So far, just clicking around on the number of downloaded-but-not-yet-extracted zip files in my laptop’s videogames folder has proved pretty good. As of late, in there, I found Tower of Heaven, Ballads of Reemus: When the Beds Bite, and a number of wee little adventure games from Ben Chandler. Well, let’s add another to the list, with Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy!, an artistically impressive point-and-click game starring a female pirate hot on the case of missing spoonbeaks, which are punny versions of spoonbills. You know, the large, long-legged wading birds in the family Threskiornithidae. Yeah, them.
Again, I like weird names, and that’s what drew me to unzip and play Spoonbeaks Ahoy! over a number of other puppy-eyed indie games yipping for my attention. I knew nothing about it before double-clicking its executable; in fact, I don’t even remember downloading it or from where. Maybe a ghost did it. Going forward, for anything that can’t be explained, let’s just blame ghosts. Anyways, it’s an olden day point-and-click game obviously taking many cues from Guybrush Threepwood’s previous exploits, with a focus on puns, smarmy and sarcastic dialogue, silly-looking folk, beards, birds, and cute, colorful visuals done in a labor of love hand-drawn style. I kind of fell for the game from its very first screen. It was a combo of the visuals, the confidence brimming in Nelly, and the music (by Mark Lovegrove); right there and then, I knew this was going to be a fun, light-hearted adventure worth a few hours of my time. Evidently, designer Alasdair Beckett-King made it for–and about–his girlfriend, which is just the cutest.
Let me give you a few more details on the story, since this is an adventure game, and story is the legs keeping the gameplay table standing. The ghost of Captain Bloodbeard awakens Nelly Cootalot, the sleeping, red-headed greenhorn pirate, with grave news. Dun dun dunnn. The nearby Barony of Meeth is in trouble, with the region’s trademark species of bird spoonbeaks vanishing. Nelly’s always been a bird lover and immediately decides to unearth what’s going on there. Once she’s on the island, she can explore, talk to the locals, pick up items, solve puzzles, and open up new places via her fast-travel map before eventually putting an end to the missing spoonbeaks mystery. It does not stray far from the adventure game formula, and that’s just fine.
Puzzles generally follow the “use this item on that item” path, though a couple of inventive minigames appear now and again. One has Nelly deciphering a coded message scrawled on the bar’s wall and another is a carnival game where your goal is to hook a duck. I got through those using elbow grease and diligence, same as the final puzzle of the game, though that last one confused me for a bit until I figured out how the levers worked. I knew what I had to do, just couldn’t do it. There’s also some dialogue-based puzzles where you have to select the right response to progress, which basically leads to me trying every single dialogue option/combination I see. Thankfully, it’s not annoying, as the silly writing and one-liners are pretty enjoyable, sometimes even endearing. I found myself only looking up one or two solutions, mostly because I was on the right track, but still missing a key item or step, which left me stymied. I’m pretty much talking about the part where Nelly has to impersonate a charming Italian man booked for a flight around the world.
Alas, I missed out on the chance to participate in helping fund Beckett-King’s next game Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet!, but I’m eagerly awaiting it all the same. Kinda bummed to see the change in art direction, as I found more to appreciate there and let my imagination take over for the parts less detailed, and the new art is pretty, but looks maybe a little unidentifiable. Curious how the voice acting will turn out as I kind of already know what these fictional characters sound like in my head, and any diversion from that course will be met with punishment, walk-the-plank style. We’ll see though. I’ll keep my eyes on the horizon.