I must confess: my original plan was to review the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy Text Adventure for the celebration of Towel Day, but after getting repeatedly killed by bulldozers before breaking out of the first room I kind of tossed the whole idea. I then opened the New Releases tab on Steam and scrolled through, and noticed a peculiar little game called Choice of the Pirate.
Choice of the Pirate is a game similar to those Choose Your Own Adventure books, and it’s developed and published by Choice of Games. It is a text adventure game in which you play as a swashbuckling pirate in search of fame and fortune. It is rather short and you are in for some serious eye-rolling should you ever play it.
One of the things that caught my eye was the trailer of this game. The highly embarrassing voice-over aside the trailer is basically your everyday boring trailer, except for one thing. Being a text adventure it is understandable that the game doesn’t have much in the way of graphics, but why do you have to mention that in the trailer? “It’s entirely text-based without graphics or sound effects” it states. One: trailers usually promote what the game actually has, and two: even being a text adventure it can still have graphics and sound effects and benefit from them. One could even argue that, by the very definition, the game still has graphics, just very dull graphics.
Black text on white background, no customized font, plain check boxes. It really looks like a hack produced by a first-year Microsoft Excel student. And it would be a nice thing if some sound assets were included. I’m not asking a fully orchestrated soundtrack but a small stock sound of cannons blasting when I click the decision to engage the enemy ship. Did we learn nothing from Sorcery!, an actually good text adventure with great graphics and sound design? To call this game a text adventure is just an excuse for being lazy, and this game really suffers from it.
But how about the story? To be honest, it’s pretty cool. Nothing epic, mind you, just a tale of a buccaneer, rising from the position of a deckhand to the mighty role of the Pirate King, all in the course of one hour. The story includes romantic interests, gigantic sea monsters, mermaids, ghost ships and most importantly pirates raiding, blundering and dueling. In the course of the game the decisions you make define your character traits. If you decide to use sneakiness to solve a problem, your sneakiness levels are increased and so forth and so on. So this game has a kind of pseudo-RPG system going on. You would think that this would somehow establish some kind of chance-based skill mechanic, right? Well, you are both right and wrong. Some arbitrary decisions hardly affect anything. In the beginning of the game you have to choose your gender and if you are into men, women, both or anything between, and it hardly matters. After playing the game twice, first as a straight, honorable and bland hero character and second as a gutless, transgender magician, I noticed that my previous life choices did’t really come up that much.
As I said, this game will be over in an hour. Based on some of your decisions the characters and events pass by so fast the whole story gets this uncanny valley feeling to it. After capturing your first ship you suddenly find yourself fighting the ghost ship of legends and saving the city from a giant octopus. So much happens in such a short timeline it feels like you’re Tom Hanks from Cast Away. Incidentally, you’d have better time listening to a volleyball than playing this game.