With Lucasarts releasing special editions of the wonderful Monkey Island point-and-click adventures, now is as good a time as any to get in on the adventure gaming action. Jolly Rover is a homage of sorts to the iconic swashbuckling series, featuring pirate dogs, clever puzzles and plenty of treasure.
With some hilarious, fully-voiced dialogue, unique puzzle ideas and enough collectables to keep both casual and veteran adventurers happy, Jolly Rover comes as a bolt from the deep blue to deliver quality point-and-click gaming which is well worthy of your time.
Jolly Rover plays out like an adventure title from The Curse of Monkey Island era, with incredibly simplistic controls. Players click on items and scenery, and Gaius will interact, spouting his thoughts and picking up anything he deems useful. Hovering the mouse over the screen shows which parts are selectable, depending on whether or not the name of the item pops up.
Moving the mouse to the bottom of the screen shows the inventory. Items from here can be selected then used with anything in the current scene, or simply examined. The idea is to gather together every available item, then use what you have to move the storyline forward. If you’ve played an adventure game before, you’ll know what to expect.
What really shines through with Jolly Rover is the amount of effort the developers have put into ensuring the player is never completely stuck for too long. When a player hovers the mouse pointer over items which are yet to be examined or have new uses, the text will show purple rather than white, signifying that there’s something to be done with it.
There are also a variety of hints and tips available for those who are finding the going tough. Gaius’ parrot friend can be fed a cracker, at which point he’ll spew up clues and answers to the latest head-scratcher. For those who would rather not be given clues, it is not essential to ask the parrot anything – in fact, there’s an achievement for completing the game with no help whatsoever.
The simple and casual-leaning element to the game is reinforced with the top ‘score’ bar. Players are given a rank, which is constantly changing and means absolutely nothing. A score is also on display, harking back to adventure games of old – again, it means nothing, as it doesn’t state what the maximum score available is.
The top bar also shows what your current quest is – of course, this means that there is only ever one mission at any one time, which any adventure gaming veteran will know is not usually the case in a game of this calibre. Again, this is a far more casual affair than your usual point-and-clicker, yet at the same time is really doesn’t lose any of the charm as a result.
Make no mistake - Jolly Rover oozes charm and wit. Gaius throws out genuinely humorous remarks about situations and characters, and some of the puzzle ideas definitely put a smile on my face.
In many cases, you can feel the inspiration the team has pulled straight from the Monkey Island games. Without mentioning the blaringly obvious pirate setting, lots of the dialogue plays with old MI gems and Gaius sometimes even refers to the fact that he knows he is in a game – a trick which Mr. Threepwood would occasionally dabble with.
There is even voodoo magic involved – although Gaius goes one step better than Guybrush and actually gets to play with it himself, leading to some really interesting learn-then-recreate situations and tongue-in-cheek chanting.
Not everything is quite so perfect, however. Sometimes upon selecting a part of the scenery, Gaius will make a remark, then leave it be. Hover over it, and the text will now be white to show that it is no longer useful. Yet later on, after the story has unfolded a little more, previously useless items will begin to show as purple again and this time Gaius will grab them, as he has now found a use for them.
This would be fine, expect that the white/purple divide can be a little offputting. Once an item has turned white, that should surely mean that it is no longer useful, period. Any other adventure gaming character would just grab the item anyway, in the hope that it will prove valuable later on, but this method of play can lead to some confusing results.
There is also no way to manually save. The game apparently auto-saves when you quit – yet, a number of times when I shut the game down, I’d later return to find that an item or two were now missing from my inventory, and I’d have to go and grab them again. Allowing the player to save exactly at the point they are up to is a must in adventure gaming, and it’s surprising that this is not implemented here.
Jolly Rover really looks the part, with lovely cartoon visuals and a unique cast. The game is filled entirely with dogs, the majority of whom are pirates. I mean, when was the last time you played a game brimming with canines, let alone canine pirates! It really adds to the comedy value and makes some of the jokes even funnier than they should be.
The general scene layouts and interface are understandably reminiscent of the majority of 2D adventure games – in fact, it feels a lot like the game has been built right on top of the previously mentioned Curse of Monkey Island. I can’t be 100% certain, but I believe that the text used throughout the game is the exact same fonttype used in Curse. It is a really nice clear font however, so you can’t really blame Brawsome!
The entire game is voice-acted, with some quality actors roped in and plenty of brilliant lines delivered. It’s always a worry when dialogue is voiced in a smaller production like this, as the quality can sometimes be rather grating. No such problem here – it’s all a joy to the ears and the game definitely thrives for it.
After the death of his clown father, Gaius James Rover goes to live with his uncle at a plantation. It is here that he accidently creates the brew ‘Jolly Rover’, which soon becomes one of the most prized drinks in all the Caribbean.
Gaius quickly becomes bored, however, and goes back to his dreams of wanting to start his own circus and follow in his father’s footsteps (pawsteps?). While his uncle is away, a contract comes in which would potentially leave Gaius with enough money to fulfil his dream. Unfortunately, this is his first step into the world of pirates and cutthroats, and he soon finds his dreams hampered. Your job is to get him out of his predicament and back on the path to his juggling-based dreams.
It’s all very silly – for example, his father died of a blow to the groin after a loaded cannon joke goes horribly wrong. It also makes you really feel for Gaius – he is a rather posh-talking pup in the midst of a band of rapscallions, and yet he manages to fare pretty well. That feeling of ‘a fish out of water’ is always present, giving the game a lot of personality.
I had a great deal of fun with Jolly Rover. It suffers from the same problems that the majority of adventure games have - getting stuck can be a bore, and sometimes it feels a little slow-going – but it’s definitely one of the better adventure games I’ve played in recent times.
It’ll take you several hours to see it all the way through to completion, and even then there are pieces of eight, crackers and flags to collect, which unlock Steam achievements and open up concept art, bios and the soundtrack.
If you’ve been looking for a ‘proper’ adventure game to get your mitts around, look no further. Jolly Rover is funny, charming and clever, and will keep you hooked right through to the end.