We set sail with the Ship of Fools for a roguelite, 2D animated adventure where you'll need to have your wits about you to protect the seas. Join us as we take the game for a quickie.
What is the gameplay like then?
Your “run”, to use the official term (as I understand it) is a journey which involved plotting a course across a hexagonal game board, where the impending darkness moves towards you every few turns from the far side.
In each tile you will encounter either a fight, a reward, both or sometimes nothing at all. There’s a random element, in that the board changes for each run, and when (not if) you are defeated you are washed back ashore to try again.
The game is a “roguelite”, rather than roguelike, so it is a little more approachable, and less punishing that the likes of Hades or Dead Cells, and the art style helps to make it feel friendlier, without being nightmare fuel like The Binding of Isaac.
Over time you will earn resources to upgrade your ship, improving the guns and hull integrity, gradually making better progress
Sounds quite tough...
As you might expect the co-op element helps considerably, if only because you aren’t the only person being targeted, but really it’s your ship you need to keep an eye on, since while you getting attacked will only slow you down, your ship getting beaten up will lead you to a watery end.
Fortunately there are reprieves in the form of not only special soups which you can have cooked up for you before you begin your expedition, but also resources which are dropped by enemies which you can harpoon onto the ship to collect. You have to be quick though, as there’s always a lot going on at once.
On top of that, you’ll find trinkets, artefacts and other items which give perks, like a chance to inflict flame damage, but be warned. You’ll lose these when your ship sinks, so enjoy them while you can.
Was there anything you weren’t a fan of?
I suppose in terms of the tone maybe from the name I was expecting more humour, or more out-and-out comedy? But really it doesn’t detract from the gameplay at all, and who knows what humorous delights lie in wait at journey’s end.
So, what do you think of the game?
I think Ship of Fools is extremely strong. The visual style is endearing immediately and its world is fun to explore. The controls are really approachable and easy to pick up and play, and the best way to do that is in co-op.
If you’re only going to play alone then it’s harder to recommend, but still worth trying out. Just know that it will feel even more frantic than when you have help.
Ship of Fools is a quality indie which does what it says on the tin and as long as you know what you’re getting yourself in for then it’s a really good time.
Verdict: Would recommend
The phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword” may never have been a more apt phrase than in the world of Pentiment. In this text, or rather written serif script-based adventure, you will be challenged to embody the mind of an artist through his life in the fictional German town of Tassing, as he takes it upon himself to help solve a mysterious murder.
Fortunately, if you do find the old-fashioned text hard to read, there is an option to simplify it, though it would be a shame to miss out on the characterisations you can feel through the way the lettering is presented alone.
It turns out finding a murder suspect isn’t so easy, and you can only really complete one investigative task at each point of the day before you’re moved on to a meal or off to bed. Sometimes a single dialogue choice can have major consequences later, sometimes years down the line as time marches on through the story.
Pentiment is both approachable and engaging, very much a narrative adventure rather than a complex, sprawling one, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s simple...
The biggest frustration we found was realising only in retrospect that we’d missed an opportunity when we are greeted with the text “this will be remembered” after making a, often quite difficult, choice.
What it does mean though is that in almost every interaction you feel as though you have to keep your wits about you, even though generally you can see the spectrum of opinion on an issue or the variety in harshness of a response by a consistent use of dialogue presentation.
Sometimes choices will be accompanied by a symbol, relating to an element of Andreas’ background or skills, which at times can prove to be a great way to take a conversation into a unique direction, at others it is a shortcut to aggravating other characters and even causing you to fail decision-based crucial moments, where you’ll see how your choices stack up on screen to have characters either help you or shut you out.
Quickly you learn to be careful with the passage of time, to avoid missing opportunities to press people further, but you’re well into the game before you really feel like you’re really getting the hang of it.
When you finally do reach the point where you’re making accusations, it’s hard to feel confident that you truly have all the facts, or that there aren’t still more suspects to be uncovered.
Still, the challenge keeps you invested all the way through, and through dream sequences you even get to examine the psyche of your heroic artist by speaking to different elements of his subconscious, as well as vague memories of his home life, which he tends not to talk too much about.
Pentiment is both approachable and engaging, very much a narrative adventure rather than a complex, sprawling one, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s simple. The layers of stories here are tightly woven, and it will take a fair few playthroughs to convince you you’ve explored every avenue of the tale.
There’s certainly not a game like it, and with it free on Game Pass from day one, it feels like an experience that every Xbox owner should at least give a try.