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.