It's "edutainment" or a "fantasy adventure" depending on whose review you read. This game came to my attention with very little information so I looked it up. I'd say edutainment because you need the information provided for a number of reasons.
First of all, this game is available for both MAC and PC (W95, 98, ME) and a modest processing speed. Word of warning, it uses Quick Time.
The game opens with a background about the lead character, Nathaniel Thorne whom you would play from first person pov. The interface is point and click and while there is some "action" in the game, none I read about described combat which doesn't mean there isn't any fighting but all of the reviews stated the game featured puzzle solving. There are eight missions which seem to be better described as chapters, from the reviews I've read, than missions.
Perhaps, the word missions was used to attract the non-adventure, non-puzzle solving gamers. This would explain some of the sore disappointment in the fact that it "has a story" which, those who like that sort of thing found absorbing.
The "edutainment" comes from the "Medallion" which you access and which contains The Chart Room and the Journal. Both are important to game play. The Chart Room contains information about ships, nautical terms, and 18th century history. It includes a "tour" of the ship "Declaration" which you will be on during the game. Good time to figure out whats where! You'll need to know that as well as the nautical terms you'll hear. The Journal, as usual, records all events and conversations which are also useful for puzzle solving. At least one reviewer never figured that part out.
The puzzles are considered from easy to medium, none difficult (well, except for the guy who didn't think about using the Chart or the Journal). Another interesting feature in the Chart Room is an animated sequence showing the building of an 18th century naval vessel.
Most people complained about the interface. For this game, apparently, point and click was either too precise or not precise enough or.....I got confused. I'd recommend a tour of the ship first and going through those nautical terms if you get this game.
It's original price was stiff, about $60 but it's down to $35 at Amazon and might be less elsewhere. I'd say $35 is still too much.
For the most part, this is considered a terrific game for anyone who is interested in sailing vessels of any period or of the 18th century in particular, perhaps history or "naval" buffs. I will give you what I considered the most interesting and amusing review I found: http://www.macgamer.com/Reviews00/golden-dolphin/golden-dolphin.chtml
For more, type "Search for the Golden Dolphin" into your browser's search engine (or use your favorite search engine) and go for it. I'm not interested in the game myself but I thought, if there are any history/sailing vessel enthusiasts out there, well, here you go. Bon Voyage!