Jolly Rover is an indie adventure game by Australian developer Brawsome that I stumbled upon while looking for a new adventure game to play. Since the game was on sale at the time, I decided to pick it up.
You play as Gaius James “Jolly” Rover, a dog who aspires to be a clown like his father but falls into the pirating profession. At the start of the game his merchant ship is commandeered by Captain Howell and he’s thrown into the pirate’s brig. Eventually escaping, he lands on Groggy Island, journeys to join the pirate crew, learns some voodoo spells, and finds himself embroiled in a pirating family’s legacy.
Jolly Rover is an extremely accessible adventure game. It’s filled with just about every hint mechanic I’ve ever seen. Thankfully you don’t have to use all of them and they’re not very intrusive into the game play. I didn’t find the puzzles in Jolly Rover to be particularly complex but still found myself using a few of the help systems just because they eliminated some typical point-and-click adventure game annoyances. For example, by holding down the spacebar all the objects on the screen that can be interacted with are highlighted. I generally still looked for usable objects myself but once I thought I had found everything it was a nice way to double check. I hate missing an important clue in a game because I didn’t think to hover over a particular, obscure pixel and this game mechanic saved that headache.
I really appreciated how Jolly Rover lets players know a character or object had something new to say or some new way to be used. By hovering over objects with your mouse, you can bring up their descriptive text. If that text was blue, clicking on it would elicit something new. If the font was white, then you had explored everything that object had to offer at that time. This sounds very basic and it is, but for someone who’s played a lot of adventure games it was a big deal. It has always been frustrating to me when I’ve been stuck in a game not realizing that the key to moving on was interacting with an object I had already clicked on dozens of times before – the blue text lets me know that I should check out that object once more.
These mechanics are simple but do a lot for Jolly Rover. They helped keep the story moving as the journey was more the focus of the game rather than puzzle solving. Not that the puzzles were a complete pushover. I thought the combination of puzzle solving with found objects and the voodoo spells Gaius learns were a nice spin. However, I wish there was a bit more variety with the spells since you end up using some of them repeatedly to solve similarly fashioned puzzles.
Jolly Rover also has a quest system which is something I normally can’t stand in adventure games. They just don’t fit with the genre and too often fall into a trap of focusing on what the player needs to do immediately next, i.e. talk to a character who is standing right in front of you. Jolly Rover does a decent job of this by guiding players toward what they should ultimately be doing instead of setting short-term goals. The game also pokes fun at the system by quickly listing silly, irrelevant quests during ongoing dialogue or scenes. Overall, I’m still not sold on quests being spelled out for players in adventure games.
For an indie adventure game, Jolly Rover has amazing voice acting—professional caliber even. The voice of Gaius especially fits perfectly with the character. Even if it’s a little clichéd, the game’s story is good. Jolly Rover has a clean, cartoony art style that fits well with the characters and the settings it presents.
Jolly Rover is a fun, accessible adventure game. Hardcore fans of the genre won’t be awed by its story or puzzles but perhaps players will, like I did, find the smart implementation of its mechanics interesting. I highly recommend the game to anyone who’s unfamiliar with adventure games or simply looking for something light and refreshing to play.