i’ve made no secret of the fact that my favourite video game of all time is The Secret of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, and that i’m a big fan of Ron Gilbert, who i once touched. Ron has released a new pirate-themed mobile game called Scurvy Scallywags which, along with the Puzzle Quest series and the more recent 10000000, belongs to what i call the “Match-3 With Benefits” genre. That’s where the designer takes the simple Match-3 mechanic (think Bejeweled), and layers mounds of more core-centric gameplay on top of it.
Do you like piña coladas / and dealing skeletons pain?
In Scurvy Scallywags, there’s an RPG-like xp system that enables you to level up your pirate and spend points on game-altering stats. There’s combat on the puzzle grid, and a large overworld map to explore, which breaks out into smaller sub-maps as you journey across different islands. You can collect sea shanties, build new ships, and completely reskin your character.
It’s absolutely overdesigned, and that’s not a pejorative. This is the kind of game for players like me who adore simple puzzle mechanics, but wish there was a grander purpose to all that swiping and chaining beyond just earning a meaningless score. (i’d much rather earn meaningless fictional pirate renown!) It’s the very same impulse behind my own overdesigning of Spellirium, a game that adds combos, chains, crafting, economy, collecting, conversations, combat and cutscenes to a simple word puzzle mechanic.
Being a LucasArts disciple, i was beyond honoured to earn a mention in the credits of Scurvy Scallywags. My contribution to the game came in the form of a little grog-running i did for Ron. (If you’ve seen that movie Maria Full of Grace, you get the idea – except replace “condoms full of heroin” with “wooden casks full of pirate swill”.) It was unpleasant, to say the least. i’m still farting splinters all these weeks later. But it was worth it for THIS:
i am reminded of a quote from a certain Oscar-winning, seminal film about ennui and disengagement among twenty-something youth in pre-9-11 middle America:
i’m tempted to give Ron a “special thanks” credit in Spellirium, specially thanking him for the special thanks in Scurvy Scallywags … but that way lies madness. From there, it’s credits all the way down.
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