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This is the second Nelly Cootalot game I have played and it is just as charmingly pleasant as the previous one, The Fowl Fleet. It is now available on Steam for the PC and is a good example of retro game style that is fun and follows a linear story.

Nelly is a Pirate in as much as she wears an eye-patch and carries a sword. She also 'sort of' seeks lost treasure, though she usually tends to get side-tracked on unusual quests.

Nelly and her mighty Pirate ship sail towards an island's shore in search of the almost extinct Spoonbeaks. On the shore is the Barnacle Inn and the start of a series of puzzles and challenges.

In the Inn Nelly meets the barman and Captain Rehab a retired Pirate and also manages to gain a map of the island she has landed on. This map is essential as it is the only way, at least in the beginning, that Nelly can traverse the land between sites of importance. Open the map, click on a site and Nelly appears there. Each site has one or more things that concern Nelly's search for the Spoonbeaks although often in a very roundabout fashion; nothing is as easy as it seems like it should be.

Nelly's adventures are set against a flat background that has specific hotspots. Click on a door for example and you'll next see Nelly inside that building where everything continues to be flat 2D illustrations. Generally if a person or item can be manipulated, spoken to, collected etc it will be more heavily outlined and colourful than anything/anyone else in the room.

 

By speaking to other characters - usually clicking on a person will bring forth a series of questions that can be asked -  Nelly will receive a series of stock replies, rather in the Guybrush Threepwood 'Monkey Island' style but without the humour; there are attempts at comedy and some actually work, but the writing doesn't reach the heights of the 1990 LucasArts legend.

There are some visual comedic screens, such as the shop owned by two Vikings, named Bjorn & Olafssen. It is a place where Nelly canfind such glorious items as Pirate DVDs, Brass Monkey Warmers and the excellent iHook! But like so many point and click adventures when an action becomes obvious to the player there is still the usual trudge through the workings until Nelly has triggered all the necessary hotspots and come to the same conclusion. As these hotspots are often hidden behind some quite obscure puzzles it introduces an element of frustration.

Speaking to local characters and asking ALL the questions available to you will eventually open up new sites on your map, though when you go to them for the first time you generally locate not just a new place but also a new series of challenges and demands.

 

One of the earliest new locations is the entry to Saul Island. There is a barrier and a guitar strumming diplomatic guard to get past to reach Saul Island. However before you can progress you need the only Pass that exists and that is held by Baron Widebeard, surprisingly this character is a dwarven-like fellow with a huge beard. He can be found in The Store of Babylon, a bookstore where only his book is on sale and any other books (well at least one other book) is in the Bargain [Free] Books bin.

Baron Widebeard is a character you really need to work on, he has more than the Pass to Saul Island if you can find your way around him and his self importance, diplomatically (or as the great thief Nelly is). His assistant in the book store knows only a little but is necessary to chat with to glean the little she does know.

If you pass your cursor right up to the top of the screen you will find six menu items, three to the left and three to the right. One of these is 'Hints' and clicking on this brings up crossbone Xs on everything that can be interacted with in any way. The problem with this is that the places where the Xs alight are so obvious you will almost certainly have had Nelly investigate them anyway, prior to looking for a hint.

 

Nelly sort of floats along in front of the static background scenery as this side-scrolling adventure continues. This is neither an action adventure or any form of RPG or MMO. It is a game where the player often has to find the puzzle before solving it. A locked door is not a puzzle in itself, for example, the puzzle is finding out how to unlock the door and before you can do that you have to discover who has the ability to unlock the door, find out where they are and then uncover what they require in order for them to trigger the part of the puzzle that will eventually lead back to the locked door.

Some puzzles require locating objects while others require manipulating objects, the latter can be very fiddly and indeed take a very long time to succed at, with every failure making you question yourself as to whether you are indeed actually doing the right thing. It is easy to sidetrack yourself and miss the most important of clues. Every nook and cranny needs a thorough searching until the needed hotspot lights up and sends you merrily on your way.

There is something absorbing and fascinating about Nelly Cootalot's adventures that make them stand proud amongst the many richly coloured, highly animated, video-styled games. There is an innocence and naievete about Nelly [the engaging, fearsome, dread-pirate] herself that only certain game characters have. Guybrush is another that holds the player's attention due not to the amazing graphics and artwork but maybe because of the jolly way each problem is approached, dealt with and moved on from.

Annoyingly frustrating and at times annoyingly linear but all in an annoyingly amusing way. 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015