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Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy!

Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy!


Developer: Alasdair Beckett-King The title screen.The title screen.
Released: 2007.03.06
Genre: Fantasy / Comedy
Graphics: Cartoon / 2D
Perspective: Third person
Gameplay: Point-and-Click










Note: this game can be played with ScummVM software.



Nelly Cootalot is a young pirate captain who is sailing on her toy-like ship when she encounters a ghostly apparition of buccaneer William Bloodbeard. Nelly receives a mission to find out what happened to birds known as Spoonbeaks, as they seem to have disappeared. And that's all there is to the starting point of the plot, really. There isn't even a clear motive for Nelly to start her adventure, but as the game is a comedy, the whole thing being random, abrupt and undetached adds to the charm in its own way.

Nelly as a character is apparently loosely based on a real-life character, someone close to the developer of the game. How much that has affected the character can only be guessed, but otherwise the character and the setting are like one more fan game inspired by The Secret of Monkey Island. You have a young protagonist in the world of pirates, and many of the tasks include proving one way or the other that the protagonist is indeed a mighty pirate. The player will be visiting bars and pirate shops, obviously. Nothing out of the ordinary, but it works, as it has worked before.

In the pirate bar.In the pirate bar.

The user interface, which is an action compass, has been inspired by The Curse of Monkey Island verb coin, featuring three functions - look, use, and talk. Again the developer hasn't been trying to reinvent anything here, what has worked in other games, is working here too. The only complaint is that there doesn't seem to be any button to close the inventory when an object is selected for use, but that's a minor complaint. Save and load options are visible all the time, and you can save the game at any point. There are 50 slots available, which is more than enough for this game, as the game is more on the short side of adventures, and with no dead-ends or deaths, there's no real need to be saving all the time.

There are less than 10 locations to explore, and moving between these happens by clicking on a map that is found early in the game. The map can be accessed by clicking the menu bar, using the map in the inventory, or hitting a shortcut key on the keyboard, so going from one location to another is easy. There is a small inconsistency in the way that some locations can also be visited by walking from the next location, but some others, such as the first screen of the game, can be accessed only from the map.

Map of the game world.Map of the game world.
Puzzles in the game are mostly easy, but challenging enough to satisfy even experienced players. In most cases there's some way to get a hint of what to do next, but the hint is not always obvious. Only in a couple of cases there's not enough hints, or hints are too detached from the actual puzzle. In these cases trial and error in the traditional adventure style works well. Puzzle-wise the game offers a nice variety despite its small scope, there are fetch quests, inventory puzzles, dialogue puzzles, timed puzzles, lever puzzles, at least one of each kind, and even a text deciphering puzzle, which is brilliant. One annoying thing about the game is that Nelly thinks slower than the player does - often it is obvious what should be done to achieve the next step, but Nelly needs a motivation for it. For instance, it is clear that some item needs to be picked up from some place, but Nelly refuses to do that until something or someone in the game necessitates it. This makes the game very linear, basically there's only one way to solve it, but considering the scope of the game, it's understandable.

The game looks absolutely charming, as the graphics are naïve on purpose, everything looking unrealistic and cartoony, and the whole game world lacking some colour, with every location having a heavy emphasis on grey and brown colours. Very often Nelly herself is the most colourful thing on the screen, and the red hair certainly dominates the focus point on the screen. The downside of this is that many items are not specifically visible from the background, and while there's really no pixel-hunting in the game, sometimes it's not that easy to see a hotspot to interact with, even though they are all labelled. On the other hand, some items are either on purpose or by accident red herrings, having a different colour from the surrouding items as if signifying importance, but they can't even be picked up at any point.

Market Street.Market Street.
There is some disparity between the backgrounds, which are a bit rough and edgy, especially if using a scaled up resolution, and the main characters of the game which have been upgraded to antialiased versions at some point after the initial release. Overall the graphics are nice to look at and really fit the childish world of the game, even if some gags in the game are clearly for more mature audience, though nothing obscene. The humour in the game is funny and cute, there are a couple of nice cracks that might make the player LOL, but mostly things are based on overall absurd situations, such as using an obviously bad disguise.

Audio in the game is good, consisting of background tunes and sound effects, there are no voiceovers for any of the dialogue. There are some places in the game where audio could be used more, even to help with the game and its puzzles, such as the lever puzzle in the end, which is kind of controversial based on players' opinions, and doesn't necessarily explain itself that well. Overall the learning curve in the game is good, it starts very easy, but gets gradually more challenging, and the final puzzles are the most difficult ones, as should be expected. The deciphering puzzle can be a bit challenging for non-native English speakers too. The game has been translated to German, French, Spanish, and Polish languages, so that might help some players.

The game ends like it begins, kind of abruptly and without any real resolution, but that's OK, because the game doesn't rely on plot development anyway. Because the game has been released as freeware from the very start, it's very easy to recommend Nelly Cootalot to just about anyone who likes cartoony comical point-and-clicks. It is not perfect, but good enough to even have a price tag (which it doesn't have). For those who go and help Nelly with her quest, it is advisable to keep watching what happens even after the game has come to its conclusion - there is an epilogue of sorts, which even teases in a friendly manner those Adventure Game Studio games which are not as professionally done as this one.

The door is locked.The door is locked.



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