A swashbuckling adventure fit for newbie, veteran, or canine.
It’s easy to think of Jolly Rover as yet another Monkey Island wannabe. After all, it’s a pirate-themed adventure game filled with treasure hunting, voodoo, and lots of laughs. But Jolly Rover is much more than the sum of its parts, offering up a surprisingly original and engaging, not to mention gorgeous, experience that manages to appeal to both newcomers and genre veterans alike. Oh, and it features a cast made up entirely of dogs.
The story begins when James Rover, a diminutive dachshund, is boarded by pirates, who kidnap him and steal his cargo. The pirates then sell the cargo to the suspicious Governor Guy Desilver, for whom it was meant to be delivered to in the first place. Unfortunately for James, since he failed to make the delivery himself, he now owes the governor quite a bit of money. But what starts out simply as a quest to raise up the necessary funds to get out of the governor’s debt, soon takes a number of strange and unexpected turns, featuring everything from voodoo and ghosts to a tribe of man-hating female dogs.
Like the Monkey Island series, Jolly Rover puts a heavy emphasis on humor, with goofy characters and witty writing. James himself makes a great lead, being dimwitted enough to get into all sorts of sticky situations yet clever enough to make frequent funny remarks. The dialog is great and features solid voice acting, but the biggest laughs come from some of the subtler jokes. Make sure to keep your eyes on the “quest” indicator at the top of the screen, which is a constant source of hilarity. But be warned: in addition to all of its clever jokes and dialog, Jolly Rover also makes extensive use of occasionally groan-inducing puns.
Gameplay wise, Jolly Rover is a standard point and click adventure. It’s 2D and takes place from a third-person perspective, and most of your time will be spent talking to other characters, collecting items, and solving puzzles. For the most part the puzzles in the game are actually surprisingly intuitive, requiring you to do things that actually make sense in order to proceed. You’ll also have to learn a number of voodoo spells in order to solve a lot of the puzzles in the game, which involves memorizing a sequence of symbols in order to perform a specific spell. For these scenes you’ll probably want to keep a pen and paper handy so you’re not stuck trying to remember what symbols you need to use and in what order. The only real complaint with the way the game plays is that getting from one place to another can often be slow. You do have the option of increasing the speed at which James walks, but some sort of quick travel feature would’ve been much appreciated.
In an attempt to make the game more accessible to casual players, the developers have included a number of helpful features. At any point in the game you can hit the space bar and the game will highlight every object on screen that you can interact with. This saves you the trouble of going pixel hunting, searching for any clue you missed. You’ll also have a wise-cracking parrot companion who will provide additional hints if you need it. There are three levels of hints for most puzzles. The first is free, and offers a subtle, cryptic clue, while the other, more detailed hints require a payment of a cracker. You can collect crackers throughout the different areas in the game and they’re pretty abundant, so even if you’re constantly using hints it’ll be tough to actually run out. This system is great because it allows experienced players to skip the hints all together if they want a greater challenge, while more casual players can get help if they need it.
In addition to playing great and having a great sense of humor, Jolly Rover also just so happens to look amazing. It features a gorgeous and detailed hand drawn art style that’s an absolute joy to look at. And the fact that the entire cast is made up of dogs gives the game a whole extra layer of personality. The only drawback to having such detailed, 2D art is that the characters don’t animate all that smoothly. It’s not enough to be much of a distraction but it is noticeable.
Jolly Rover may not do much to shake up the traditional adventure game formula, but with its solid gameplay, hilarious writing, and gorgeous visuals, it’s really hard to complain. It’s a fun and charming adventure and thanks to its helpful hint features, it’s also a game that will appeal to just about anyone, landlubber or not.