Jolly Rover – Review

Title   Jolly Rover
Developer  Brawsome
Publisher  Lace Mamba Global
Platform  PC
Genre  Point 'n' Click, Graphic Adventure
Release Date  4th February, 2011

Your name: Gaius James Rover. Your ambition: to be a famous clown and have your own circus. Not exactly what you’d expect from the main character in a piratey point and click adventure game, but it’s certainly different. That and the fact you are a dog. A sausage dog. In fact, everyone else in the game is also of the canine persuasion; it certainly is a dog’s life.  Jolly Rover is a cross breed of eighties cartoon “Dogtanian” and the famous “Monkey Island” games that, surprisingly, works very well.

After his famous clown father dies, (from a blow to the groin by an improperly loaded joke cannon), young Gaius goes to live with his uncle. One day, during juggling practice, he accidentally taints a barrel of rum with tobacco, creating a new brew which he dubs “Jolly Rover”. Sales for Jolly Rover soon hit the roof, but poor Gaius doesn’t see a single piece of eight from the profits. His chance soon comes, however, when his uncle is away and a large order for Jolly Rover arrives from the Governor of Groggy Island, Guy DeSilver – with payment in advance! Seizing his opportunity, he uses the money to charter a ship and crew to take him and his precious cargo to Groggy Island. However, it’s a dog eat dog world out there, and things soon start to go a little wrong.

From here on out, it’s up to you to take control of Gaius in a very user friendly 2D third person perspective. The cursor is free-flowing and smooth and the inventory pops up from the bottom of the screen when you roll your mouse over it. Something I particularly like is that, in the options menu, as well as the usual things such as adjusting the volume for music, voice and effects, allows you to increase how fast Gaius walks. I wish more point and clicks would introduce this option as it’s a great time saver. Another handy feature is the ‘hot-spot finder’; by holding down the space bar all the interactive objects on the screen will be highlighted.

As far as puzzles go, there aren’t that many. Not in the usual “crack this safe” or “solve this door lock” sense but more in the way of “find a way through the forest” and “which spell?”. There is one combination puzzle, but it’s not that hard; mostly it’s just about finding stuff, talking to people and working out how to get things done. It’s of the old school point and click era, when all you had to worry about was your inventory, which objects you could use with other objects and whether you’ve exhausted all of your dialogue options. This makes for a much smoother and flowing game with a very natural style of play that is more about the story and characters than about how many annoying puzzles can be squeezed in. Of course, some people like their games puzzle-heavy – I myself am somewhere in the middle, but it does make a nice change to play something light for once. So If you do get stuck, it’ll only be something like “How do I get that bottle of rum off the cook?” or “How do I lure the pig into the trap?”. But in case you do need it, don’t worry, help is at paw…

In-game hints come in the form of “Juan Leon” a parrot that you rescue at the beginning of your adventure. Whenever you get stuck or don’t know what to do next Juan will give you some advice, though not without cost. The first time you ask about something you will get a vague clue. This one’s for free.  Ask again and he will give you a more obvious clue, in exchange for a cracker. Ask for yet more help on the same subject and he will tell you exactly what you have to do (at the cost of another cracker of course).  Be careful though… crackers are one of three collectibles found throughout the game that are used to unlock extras and achievements, so feeding them to Juan not only lowers your score by two points but reduces the amount of concept art that you can see in your log. You will also miss out on three achievements too: one for completing the game without using any hints, one for collecting all the crackers and one for getting a maximum score.

Pieces of eight are another collectible. Harder to find than crackers, but easier to hang on to, these unlock music tracks in your log and add points to your score for each one found. There’s also an achievement for finding them all.  Last, but not least, there are flag pieces. Most of these are quite hard to find, but are yours to keep when you do. There are three flags, each split into four pieces and each one, when completed, will unlock a Captain’s bio in your log, as well as adding to your overall score. And yes, there’s also an achievement for finding them all.

Collectible hunters should beware however, most areas, once left, can’t be accessed again, and because of the way the save system works, there’s no going back. The game saves automatically when moving between screens, so if you accidentally leave an island before you’ve found everything then it’s tough doggie doo.
The game only took around six or seven hours to finish, which was disappointing – I wanted more, but on the bright side, the end didn’t really feel like the end. It felt like the beginning, like Gaius is only just starting his new, adventurous and piratey life. Like this is just the intro and more is yet to come. I genuinely hope so. I enjoyed this game so much that I would definitely spend my time and money on a sequel or, indeed, sequels!

After completing the game you’ll earn the ability to turn on the developer’s commentary in future play-throughs. This is a great addition, and definitely one I’d love to see more of in similar games. When turned on you will see one or more scrolls bearing a red feather somewhere on every game screen; clicking on one will play either a comment from the game’s creator Andrew Goulding or a clip from one of the voice actor’s auditions.

One of my two favourite things about this game is Gaius’s ability to cast voodoo spells. With book in one paw and cheat sheet in the other, Gaius pulls silly poses and chants some vowels to pull off some weird and wonderful magic to enable you to progress through the game. The “drop fruit” spell in particular can have satisfying results when used in the right (or wrong, depending on your perspective!) way.  My second favourite thing about Jolly Rover is it’s humour. It had me chuckling before I’d even started it up; I moved my mouse pointer over the desktop shortcut and, instead of the usual location address in the tool-tip pop-up, it read “Ahoy there matey!” More piratey-ness was to follow when, upon selecting “Set sail” from the main menu, I was asked “What be yer name?” and “Be ye wantin’ to watch the intro?”.

It’s not just the pirate-speak that makes it funny, the dialogue of Gaius in particular is very well written and just a bit strange. In the beginning of the game he converses with (and appears to be in love with) the portrait of a young lady, which he calls Beatrice. He also has a habit of giving names to inanimate objects, like a palm tree that he dubs “Ben Dee”. The game also takes light-hearted pokes at its genre too. For example, when you get given an object by someone, Gaius sarcastically says “What, no magic quests?”

It also pays to keep an eye on the top center of the screen during cut-scenes and dialogue. Where it says “Quest:” you often get something appropriately humorous following it. For instance, during a conversation where you ask a character for some of their blood for a voodoo spell, it goes from; “Talk fast” to “Talk faster” to “Life flashing before eyes” to “Wash pants”. Blink and you could miss it, but it’s great stuff.

The graphics in Jolly Rover are flawless and presented no technical difficulties whatsoever. Everything feels polished, the area transitions are smooth and the cartoony art style of the characters is charming and fits seamlessly into the beautiful backgrounds. The voice acting, for the most part, is superb and many of the cast voice several different characters, yet manage to make each one sound so different that you wouldn’t know it without paying attention to the credits.  I particularly liked Gaius’ slightly posh English accent; it fitted his character rather well. Added to this are great music tracks and sound effects that, when combined with the character voices, give an all-round great audio aspect to an already great game.

After playing Jolly Rover through three times in two days, getting all the achievements, crackers, pieces of eight, flags, hearing all the commentaries and unlocking all of the concept art, I think it’s safe to say that I like this game a great deal and would definitely not hesitate in recommending it to others.

  • Full of Piratey goodness
  • A different breed of hero. Literally.
  • Great humour
  • Developer's commentary
  • Concept art
  • Achievements
  • Too short
  • No control over saving

Choc full of extras and set in the sunny Caribbean, join Gaius James Rover as he sets sail, bound for adventure, loot, voodoo, trouble and romance. It is a fun-filled adventure, packed full of piratey goodness and wonderful humour, and the charming art style and beautiful backgrounds are complimented by a great soundtrack and top voice acting. The only downside to this game is that it just isn't long enough and will have you begging for a sequel before you can say "fetch".

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  1. Lorna Lorna says:

    As soon as I saw the artwork for this game, I thought of Dogtanian :D It really comes across as Dogtanian meets Monkey Island, with the same sort of humour. I tend to like in-jokes and weary nods about the genre and puzzles itself, so this sounds pretty good.

    In a way it does come across like a title aimed more at the younger end of the market, but if the jokes are that ‘genre nod’ type, then perhaps not. I think it is also interesting that more and more adventure titles are putting in collectables to add replay value. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t replay for collectables since most games have forced you through the ringer with a stack of – often frustrating – puzzles or worse… sliding piece puzzles, so the last thing you want to do is re-visit it. That Jolly Rover is so different in that respect is quite refreshing by the sounds of it. Anyway, it sounds like you had a blast, now you’ll have to keep your fingers crossed for a sequel ;)

  2. Directing Chaos says:

    Thats exactly what I was going to say, Dogtanian the game lol (are we showing our age here or what lol)

  3. Lorna Lorna says:

    @ DC – I know, we’re all old farts it would seem! Damn whippersnappers these days ;)

  4. Directing Chaos says:

    We’re not old, just experienced… after all what would the would be without our knowledge of Dogtanian and The Bangles

  5. Ben Ben says:

    Dogtanian was the dogs bollocks, quite literally too. On this front, Pirate Dogs!

  6. Edward Edward says:

    Argh, it sounds like a combination too good to miss out on (Monkey Island and dogs), but the short time kind of puts me off.
    Still, a great review! :D

  7. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Yeah ok, I admit that I’ve never played the original Monkey Island game or any sequels… feel free to shoot me or do something with a chicken and a pulley, I don’t care. When i watched the “remake” of Monkey Island being played on the XBox with the all new super duper graphics, I DO remember them being really pretty sexy… even though the staunch supporters of the original didn’t like them. This game does have a lot in common with the art style, but it’s good that it’s taken a different approach by using dogs so that it can only be compared to Monkey Island so far.

    I’m liking this, although I’m not entirely sure that it’s my cup of tea as it does, as Lorna said, seem to be geared more towards the younger gamers. That said, I’m basing that only on what I see and have yet to play the game. Gorgeous though, truly gorgeous.

  8. Lee says:

    You’ve gotta be point and clicked out by now surely Tania? I think you should get a copy of gears of war or something completely different to see how you get on with that.

    The idea of of the DVD style special features as you play a second play through is brilliant! I’d love to see that in more games regardless of their genre.

    @MarkuzR – I’m not surprised in the slightest.

  9. Samuel Samuel says:

    How have I not heard of this until now? And just to agree with everyone else, that does look like the art and character designers were massive Dogtanian fans.

    Looks like a lot of fun, childish or no, I might have to look this one up when I have a bit of spare cash. Great write up as always Tania.

    @MarkuzR – Not played Monkey Island?!?! Lorna needs to educate you, I know she has it. Or I’ll come after you for more organs than just your spleen next time. Heh.

  10. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I keep getting harrassed by Lee for not playing all the same games as everyone else did… I grew up playing Elite, Mercenary, Dungeon Adventure, Sword of Sodan and stuff like that… I can’t help that I’m like TEN or FIFTEEN years older than you lot. I’m vintage, you guys are Babycham :D I will play it, how’s that then?

  11. Samuel Samuel says:

    Dood, Monkey Island is fucking vintage. It’s older than UFO. I grew up with Elite too, but that was mostly because I had a second hand Atari my uncle had replaced with something called a “NES” that was newer and shinier at the time.

  12. Tania Tania says:

    oooh, let the dueling gloves fly! ;)
    Thanx guys. This was a fun game to play, kinda like taking a vacation from some of the more serious games. And for the record, Dogtanian was and still is one of my favourite 80′s cartoons. I wanted to be a Musketeer! :)

  13. Adam Adam says:

    Aww man! Pirate dogs, humour and puzzles? There clearly are some marketing teams out there that that know how to tap into gaming :) What a great idea and passionately reviewed too.

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