Pirates. You can't live
with 'em. You can't live without 'em. We've seen almost as many pirates in
adventure games lately as mad monks. Have gamers had enough of the
peglegged crowd? Should adventure game characters throw away their eye
patches along with their hackneyed monk's robes?
No way! Not if the pirates can be as entertaining as
the crew in Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island.
"It's all right to leave a mess if you're saving
the world." Papa Doc, Vooju Priest
In an unusual twist, this game has three
protagonists. Papa Doc Mystère, the ruler of Vooju Island, is
conscientious and grumpy and married to Queen Zimbi, a Vooju witch with
Then there's Blue Belly, a cook aboard a pirate ship,
who is hoping to steal enough loot to pay for his sister to get her teeth
straightened. He's mild-mannered and shaped like a giant blueberry.
Last is Jane Starling, a pirate captain and spy. She
has an impossible figure (caused, she says, by her corset that shrinks
when wet). Jane wears her heart on her sleeve for the Pirate King, Captain
Flint. In a "traditional" game, Captain Flint would be the protagonist,
but here he is captured and disappears almost immediately, like King
Richard in Robin Hood.
During the opening cut scene, Papa Doc, Jane, and
Blue Belly are thrown unexpectedly together. Caught up in a conspiracy,
they are murdered -- but not before Papa Doc casts a spell, keeping them
barely alive while their "ghosts" travel outside their bodies. They
co-exist as apparitions, able to talk mind to mind and to see through one
another's eyes. So as they set forth on individual quests to right the
wrongs in the Azurbbean Sea, each character has access to Jane's piratical
savvy, Papa Doc's magic and Blue Belly's knack with implements and food.
"Talk to him? He likes his own voice too much."
Blue Belly, Pirate Cook
Characters in the game are cartoon-like, but
beautifully drawn and engaging; many have memorable quirks and
personalities. Character movement is smooth. The voiceovers, combined with
the excellent writing and good comic timing, bring these misfits and
swashbucklers to life. Papa Doc's voice is deep with a Caribbean accent.
Jane Starling's voice sounds exotic, Blue Belly's vaguely Scottish, and
the zombies -- well, they mumble in zombie-esque fashion.
You can click rapidly through the dialog trees by
hitting the spacebar. Subtitles are optional. You can't speed through item
descriptions or the tripart ghost conversations.
"Where's my jar of baby fat?" Queen Zimbi
Challenges in Ghost Pirates are mostly
inventory based. Some items are accessible as "ideas," in which case the
items are transparent. As you assume the role of each of the three
characters, you can show the items in inventory to your companions to find
out what they know or think about them. Often you will combine items for
practical or magical reasons.
Gameplay advances through creative use of objects,
and the story is interwoven extremely well with the challenges. The
cooperation between the protagonists adds a layer of comedy and discovery
as they realize their strengths, struggle with missteps and razz one
The only downside -- the game contains "invisible
triggers," where an item will only work on a hotspot in the environment
after you've finished something that affects a chain of events. Early on
in the game, most of these hotspots or items are identified. A character
will comment, for example: "I would need a reason to do that." Later in
the game, the invisible triggers are not as well clued, increasing the
You will contend with a few "set piece" challenges,
including a positioning challenge and an audacious sequence in which Blue
Belly inhabits a corpse and plays charades.
"Looks stormy over that bayou. Kinda Creepy." Jane
Starling outside the Boogeyman Bayou
All the environments in Ghost Pirates appear
to be hand drawn. They are stylized and picturesque; shadowy foreground
objects often frame the view. Vooju Island's pastels contrast with the
brilliant red of the lava flows. Merry Cay displays fanciful architecture,
flowering vines, and swirly clouds that drift across blue skies. The
colors become richer and deeper as the story progresses. (This works well
until late in the game when the action returns to Vooju Island and the
return to the pastel palette is a bit abrupt.)
Ambient movement enlivens the scenery -- fireflies
hover, a creek bubbles over rocks, zombies trudge by. There is much to
view, explore, and interact with in each location.
Ghost Pirates has a substantial number of cut
scenes, most of which are amusing and well animated. They have one minor
drawback -- the drama is sometimes hard to follow because they contain no
subtitles. For example, when I first met Blue Berry I thought he referred
to himself as a kook, not a cook. (On second thought, maybe "kook" is as
apt as "cook.")
"We Fight and We Kill and We Cheat Every Day."
Band of Pirates
This game opens with a catchy tune sung with gusto by
drunken pirates. Intriguingly, they really sound like pirates, as
they slur the lyrics and can't keep time with the accordion player. It was
my first hint that this was an adventure aiming to be something out of the
common way. (The drinking song repeats frequently in the background,
played by instruments that do it more justice.)
Other musical backgrounds range from a comical light
jazz to eerie pipes and chimes and gentle melodies accompanied by steel
drums. Ambient sounds merge with the orchestral layer -- the roar of lava
flows and waterfalls, the crackle of fires, and the echo of gunshots.
"Two dragon egg-whites, stiffly beaten..." Zimbi
at the Apothecary
Ghost Pirates uses a third person perspective
and a point-and-click interface. Hitting the tab key highlights all
hotspots and exits. Navigation is extremely smooth (a welcome relief after
the navigation problems I've encountered in other recent adventure games).
Double-clicking on an exit usually results in a fade to black and instant
access to the next location. On occasion, the screen remains black for a
second or two while a location loads. The lack of long loading screens is
noteworthy in a game this graphics-intensive.
Left-clicking on an object in the environments brings
up a piratical "medallion" similar to the one in The Curse of Monkey
Island. Using this, you can examine, use, or talk to/imbibe the object
you clicked on. Talking to objects was frequently (though not always)
rewarded with clever responses. Even the "that won't work" ripostes were
varied and amusing. Kudos for the attention paid to these small details.
Through the Main Menu, you can tweak the sound and
graphics, including choosing a resolution for widescreen monitors. The
game has unlimited saves, plus an autosave feature. It installed smoothly
and played without a single glitch.
"That's what adventure's all about." Jane, with
Ghost Pirates will inevitably be compared to
the Monkey Island series. Is it of the same overall quality and
"Are you paying attention? I'm not sure you got
it." Itzakoka, Events Planner
A comic journey touching on darker themes, set in an
alternate universe Caribbean. Pirates, zombies, and sorcery. Unusually
memorable characters, striking cartoon-like graphics. Third person
perspective, point-and-click interface. Smooth navigation. The tab key
shows all hotspots.
Mostly inventory puzzles. A few "set piece" puzzles.
The most difficult challenges are the rock, paper, scissors combat
challenge and figuring out the "invisible triggers" late in the game. No
timed puzzles, no sliders, no mazes, no sound or color based puzzles. You
Excellent writing and voiceovers. Lots of character
interaction. A satisfying ending. Occasional spicy language. Appropriate
for older children.
About eighteen hours of gameplay. No problems with
installation. No glitches. Unlimited save slots.
Aimed at fans of the LucasArts classic adventures.
This game is good enough that, even if cartoon-style adventures aren't
your favorites, you should give this one a try.
Final Grade: A
What I played it on:
Dell Studio XPS 8000
Windows 7 Home Premium
Intel Core i5-750 processor
6GB DDR3 SDRAM
1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220