Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty is a one part match-three puzzles, one part silly pirate role-playing game, and maybe a quarter part musical extravaganza. It's the sort of ridiculous combination that has Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert written all over it, which is fortunate, as he's one of the guys that made it.
Working together with Deathspank co-conspirator Clayton "Voodoo Vince" Kauzlaric (pretty sure no one calls him that), Gilbert has taken a genre amalgam that's been dear to my heart since Puzzle Quest and injected a heavy dose of humor and a penchant for breaking into song. It's almost the perfect game.
While it might outwardly seem like Gilbert and Kauzlaric are sailing familiar waters, all is not what it seems in Scurvy Scallywags. Instead of a real pirate adventure, it's a musical play about a real pirate adventure, that just so happens to see you — the production's star — battling skeletons, golems, scorpions and other nasties via a procession of match-three puzzles.
See the swords? Those are matched to grant you power, which you'll need to amass in larger numbers than those menacing-looking skeletons in order to defeat them in battle. The gold is gold. You'll need that to buy power-ups unlocked as you progress, which will aid you in avoiding those menacing-looking skeletons while whittling down their attack numbers.
The torches, coconuts and statues might seem unimportant, but matching them advances the timer on those helpful special abilities, and also allows you to manipulate the board in order to move those encroaching enemies out of your path. Depending on the direction you move to clear a group of items, the board fills in the same direction. So in the screen above, if you swap yourself with the torch to the right, you'll slide back three spots when the row disappears. Manipulating your foes is the key to surviving long enough to take them out.
Oh, and the candy? that's a quest item. Between stages your stage manager will present you with collecting items that randomly appear on the playing field — drawing out battles long enough to collect them as they appear is another sound strategy.
And that's what sets this game apart from many other attempts at combining the puzzle and role-playing genres. Where other games leave much of the matching to chance, the positioning element — that you and your enemies are using this match-three puzzle like a chess board — makes the gameplay more deliberate and strategic.
While not puzzling your way from place-to-place you'll be building play-enhancing ships out of materials won from roulette-style treasure chests that drop from enemies. You'll be managing your ever-growing list of special skills. You'll be collecting pieces of stat-enhancing equipment to make your pirate the most proficient in all the theater.
Or you might be creating a new character, because once you lose all of your hearts, you're dead. You can spend an ever-increasing amount of gold to save yourself several times, but eventually the gold is going to run out, and then you've got to start over as a new character at level one, with all of your great powers but none of the responsibility. A high level character is a status symbol in Scurvy Scallywags, and while you can purchase more gold from the in-game store, the option is so unobtrusive that I just had to open the game again to make sure it was in there.
The goal of the game is to collect powerful and wonderfully-voiced shanty verses in order to put on the best show possible for the virtual audience. If it's half as perfect as Gilbert & Kauzlaric's production of Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty, I doubt they'll have anything to worry about.
- Genre: Puzzle Adventure
- Developer: Beep Games
- Platform: iOS
- Price: $.99 (sale price, regular price $1.99)