Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island




Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   Autumn Moon

Publisher:    Mamba Games & DTP Entertainment

Released:  February 2010

PC Requirements:   Windows XP / Vista, 1.6GHz Processor, 1GB RAM, 256MB DirectX 9.0c compatible graphics card (NVidia GeForce FX generation, ATI Radeon 9500),

4 GB RAM free disk space, DirectX 9  






by Becky


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 dark secrets.

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 another.

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 game's difficulty.

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 Crate

Ghost Pirates will inevitably be compared to the Monkey Island series. Is it of the same overall quality and caliber?


"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 can't die.

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


1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220

Soundblaster X-Fi

GameBoomers Review Guidelines

February, 2010

design copyright© 2010 GameBoomers Group

 GB Reviews Index