A tree is known by its fruit, and you could say an adventure game is known by its aesthetics, even though that may be a bit oversimplified. If we apply that principle to Jolly Rover, you might come to the conclusion that this is a children’s game.        The gentle, charming dog characters and background art and the pleasing voices may make you think so. But is it really?

The hint system certainly suggests so, at first. Every couple of minutes, a parrot – in itself a likeable character – pops up, asking if you need help. This can easily get annoying, but fortunately there’s an option to just say no to its incessant offerings of help. When you couple that with the ingenious way in which you earn hints – you have to find crackers throughout the game to feed the parrot whenever you require a hint – it’s actually pretty clever, and not that annoying.

The hint parrot is ultimately pretty helpful, although he can be a bit annoying before you tell him to shut up

The crackers also have another function. Along with other collectibles, like pieces o’ eight and parts of pirate flags, you can use these hidden objects to unlock bonus features like music and concept art. This is a neat aspect of the game, and along with the achievements, quests (which are really just a line of text at the top of the screen, but still entertaining), ranks and even the slightly archaic ability to score points, Jolly Rover seems perfectly suited to the current Steam/Xbox/PlayStation generation, which is all about achievements.

But let’s return to the question if this is a game for kids. It is in the same way that Monkey Island is for children. Yes, you could let children play it, but despite the cute appearance of the dogs – a nice twist to the pirate genre, by the way – there are some crude jokes and a bit of coarse language here and there, even though most of the game is a bit tame in that aspect, but no less fun, mind you.

The Stumble Inn is one of the many piratey locations in the game, and home to some of the most hilarious sea dogs you’ll meet

The puzzles are not always very hard, and the ample hints should make sure you won’t need a walkthrough. Still, I found some puzzles to be very clever. The best ones, in my opinion, are those where a sort of magic voodoo cookbook is used to perform spells that can be helpful in different situations in the game. And since you have to actively search for spells to add to the book as well, this turns out to be among the more fun and involving aspects of the game.

The whole atmosphere of the game makes a lot of sense as well. Yes, it’s got a bit of a children’s game thing going, but the art is charming and pretty – the jungles, for instance, could have easily been generic, but the artists didn’t fell into that trap and presented a fresh look for them. The characters are likeable too, something that is further enhanced by the excellent voice work, which is able to shine thanks to the many lines of dialogue that are present.

Jack Sparrow isn’t the only one who can use sea turtles for transportation, you know

I also really enjoyed the pacing of the game. There always seems to be something new to do when you’ve finished a puzzle, and I was never really wandering around aimlessly. The writing helps a lot in keeping you glued to the story as well, and I almost finished the game in one go, clocking in at just a little over four hours. Yes, the game is short, but that’s not necessarily bad. Unfortunately the ending is very abrupt, and that’s the only major criticism I have on Jolly Rover. Perhaps its makers have saved some great ideas for a sequel? That would be nice, because it’s a jolly little game, despite its being cut short at the end.

Jan’s Score: 4 out of 5 starks


Note: You can find all your Jolly Rover stash at Brawsome’s official page – here.