Tag Archives: pirates

Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Port Royale 3

I knew going into Port Royale 3 that this wasn’t a game for me, and, surprise surprise, it’s totally not a game for me. Except, on paper, it sounds a lot like many of the board games I’ve been getting into lately, what with its numerous systems and decisions to make, various paths to follow. Almost like a deck-builder. I mean, there is a board game with a similar name to this, but it’s not one to one. Either way, I gave it a shot, but was ultimately forced to walk the plank. Yarrr.

Here’s the lowdown on how all this starts in Port Royale 3. You’re in the Caribbean during the turbulent 17th century. The mighty kingdoms of Spain, England, France, and the Netherlands are fighting over the colonies. As an up-and-coming young sea captain, your only goal is to become the most powerful man in the New World. Seems reasonable to me. Well, to achieve that goal, you first have to choose one of the two available campaigns–Adventurer or Trader. I went with…the trader route, because, even when I was playing Civilization V, I steered clear of fighting with other territories and focused mostly on being a peaceful person that just liked to earn a few coins now and then.

If you go the way of the Adventurer, you’ll lead an unforgiving campaign for the conquest of the seas, which involves a lot of invasion, piracy, bounty hunting, and raiding. Basically, you’re a pirate, and you need to do whatever it takes to build your own empire in the Caribbean. The Trader’s path is, on the opposite, mostly about developing your riches and economic power. To become the most powerful Trader of the New World, you will need to create trade routes, build industries, and develop the economy of the colonies. There’s also a Free Play mode, where you can mix both of those methods in any way you want, letting you create your own unique tale of plundering and selling goods.

So, I sailed around the Caribbean a bit, going from place to place, such as Santiago and Tortuga, purchasing goods for low prices and selling them elsewhere for higher prices. Y’know, making an earning. Sugar and rum were very popular choices, as was wood. Always gotta get that wood. Reminds me of how important it is in Catan; during one game, I traded almost everything I had, including my precious sheep, for a single piece of wood, but it was worth it, as it helped me build one more road, giving me the Longest Road victory point. Anyways, I diverge…mostly because I don’t know what else to say about Port Royale 3.

Port Royale 3‘s soundtrack is actually quite nice, and I know this because I had the game on pause a lot while typing up this blog post. It was composed by Dag Winderlich and Tobias Adler and features a lot of frantic drumming and seagulls crying out in the background, and that might sound nightmarish to some of y’all, but it’s really not. As someone who grew up near the beach, it’s familiar.

Look, I’m sure if I took the time to truly dig into all the menus and various options at play, Port Royale 3 would offer me a ton of things to do and plan for, but it just didn’t hook me from the start. It begins slow, thankfully, but even still, I don’t know what half the menu options mean, even after ranking up, and I’d rather play something like The Sims 4 or Zoo Tycoon to get my simulation fix. Oh well. Guess the pirate life is not for me.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #19 – Omnichronic


Back-stabbin’ captain
Wants yer treasure–time travel
Save booty, not world

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #57 – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag


Pirate, assassin
Kenway breaks foul Templar plot
Big fan of shanties

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #11 – The Curse of the Mushroom King

2016 gd games completed the curse of the mushroom king

Cursed, never again
To enjoy PB&J
Tortuous puzzles

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

Jolly Rover’s got a sea’s worth of canine scallywags and spiritual magic

jolly rover gd final impressions

Through the power of Gmail and its determination to never truly delete anything from your inbox, I have discovered exactly when I got hold of my copy of Brawsome’s Jolly Rover, a comedic pirate-themed point-and-click adventuring starring literal dogs of the sea. It became my treasured booty back in March 2012 when it ran as part of “The St. Patrick’s Day Bundle,” which was the ninth bundle from Indie Royale. That bundle also provided me with copies of Hard Reset, Vertex Dispenser, DLC Quest, and Lair of the Evildoer, of which I’ve dabbled in a few of them over the years.

The plot in Jolly Rover is both engaging and easy to grok, a stab at the swashbuckling classics with a side of silliness à la Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy! or Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge. Gaius James Rover is a nicer-than-nice dachshund who, after escaping from indentured servitude on an enemy pirate ship, finds himself caught up in a number of quests involving lost treasure, family secrets, cannibals, cannonballs, and coconut-dropping magic–among other things. In order to reclaim his stolen cargo, save the girl dog, and fulfill his lifelong dream of juggling balls in his very own circus show, Rover must travel around a series of islands, speak to the inhabitants, click on items, and solve puzzles, either logically or via the magical ways of pirate voodoo, which runs the gamut from scaring away beasts to heating up anything made of iron. Pretty standard stuff.

The most interesting aspect of Rover’s abilities involves using a book of magical spells, as well as a voodoo “cheat sheet” that basically lets you do any spell you’ve already successfully performed without going through every step again. A few spells required me to take a picture of my laptop’s screen with my cell phone as I just couldn’t remember the specific steps clearly, though the similar gesture-based pictures are designed that way to confuse you. Ultimately, it’s fairly clear where and when you need to use a voodoo spell, but I do wish the game allowed for more creative uses or rewarded the player for experimenting now and then. For example, I thought melting the iron bars off a jail window to free some prisoners would’ve done the trick just fine–nope, didn’t work.

There’s really not too much else that stands out here from other traditional 2D point-and-click adventure games other than the previously discussed voodoo, but I do want to draw attention to both the rank and quest labeling system. These sit at the top of the screen and update constantly as you gain score–upped from doing stuff, whether it is examining items or advancing the story–and hit big events. The ranks are quite amusing, with Rover starting out as a “Blistering Barnacle” and working his way up past nicknames like “Nefarious Trickster” and “Dog-o-war.” For the quests, the objective is always amusingly changing, even during dialogue, so suddenly instead of “find X, Y, and Z” you’ll now have “think fast” when being questioned hard by the governor. It’s a really small detail that adds a lot of color and humor to Rover and his interactions with all the other dogs.

Alas, by the end of Jolly Rover, I did not find all the collectibles, which include pieces of eight, crackers, and scraps of flags. Phooey on that, as I won’t be replaying the game, even though I did unlock developer commentary for completing it once. Hitting set tiers for each of the listed collectibles unlocked music tracks and concept art. Not the biggest loss, but I do aim to be a completionist as I play, and so some treasure will just have to stay buried if you get my pirate talk.

I mostly came to Jolly Rover for its dog and pirate puns, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least. That said, I also found the game to be charming, cute, colorful, and crafty. The voice acting is also quite good, which always help in drawing me into a point-and-click adventure game; I don’t mind reading all this text, but it helps paint a stronger picture of each character to hear how they describe an oily rag or coldly served salamagundi. I will admit that I had to look up the puzzle involving a wheel and birthday dates, but otherwise it’s a simple, easy, and enjoyable few hours. As they say, a dog pirate’s life for me.

Prepare to be surprised by Barely Floating’s unlikely hero

barely floating final thoughts gd

Barely Floating likes to challenge your expectations, almost immediately from the get-go. This alone makes it worth seeing, though then you’ll quickly realize it’s a pretty standard point-and-click adventure game once the adventuring begins. Still, kudos where kudos are deserved, and I applaud Stemshock Interactive’s decision to make the star of their game Joseph Lancaster, an old, whiny grandpa, cane in hand and medication pills in his pockets–for certain, he’s no spry Guybrush Threepwood or quick-witted American tourist George Stobbart. Then again, not many can be.

Right. Pirates have taken hostages off a cruise ship, holding them for ransom on The Sea Krait. In comes Agent Morris on a helicopter, a true professional with cool sunglasses and plenty of hostage-saving in his history. However, negotiations quickly take a turn for the worse, forcing Joe–he prefers to be called this–to take actions into his own wrinkled hands. Thankfully, since everyone views him as non-threatening he gets more freedom than the other hostages, allowing him to go from room to room, pointing and clicking to solve puzzles and put his plans into movement.

It’s an adventure game, so expect to collect a lot of items–some traditional, some silly, such as Barbara, an inflatable sex doll–and then use those items on people and other things in a creative manner. There’s also a very large dialogue element to Barely Floating. You can pick from options, but, once in a dialogue with someone, you can also click on things outside the list to ask about them. So, even though the cloth-covered machine isn’t a topic of choice when speaking with Igon, my favorite non-pirate-turned-pirate, selecting it still brings up a reaction and clues. I thought this was implemented really well and even becomes a key part of a puzzle’s solution when it becomes karaoke time.

Everyone on The Sea Krait, except for maybe the captain, directly counter the straightforwardness of Joe and the Wheat family. There’s Igon, who keeps items in his empty eye socket; there’s Pex, an idiot with too much muscle; there’s the bartender with the strange creature living in his dirty beard; there’s horny and severely obese Herr Hindenberg; and so on. This is where Barely Floating sees most of its color and humor shine through, and you strangely become more interested and invested in these lighthearted characters than the rich family actually held hostage.

Here are the parts I got stuck at, forcing me to dig up an online walkthrough. Some puzzles are timing-based, like getting the bartender to wash his beard by accident or having the recently fired geek lob a drink directly into the jukebox. I also struggled to fully comprehend how to handle the karaoke puzzle, though I wasn’t too far off course. Speaking of that, one of the more final puzzles involves using the pirate ship’s navigation system and speaking via text inputs to other ships in the area. Unfortunately, here, the game is looking for very specific phrases and sentences, and though I was close on a few of them, you can’t solve it unless you put in exactly what is desired. Felt this was a bit unfair, and there should’ve been more wiggle room.

I really like Barely Floating‘s look, though some backgrounds could be more detailed than others, and much of the animations are shortchanged. Still, every character is unique and stands out, and the text sort of bobs up and down, like it is floating on the water’s surface, which is a fantastic touch. You don’t have to do any “pixel hunting” as everything essential pretty much pops off the screen. In terms of music, there isn’t a lot of variety, but what is there is good, though it can get tiresome, especially when you realize how much backtracking you have to do–it is, after all, a tiny ship.

Seems like this was originally part of the Summerbatch Volume 1 bundle, which also featured Jailbreak, Nancy the Happy Whore, Patchwork, and PISS. Now, I did not purchase the bundle back in the day, ending up nabbing Barely Floating for free from its AGS page. Of those in the bundle, I’ve already played Patchwork and downloaded a copy of Ben Chandler’s PISS–there really is no good way to say that–but have yet to try out the latter. I wonder if I can find the other two titles elsewhere, though neither are giving me the warm fuzzies from screenshots.

Heads up, this is no short adventure either, with plenty to click on and read. Voice acting would’ve helped in spots, but the writing is fun and mostly to the point. You can, however, go pretty deep in some conversations. I think it took me about an hour and change to see Barely Floating‘s credits roll as the sun set. You can download a copy of the game and see for yourself how long it takes an old geezer to become a hero.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #6 – Barely Floating

2015 gd games completed Barely Floating

Pirates want ransom
Negotiations go wrong
Old man must point, click

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

A pirate’s life for me and the sassy Nelly Cootalot

nelly cootalot final impressions

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.

2013 Game Review Haiku, #54 – Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy!

2013 games completed nelly cootalot spoonbeaks ahoy copy

A nasty baron
Using spoonbeaks for labor
Nelly, on the case

These little haikus proved to be quite popular in 2012, so I’m gonna keep them going for another year. Or until I get bored with them. Whatever comes first. If you want to read more words about these games that I’m beating, just search around on Grinding Down. I’m sure I’ve talked about them here or there at some point. Anyways, enjoy my videogamey take on Japanese poetry.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #30 – Borderlands 2, Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty DLC

Pirate-themed desert
Home to back-stabbing captain

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.