The adventure genre hasn’t been the most focused genre over the past decade. While the recent revitalization of the Monkey Island series injected life into the field, it’s hard to come across any modern adventure game, let alone a good one. With that in mind, German developers Autumn Moon Entertainment has delivered Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island; a lengthy adventure through a pirate world filled with mystery and treachery starring three playable pirate protagonists that is on the lackluster end of the balance beam.
There’s no shame in the obvious spirit of Monkey Island being represented with Ghost Pirates. Nearly every aspect of the game mimics its bigger brother from story to characters to even the gameplay. The game is played in 2D with only the mouse used to direct characters and interact with a world packed full of items and characters. Any seasoned adventurer will feel right at home using the control scheme. Right click is used to access inventory and combine items and left-click for everything else.
Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island has good grasp on the mechanics of adventure games and what makes the genre so enticing. Yet, when it comes to most other aspects and general polish, it struggles to keep up with other modern experiences seen from the likes of Telltale Games. The puzzles aren’t too taxing overall; I found myself stuck in several parts but nothing that random combinations of items couldn’t quickly solve.
Playing the game is simple with a few intriguing features to mix it up. Players can double-click to fast travel between screens, which is very handy as there are a lot of multiple room areas. Sadly, the dialogue can’t be skipped, which is particularly cumbersome if you’re stuck and trying random things, you’ll have to hear the same dialogue excerpts over and over again.
The main disappointment in Ghost Pirates lies within the dialogue, particularly the lame attempts at humor thrown between poorly edited speech. The game tries for tongue-in-cheek colloquial humor with nearly every character acting goofy in some way and sometimes it works; two of the main characters are quite likable, but then there’s the often cheap, easy and immature jokes that come out of nowhere that are cringe-worthy. Attempts at modernized jokes such as “I’ll combine your mom with those items” are a joke in itself and use of terms such as “epic Failure” in a pirate adventure are, well, just that.
Visuals are a mixed bag. The initial realization that the game only runs in two resolutions of 1024×768 or 1280×800 was a big disappointment at first, but upon playing the game it suddenly all made sense. The backgrounds are all hand drawn in luscious 2D by the concept designer Bill Tiller who also worked on the wonderful art from Curse of Monkey island, and such detailed 2D artwork could not be stretched out to multiple resolutions. The characters themselves: Well the 3D rendering of each character isn’t quite up to modern standards made particularly jarring against the beautiful backgrounds.
Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island isn’t a terrible game, but having recently completed Telltale Game’s wonderful Tales of Monkey Island series it’s clear Ghost Pirates is aspiring for a similar experience while falling short in nearly every aspect. It may be lengthy with a decent engine behind it but this doesn’t make up for the failings in storytelling, which is such a core backbone to the adventure game experience. With a bigger budget Ghost Pirates may have been something great.