The lights are on
Member - Level 5
I've never been a big fan of match-three games. Sure, there has been the occasional better-than-average entry in the genre (such as Puzzle Quest), but, by and large, it's a fairly played-out concept with little in the way of innovation. That is, it was a played-out concept with little innovation until Beep Games released Scurvy Scallywags in The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty.
Shortly after wrapping up work on The Cave, Ron Gilbert left Double Fine to pursue other projects. He wound up working at Beep Games alongside Clayton Kauzlaric (Deathspank), and the fruit of their labor was the world's first (at least, I assume it's the first) musical match-three pirate RPG. Like Gilbert's other titles, Scallywags is brimming with personality and whimsy. While the game may not provide as many laughs as some of Gilbert's older work, such as The Secret of Monkey Island, there were several instances throughout the game that made me crack a smile. The story is unabashedly silly, portraying the protagonist as an actor playing a pirate in a musical stage-show, who has been tasked with tracking down the eponymous Ultimate Sea Shanty. Item descriptions are witty, and the cartoony character models are quite charming. My only real complaint about the game's artistic direction is the music, which became somewhat repetitive and grating after a while. Fortunately, the standard set of audio options allowed it to be turned off.
Though personality can go a long way, the real meat-and-potatoes here is the deceptively deep gameplay. As I mentioned earlier, I've never been overly fond of match-three mechanics, but Scallywags changes up the formula just enough to reinvigorate the tired genre. The player's avatar, enemies that must be vanquished, and collectible quest items all appear on the same gameplay grid, scattered amongst the slew of matchable items. This adds several layers of strategy, as enemies can only be attacked (and, by extension, can only attack the player) and items can only be retrieved when they are directly adjacent to your swashbuckling hero. Sets of three can be created with the sole purpose of moving a character to a specific area of the board, and the direction in which the player swipes their finger plays a large role in the overall strategy of the game, as this dictates the direction in which the game pieces will shift.
In addition to positioning, players must also manage their attack rating as well as those of any on-screen monsters. Matching three sword icons raises your attack rating; if you face-off against a monster with a higher rating than your own, you will likely take damage from the encounter. Players must also try to accumulate as much gold as possible as it is used to unlock various skills that enhance your pirate's abilities, to purchase stat-boosting and appearance-altering gear, and to respawn should your pirate's quest reach an untimely end. Unlike most match-three titles there is no time limit (save for the occasional bonus round), so players can take as long as they need to plot out their future moves. Rather than the twitch reflexes and quick eye that are required by a game like Bejeweled, careful consideration is the key to success in Scallywags.
Scallywags runs for $1.99 on the iTunes store and is compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices using iOS 5.0 or later. Like most mobile games, players are given the option to purchase extra gold or enhanced gold-earning potential via in-app real-money purchases. I never found the lack of gold to be an issue, however, and, personally, I think buying any of these extras would actually detract from the experience.
Obscenely long title and totally unnecessary in-app purchase options aside, Scallywag's ample aesthetic appeal and very low cost of entry makes it an easy game to recommend to any iOS gamer looking for a well-crafted, pseudo-casual experience.
*This review was originally published at AWESOMEoutof10.com
No one has commented on this article.