Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet – review

  • Format: Switch (version reviewed), PC, iOS, Android
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Application Systems London
  • Developer: Alasdair Beckett-King
  • Players:
  • Site: http://www.nellycootalot.com/ 
  • Game code provided by PR

Several years ago, it seemed as though point-and-click games were on the brink of extinction. They’ve made a steady yet strong comeback since, albeit almost exclusively via indie developers. Indie developers such as Alasdair Beckett-King, a disgustingly talented and hard-working man who can be found performing award-winning comedy, animating his own gig trailers, or writing scripts, when not making games.

The Fowl Fleet is a sequel to Spoonbeaks Ahoy!, a game that Beckett-King originally made as a present for his girlfriend (beats Argos vouchers, for sure). However, money can’t buy you love, and love can’t pay for goods and services in a capitalist infrastructure, so you can now buy Spoonbeaks Ahoy! for a couple of quid on Steam. Despite a few brief callbacks, you don’t need to have played that game to enjoy this one; although indications are that it might be worth a try.

Surely one of the best screenshots you’ll ever see.

An adventure game that casts you as a young friendly pirate with a significant comedic slant, eh? Sounds familiar, right? Monkey Island is a clear influence (there are even direct references to be found in the game and the end-credit song), but don’t linger on direct comparisons. They aren’t kind to miss Cootalot and her adventures. The art and animation, which make the mobile roots clear, are very nice – but can’t compare to those of Guybrush’s adventures. The jokes aren’t as consistently effective, and the acting is variable. Even the much-publicised involvement of Tom Baker isn’t quite as good as you’d hope; he’s seemingly been nudged rather than pushed by the director. Sadly, the worst performance by far is that of the main character, whose almost universally flat delivery fails to support any jokes which need a helping hand.

Still, extended comparisons to one of the most legendary series in gamedom are hideously unfair (though let’s face it, Cootalot does little to discourage them). That said, The Fowl Fleet does actually beat every Monkey Island game – and, indeed, the vast majority of point and clickers – into submission in one respect. The puzzles here are relentlessly logical. Logical! They make sense! Imagine that. We can’t think of a single example of something we had to Google, only to then cry “how the hell was I supposed to know to do that?”.

The game contains many lols, as young people would probably say.

The plot is as thin as a communion wafer in the mouth of a godless heathen, but we don’t care and neither will you. Jokes rain down upon you from all angles and, while some land with an embarrassing plop, more than enough are minor works of genius. It says something that the script is sharp enough to regularly shine through the often underwhelming delivery of its lines (helped, admittedly, by the on-screen speech bubbles). When this game is funny, it’s goddamn hilarious.

The game employs a small number of national stereotypes. While they almost certainly weren’t employed with any malice, their presence did make us a little uncomfortable. On a happier note, one of the most memorable characters is a Bob Dylan homage, complete with a few genuinely enjoyable songs (sung with a voice much less irritating than that of the character’s inspiration). There’s some creative character naming at play, too; how can you dislike a game that uses a character named Stormy Longjohns?

Considering the iOS origins, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that touchscreen controls are supported on Switch, which is definitely the best way to play. When playing on the TV, the right stick is used to snap between elements of the background that can be interacted with. This sometimes makes choosing the precise item you want unnecessarily difficult, and the rare occasions where the timing of your actions is key much trickier than intended. A few times, too, we found that the game lagged or froze altogether when examining something in our inventory; though thankfully, the game autosaves each time you exit or enter an area.

It remains a mystery as to why the Switch isn’t drowning in point-and-click (or, er, tap) adventures, especially when they can be as entertaining and hilarious as this. It’ll only take you 3-4 hours to get through, but that’s largely because it doesn’t tax you with nonsensical demands and obscure puzzle solutions. If you like pirates and laughing – and who doesn’t? – then you’ll like Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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