Review: Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet

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Day of the Tentacle Remastered is out and getting tons of attention, and deservedly so. But there’s another new adventure game out today that is equally deserving of attention from fans of pointing and clicking things.

Evoking familiar themes as the classic Monkey Island series, Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet is the Kickstarted successor to a small pirate adventure released years back that you can still download and play for free from the official website. Playing the first game, Spoonbeaks Ahoy, isn’t necessary, but it’s a fun little game that’s well worth checking out, and it only enriches the experience to come in with an existing relationship with the characters and the world they inhabit.

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Eponymous heroine Nelly Cootalot, lover and protector of birds and the only pirate on the high seas whose name doesn’t end in “beard,” is back on the trail of the dastardly Baron Widebeard. Spurred on by the spirit of Captain Bloodbeard, Nelly sets out to claim the Treasure of the Seventh Sea before Widebeard, whose demonic monkey henchman has cast a spell hypnotizing all the birds to form the Baron’s fowl fleet.

The tone and humor skews young, but like a good cartoon or animated movie, there are plenty of subtle puns and gags for the adult audience. Over the course of The Fowl Fleet‘s four to six hour story, you will encounter a commodore in the midst of a terrible pen nib crisis, a dudebro sailor who’s afraid to pose shirtless for a nautical magazine because he doesn’t have a hairy chest (so naturally it’s up to you to make him a majestic chest hair wig), a Bob Dylan-like folk street singer searching for a muse (more like a groupie), and a crazy airship captain in need of an epic bedtime story to restore his lost memory. Yes indeed, the cast of characters is, let’s just say, eccentric, in the most endearing of ways.

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Nelly Cootalot doesn’t break any new ground as a traditional point-and-click adventure, but it is very well balanced and competently designed across in all phases. Like the story and sense of humor, the inventory-based puzzles are often silly verging on absurd, and yet the logic consistently makes sense throughout. None of the puzzles ever feel too obtuse or obscure, or fall back on tediously hunting pixels or trying to figure out which two completely disparate items go together through trial and error alone. The game even throws the occasional mini-game at you to keep things light and breezy, like shooting gallery and claw grabber carnival games, as well as a rousing pirate themed version of the board game Operation.

Navigation and object examination benefit from helpful features such as being able to press a button to temporarily highlight interactive hotspots or double-click on transition points to skip Nelly’s walking animation and immediately jump to the next scene. For a large portion of the game, you’re even given a world map from which you can quick travel between areas on the island. Nelly’s bird companion, Sebastian, also tags along for most of the adventure, perching somewhere within each scene as both a tool for solving certain puzzles, as well as a sounding board for tips on what to do next or just random conversation about other characters.

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Though mostly stable, the interface does have some kinks that could be smoothed out a bit better. For instance, after clicking to inspect a hotspot the UI is a bit sluggish at loading back into active control so you can click on the next thing. Sometimes there is also a delay when pressing the button to highlight hotspots. I’ve encountered a couple buggy moments as well. One time I went through a puzzle but did it in the wrong order to get a related achievement, so I reloaded my last save at the start of the scene to do it over, only when I reloaded an item I needed was gone (from the scene and my inventory) as if I had already collected it when I hadn’t. Another time, in the middle of a multi-staged puzzle, a key hotspot needed to advance failed to activate. I had to quit to desktop and re-launch the game to get it working again. Fortunately these proved to be minor inconveniences, and all of them seem easily curable through updates.

Heavy on witty wordplay, overflowing with quirky British humor galore, and complemented by wonderful hand drawn art, animation, and voice over performances, Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet is a delightful point-and-click romp of swashing and buckling. In short, it’ll straight up charm your knickers off.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Silly cast of characters starring in an equally silly story
+ Charming art and voice acting
+ Clever puzzles with evenly balanced logic
+ Quick travel and hotspot highlight help keep the pace moving

Cons:
– Occasionally sluggish/buggy UI

Game Info:
Platform: PC/Mac/Linux
Publisher: Application Systems Heidelberg
Developer: Application Systems Heidelberg
Release Date: 3/22/2016
Genre: Adventure
Players: 1

Source: Review code provided by developer

Buy From: Steam

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!