Casual or for Kids?
Casual, point-and-click adventure games have gone the way of the dinosaur during the last decade. With increased visual quality and more complicated gameplay now possible, interacting with still backgrounds and watching text scroll across your screen might not sound too appealing. However, as long as there are kids, there will always be a need for fun and entertaining games like Brawsome’s title, Jolly Rover.
You play the privateer named Gaius James Rover, or Jolly Rover, which is his pirate name. You’re sailing with a shipment of goods that are destined for a nearby port when a pirate ship seizes your vessel, puts you in the brig, and takes your cargo. From there begins your adventure, in which you must solve a multitude of puzzles to advanced through the story.
Each setting is a relatively small map with objects you can interact with. Some of these objects are just there for no reason. However, checking everything is a good way to make sure you’re finding all the secret stashes of loot, which will allow you to unlock extras such as developer commentary, concept art, and other behind-the-scenes goodies.
All the controls are done using your mouse, which makes things much simpler for younger audiences who would have difficulty navigating a keyboard. For example, clicking at the bottom of the screen causes your inventory to appear and clicking at the top brings up the main menu. Knowing what you can interact with is even easier to grasp. Anything that can be interacted with will show up as a word when your mouse hovers over it. Furthermore, the first time you interact with an object, or if the object or person has some new interaction, the word appears blue, letting you know that there is something else you can do.
Of course, you can’t simply play through the game by clicking on all the objects and characters in a particular scene. Each scene will have at least one puzzle you’ll need to solve. For example, when clicking on a lock, Rover might proclaim that it looks rusty and might needs oiling. From there, you must find a cloth and soak it will oil, which requires obtaining the cloth and combining it with an oil lamp, then combining that with the lock to grease it. Once an item has been added to your inventory, you can experiment by clicking on it and then trying to use it with the various objects and characters.
Despite the simplistic gameplay, some of the puzzles can be surprisingly difficult to figure out without help. Because of this, Brawsome included a helpful parrot character for the player to interact with. The parrot, named Juan, can give the player hints. At first, it can be annoying because if you’re taking too long to figure something out, the parrot will interrupt you by asking if you need help. Answering no will temporarily silence the bird; however, he will continue to badger you until you either solve the puzzle or turn the hints off completely. Of course, doing that doesn’t stop you from ever getting hints again. If you still want hints, you can interact with Juan by clicking on him in your inventory. To add a twist to the hint system, Juan will only provide one free hint. If you need or want more, you’ll have to feed him crackers, which you’ll need to find and store in your inventory.
Visually, Jolly Rover is a completely 2D game that looks very similar to older cartoons. The characters are drawn in unique and interesting ways, and the environments are decent. Considering the audience the game was designed for, it is difficult to find fault in the design direction or quality of the visuals. Sure, it could always look better, be three dimensional, or have dynamic shading, but none of those things are necessary to achieve the game’s goal. If anything, the simple cartoon-style visuals mesh well with the gameplay, and going with anything more complicated would probably seem out of place.
If there is one area where Jolly Rover truly shines, it is the quality of its voice acting and script. While the plot may not have surprises, twists, or blow your mind with varying levels of complexity, the script and dialogue between the characters is entertaining. To say it is over-the-top would be an understatement. Jolly Rover is successful in portraying nearly every stereotypical pirate character ever imagined, and it works. You’ve got the young, slightly-naive protagonist, the older and seemingly wiser pirate captain, and even a swashbuckling female protagonist makes an appearance.
While you’ll be interacting with other characters a lot, many of the interactions are with inanimate objects. That’s why much of the dialogue consists of the Gaius talking out loud and saying things like, “Wow, look… not just another empty bottle,” or “This is certainly FORT-ified.” While it’s obvious that the game is geared toward a much younger audience, many of the jokes and references would probably be lost on them. Of course, this isn’t anything new considering every animated Disney movie ever made does the same. Also, it does make the game more interesting for the slightly older gamer who may decide to play it.
As with any video game, Jolly Rover suffers from a few problems. Technically speaking, the game is solid, which isn’t any wonder considering its extremely low system requirements. However, the lack of a manual save feature is annoying. Players will have to complete an entire scene or set of objectives before quitting or they’ll be forced to replay much of the scene again when they come back to play. Considering the nature of the game, repeating the simple task of clicking on objects and then fast-clicking through dialogue trees wouldn’t seem that annoying, but doing it over and over can get tiresome. Considering how much the game holds your hand in other ways, the lack of a intermediate save just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Another gripe is your character’s movement speed, which can get very annoying when you have to watch him walk from one side of the map to the next. This is particularly noticeable when transitioning between maps, which is when Gaius will auto walk around a corner or up a hill for a few seconds before loading into the next map, at which point you’ll have to watch him slowly walk down that path. Including a way to fast forward past transitions, similar to the way you can click to fast forward through dialogue you’ve already heard, would have been good to include.
Overall, Jolly Rover is a fun and casual, point-and-click adventure game that sets its sights on a younger crowd of gamers. It features simplistic gameplay, complementary visuals, funny dialogue, and even some fairly challenging puzzles. While it isn’t a perfect casual game, it does what it is meant to do very well and with no noticeable technical bugs. Sadly, it doesn’t have much replay value and only one story to play through. Then again, a much younger audience would probably have fun playing over and over anyway. In the end, the $20 price tag may not seem worth it to many, but to the parent or hardcore, point-and-click adventure fan, Jolly Rover may just deliver.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
Cartoon-like visuals and two-dimensional spaces suit the gameplay mechanics and overall theme well. 3.5 Control
Mouse-only controls make playing as easy as it gets, but the lack of fast forward clicking for all animations can be a bit annoying. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The bold and over-the-top voice acting is hilarious. The audio hints and clues are also subtle but noticeable. 3.5 Play Value
A fun and humorous adventure game that is relatively short and lacks replay value is still worth it, depending on who you are and what you like. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.