Where do video games go when they die? Most of them end up on the scrapheap, forever forgotten by new generations of gamers. But some rise from the grave, haunting the gaming universe for a long, long time. One such game is Curse of Monkey Island. With its distinct art style, it revolutionized adventure games, and left quite an impression on game makers, who are not afraid to use its legacy in their own games.

Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World is among these heirs. Right from the start, it’s clear that Curse was a source of inspiration to Petar Ivanček, who may well be Bill Tiller’s long-lost relative, if he has one. If this famous style is emulated well, it can be an asset to any adventure game, and in this case, it’s certainly done well. For a game that announces with a lot of pomp that it’s set in an alternate 19th-century universe, I would have liked to have seen some more 19th-century elements though. That aside, the art looks great.

The music takes a few cues from the Monkey Island games as well, but with less success. The reggae theme, which admittedly accompanies a tropical planet, seems especially forced. In other areas of the game, some more original music wouldn’t have gone amiss either. Still, some catchy tunes are produced, so all is not lost. The sound department could have been redeemed by the sound effects, but alas, these are mostly unoriginal and tend to not fit the depicted situation as well as they might have.

Plunder Island? Is that you?

Speaking of sound, if you’re trying to find the volume controls for the voices, there are none. In a game that looks so ambitious, it’s rather curious that voices would be missing. Still, if you can’t find good voice actors, it’s better to have no voices at all than to make do with mediocre voice work. And having no voices opens up the opportunity to improve usability. How? Well, the subtitles in this game stick, meaning, each line stays on the screen until you click it away. This may sound tedious, but I found it to be very handy for those moments when your attention is momentarily directed away from the screen, which would normally mean you’d miss some dialogue.

Another innovative feature is the quest log, which doubles as a hint book. With it, you always know what to do. The hints only appear if you choose to play the game in ‘Casual’ difficulty though. If you’re more of a ‘Hardcore’ player, the quest log is still there, but it doesn’t offer any hints. This ensures that the game can be enjoyed by adventure novices as well as veterans.

The game also uses Day of the Tentacle-style character swapping in certain sections. This feature is used sparingly however, and that’s a good thing, since exchanging items between characters can get tedious. Why this swapping of items is at all necessary is a bit unclear – the inventory system is cleverly disguised as a robot (named ‘Rowboat’) that tags along throughout the game and is even involved in some puzzles. It seems as if the developers forgot about this about halfway through the game though, and instead of having everyone share this inventory, they give each character their own inventory, which is sometimes necessary in the context of certain puzzles, but sometimes it’s a waste of Rowboat.

The beautiful backgrounds add a lot to the game’s atmosphere

A bigger problem is posed by the dialogues. There are plenty of language mistakes (which doesn’t set it apart from most other recent adventure games), but what’s worse is that the English feels a bit unnatural at times. Having a native English speaker double-check the dialogues would have helped a lot in getting the jokes across better. Because under that veneer of English-as-a-second-language are some great lines, especially those spoken by Kaptain Brawe, the title character, who mixes up his sayings, a bit like Sancho Panza. Unfortunately, the dialogue shows signs not just of comedy, but also of sexism, however slight – another ailment of many modern games. Finally, some of the dialogue lines are mixed up, showing up before the player is supposed to know about them. Again, this issue is not unique to Kaptain Brawe, showing that it’s something all game developers should watch out for.

Yet for all that, Kaptain Brawe is an interesting little game. I say ‘little’, but compared to most of the episodic games that have been coming out lately, it’ll keep you occupied for a while longer. Seeing how the game is clearly inspired by Curse of Monkey Island and could be compared (at least graphically) to A Vampyre Story, I’d say if you enjoyed that game, you’ll like this one as well. Ironically, Kaptain Brawe at one point utters the line: ‘I hate Vampyres! They simply have NO stories to tell.’ I’m not sure if it’s so smart to give your ‘teacher’ a kick in the shins like that, but that could be a sign of the student growing up. Let’s hope Cateia Games will keep showing progress in new adventure games, and that those will be even more enjoyable than Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World.

Jan’s Score: 3plus/5 starks

The ” plus ” is for the gorgeous art and overall atmosphere of the game.

Note: Originally developed as an entirely independent title, Kaptain Brawe found a publisher in Cateia Games.