Kickstarted sequel Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet drops you into the buccaneering world of budding young sky pirate Nelly Cootalot, keen to battle villains and hoodwink strangers aplenty on a daring quest to track down the evil Baron Wildebeard and obtain the coveted Treasure of the Seventh Sea. Point 'n Click all over the place as you move from scene to scene in pursuit of puzzles, adventure and glory! Yahaargh! As a narrative-driven adventure, we'll keep this review spoiler-free.
From the off, it's clear that this full length follow-up to free point and click adventure Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy! is a real passion project, produced by original developer Alasdair Beckett-King. The aesthetics are very homemade (in the best possible way) and content is absolutely crammed into every scene in the game. You really get a sense of the same drive to complete the game that must have led Beckett-King to crowd-fund and create it in the first place.
You are immediately greeted by fantastic visuals. They are hand drawn in a drab yet busy aesthetic that makes each new screen a real joy to just enter and experience. The background stills are lovingly crafted and characters instantly memorable and well animated as you retrace your steps to complete each story arc and puzzle.
The audio in general is rich and well designed throughout the game. A charming orchestral backing is yours to enjoy (best experienced with headphones) and really adds to the mellow ambiance of your playthrough whilst still delivering that "I'm on an adventure!" type jaunt.
The voice acting is enticing, the strongest by far led by Tom "Dr. Who" Baker who narrates and assists your journey as a companion throughout. Becket-King is a self-confessed comedian; with several student and national comedy accolades to his name, his dry humor is rampant and packed into every line of dialogue. His sense of humor doesn't necessarily translate to every character, and some of the more minor figure's voice actors deliver their lines with a tone and pacing that kind of misses the point. That said, the main characters are wonderfully voiced and refreshingly cover almost every corner of the Great British Isles. Nelly herself is a quizzical Geordie who just outright proclaims "I cannat do that" when you inevitably try something weird like stuffing a copper gong into a harbor master's mouth. Joined by Liverpudlian and Welsh to name but a few, you're gonna' have a good time with the voices.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCyfiYNetlQ
The writing itself is witty and quips at modern day tropes or figures and happily nods to other well known titles in the genre. For instance, Monkey Island is acknowledged as the obvious inspiration in setting. As mentioned, some of the characters are a little wooden and possibly point toward separate recording sessions without giving the voice actor a counterpart recording to react to, though it's not at all a deal-breaker and the story holds your attention as you progress through the narrative.
Unfortunately the gameplay is currently hampered by technical hiccups. The controls are slightly janky and suffer from input lag or clicks being missed altogether. The frame rate and overall performance of the game are solid, though Nelly feels delicate and unwieldy to simply move from place to place as you click on items or objects of interest. When the developer contacted us with the product key, it was mentioned that the game had to be moved to another version of Unity just weeks ago and the review copy could suffer with some minor bugs. The team are reportedly working on fixes up until and beyond launch, but the game's pre-release state is a little frail and the gameplay suffers as a result.
Despite the minor technical shortfalls, it truly matters very little. Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet is lovingly crafted and amounts to a very relaxing and enjoyable point 'n click experience. You can even double click to enter doorways instead of walking all the way across each screen, which is a sure sign of attentive care by a developer who understands.
Adventure game veterans beware; the puzzles are relatively simple and a very beginner level opening tutorial gives you an indication that mechanically, this game is probably best enjoyed by newcomers to the genre. Listening to dialogue hints and progressing character relationships is key to narrative progression, and so the storyline and excellent naturalistic writing is the real focus of this title. However, if rich, surrealist fantasy environments and quirky comedic dialogue are your thing, this may well be the game for you.
Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet was reviewed on Steam with a code provided by the developer.
Great aesthetic, witty and entertaining if a little simplistic in game design and difficulty.