, but with far less of a reliance of animation-humour and running jokes. Animations are clean and smooth, although the lack of specific animations for some areas of the game makes a lot of the puzzles harder than they need to be (In a couple of instances, things “happen” while you’re off screen without any clue that this is the case, leading to random-item-comparison, the live-rail of P+C games).

The game’s not too difficult either. I find there are four areas where you tend to get in trouble in these games, “I didn’t think of that”, “I didn’t realise you could click that”, “That’s just not logical” and “…but that didn’t work last time”. Of the few times I got actually stuck, most of them were category one – which is the best they could be – and the ones where I actually needed to use the hint system were category 2 and one that hit category 4. Mostly solid puzzle solving, then, although not massively challenging to anyone whose brain has been retrained in the art of these games.

I’m somewhat less convinced by the collect-em-all additions to the formula (A four-part “Pirate Flag” in each major zone, crackers for the hint system, pieces of 8, all of which open up concept art and stuff), especially when some of them are locked out fairly early in the game and only appear as collectable items if you go back to a previously cleared screen after having solved a puzzle elsewhere – with no clue whatsoever. Finishing the game does open up a Developer Commentary mode, which might be interesting. It does also occasionally fall into the trap of “You have all the ingredients for the next stage but…. Oh! You will need this one extra thing which you couldn’t pick up before but is on the other side of the zone! So sad!”

The game took about 3 hours for me to complete, and I enjoyed the story, the characters and even most of the jokes for all of that. Your mileage may vary, but for £5 (On Steam at the moment) that’s better time for your money than a movie trip.

It’s available on Steam for Mac & Windows, or from the creator’s site for roughly the same amount. Or either place can give you the demo (First half hour or so) for free.

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