You might nod off while playing Salt, and I mean that in a good way. The game is pleasant, scenic, and relaxing. As you’re sailing the seas and embarking upon new island after new island, you’ll not want to leave the cute, fun little pirate adventure that Lavaboots Studios has crafted for you. The ocean waves and soft wind freed my mind of all my daily worries and stresses. I would doze off only to wake up thinking I was actually on a beach somewhere. You can play with others, but I played alone, and Salt took me away.
Salt is an open-ended game about island exploration in an “infinite” space. On your adventures, you can find treasures, ruins, pirates, merchants, loot, and big spiders. The game hardly gives you direction, so where you go and what you do depends on your initiative.
There are quests that offer some guidance. The first is to build a raft. Then, when you start sailing, you quickly learn that you need a sextant and a compass. Without these, you have no idea where you are, because Salt has no minimap. Once you get the sextant, you can find out what nautical heading you’re at. There are no calculations you have to make - you just press a key. There's no need for a degree in seafaring navigation to travel in Salt, but you also can’t just whip out a map and see markers for quests or for your character.
With sextant and compass in hand, you can mark island symbols on your map, and mark these island symbols with little pictures that indicate what you found there. A couple times I set foot on an island filled with pirates and loot. I’d mark it with a skull-and-crossbones for future reference.
It’s hard to be intimated by Salt’s pirates. Like all the characters in the game, they’re small, cute LEGO-fare, and all make the same little “hm” vocal when they see you. But these cute little LEGO pirates will deck you. I’d be jumping backward across an entire island, swinging my sword, as a whole slew of pirates gave chase, and I’d either end up in the water escaping to my raft or end up watching the death screen as the rogues berated me with slashes, my constant hacking having little to no effect.
To best the pirates, you’ll want to sneak up on them one by one and aim for the head. Otherwise, you’ll be seeing a little tombstone with a biting message next to it in no time. My favorite death-screen message is “And there was much rejoicing.” Dang – salt on the wound.
In addition to these pirates, there are spiders. Big spiders. They only come out at night, and not on every island. They make the same footstep sound as human characters, so when I first heard one, I had no idea what to expect when I turned around. Suffice it to say, the biggest great white shark in existence wouldn’t have kept me from plunging into the ocean headfirst to get away from those things.
You’re going to need good armor and weapons for whenever you encounter pirates or spiders. Your inventory can hold plenty (it scrolls down quite a ways) and you can pick up anything. I picked up a cannon. I also picked up my boat. Once you pick up your boat, you can place it anywhere in the water you want, which helps with quick getaways. You’ll rely on items you pick up because merchant’s prices are steep. It must take a lot of exploring and looting to be able to afford merchant’s goods, that or I haven’t found the cheap ones yet.
Finding items that you can use to fell pirates and get loot means doing a lot of sailing. At times I wished I had had the Wind Waker, slow as sailing can be. I also feared facing the kraken or some other horrible monster, but all I’ve faced so far has been the temptation to nod off as the relaxing sea rolls by.
When it’s night in Salt, it’s pitch black, and nigh impossible to see anything while sailing, so you have to stay alert. You’ll rely on campfires that pirates and merchants have set on islands to guide you. Then, when you hit landfall, you may run into the aforementioned nocturnal spiders. At these moments I wished I had had the Ocarina of Time. Get me to the morning!
There is a rewarding sense of discovery in Salt. While exploring a vast, empty island, I came across a stone chest with rare loot inside. It played a dramatic sound when I picked the stuff up. Having only scratched the surface, moments like this one inspire me to set sail and see all that Salt has to offer.
Even without stone chests and rare loot, there’s the pleasant vibes, the cute LEGO-like figures, and the scenic beauty of the sun showering an island’s valley in rays. Salt is a fun, jump in and make of it what you will kind of game. Want to just relax and sail around? You can do that. Want to fight pirates? Go ahead. Want to explore at night? Well, you can’t see, and there are spiders, but be my guest! Want to get loot? Good luck with that, but it can be done! What you get out of Salt depends on what you put into it, and even if you don’t put in much, you’ll still get a pleasant ocean and beach experience. Having only played it for around five hours, I want to dive back in and get more out of this fun, neat little game.
Salt was played on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.