Jolly Rover



Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:  Brawsome    

Released:  June 2010

PC Requirements:   Windows 7, Vista, XP SP1 & 2, Pentium 4 1.2 GHz processor or faster, 256 MB RAM, 800 x 600 minimum screen resolution, 160 MB available hard disk space 




by Becky


The Indie development team at Brawsome has created a charming adventure that features a group of piratical seadogs. Our hero, Gaius James Rover, is a professional clown who has invented a rum called Jolly Rover. Gaius is sailing with his cargo to Groggy Island to personally deliver it to the governor, who wants it in epic quantities. Pirates intervene and Gaius finds himself a prisoner on their ship. Gaius, as earnest and honest as a dog can be, must (through the course of his adventure) escape the pirates, whip up mango based edibles, learn voodoo tricks, hijack creative conveyances, and sniff out hidden treasure. He also tries to get everyone to stop calling him "Jolly" (other dogs seem to confuse him with his rum).

I am not a pooch person, but I did enjoy meeting the outrageous canine crew in Jolly Rover. Each character is a different breed with a suitable personality. Gaius James Rover is a dachshund, and since he walks upright (as do all the other dogs) it's amusing to see what a stretch it is for his tailor to construct suitable pants. My next favorite character after Gaius is Puggy, the miniature proprietor of the Stumble Inn, who sits on a bar stool trying to look tough and not succeeding.

With Quip and Quibble Quaint

Jolly Rover plays from a third person perspective and has a point-and-click interface. It is colorful, bright and amusing, mostly because Gaius has a self-deprecating sense of humor. You'll recognize references to classic adventure games (especially Monkey Island), and you'll encounter absurdities, sight gags, and a number of bad puns. Dialogs are amusing, in a chuckle inducing, rather than a laughing out loud manner. (You can click through the dialogs if you prefer.) There is a significant amount of character interaction in the game, though it never becomes excessive. The game is fully voiced, and the actors do an excellent job of making their characters come to life.

The story has some dark twists, as corruption and deceit raise their scruffy heads and sniff the air. The game contains a lot of communication with the dead, partly through dreams/visions and partly instigated by voodoo rituals. Gaius' visions of his father, in particular, add pathos to the game.

Revelling in Fresh Sea-air

The graphics are cartoon-like and detailed and show a surprising amount of polish for an Indie game. Objects in the foreground frame the scenes, most of which also have ambient animations. My favorite graphical theme: one of the castaways on Cannibal Island has too much time on his hands, as many of the trees have been carved into dog faces and dog shapes.

The game's background music is orchestral, rhythmic and adventuresome, and is non-intrusive.

Take your File and your Skeletonic Keys

Most of the challenges in this game are inventory based. The inventory is easy to use and never contains too many items. A few of the puzzles are timed, notably the challenges that involve voodoo spells. One downside is that the game contains a multitude of invisible triggers, so it pays to return to locations you've traversed before and click again on just about everything. Collectibles (crackers and pieces of eight) are hidden throughout the environments.

Hitting the spacebar reveals all hotspots/exits by placing a dim bar of light over the interactive items. This is sometimes helpful. But at other times, pressing the spacebar means that the whole screen lights up with dim light, eliminating the feature's utility.

Yet, the Breeze is but a Rover

Jolly Rover contains casual elements, including tutorial instructions that whisk in and out at the beginning of the game. An amusing parrot based hint system is quite helpful. Saving is permitted only by an autosave system, a limitation which caused me to lose progress a couple of times after entering a new area. Gaius' tasks involve a fair amount of back-and-forthing through the environments; he moves quickly but doesn't run.

Upon completion of the game, a developer's commentary feature is enabled. You can play through again, listening to designer (Andrew Goulding) describe the game's development as you play. The commentary is informative, but I wish the comments had been even lengthier and more detailed.

With a Pirate Head and a Pirate Heart

I played Jolly Rover in short chunks -- it's not a game that compelled hours of immersive gameplay.

This is likely a consequence of pirate overload. I've had more than my fill of pirates lately, having played five games with piratical themes in the past six months. It's no one's fault that several developers got the pirate bug (or, in the case of the Monkey island Special Editions, the pirate resurrection bug) at the same time. Still, at this point Jolly Rover is going up against some excellent commercial pirate adventure games by famous designers. That it manages to hold its own against games like Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island, Treasure Island and Tales of Monkey Island is a credit to the development team. I hope we will see more adventure games from Brawsome.

Quick List for Jolly Rover

A colorful piratical adventure with cartoon style graphics in which all the main characters are dogs. Comical dialog, absurd situations. You can click through the dialogs. Excellent voiceovers. A satisfying ending.

Point-and-click interface, third person perspective. No problems with installation and no glitches. Appropriate for teens and up.

Inventory based challenges, timed voodoo ritual challenges, no sliders, no sound based puzzles. Many "invisible triggers." The most difficult challenge: the compass maze. A clever hint system. Autosave only. You can't die.

Aimed at gamers who enjoy comical adventures dogged by unusual characters.

Final grade: B+

Jolly Rover can be purchased via download at the Brawsome website, The Adventure Shop, or Steam.

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


Section headings are from "The Pirates of Penzance," libretto by W. S. Gilbert.

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