“It looks fun.” That was my reasoning for picking Clumsy Pirates to review.
I need to choose better next time.
All said and done, Clumsy Pirates would fall into the “puzzle category”. You play as a ship hand named Billy the Mop, who has to drop lit bombs overboard before said explosives destroy said ship. Hey, since when do you come to a puzzle game for a story?
You start every level at the bottom deck of a ship. Billy moves on a fixed path that you need to redirect by placing a set number of bubbles that move him up a level, and by letting him climb up immobile ladders. Reach the flag at the top deck before the timer runs out (and conserve your bubbles), and the ship remains undamaged. Later levels add obstacles like pitch-black platforms, steam that makes bubbles rise one extra platform, fiery platforms that you need to collect water bottles to put out, wind that makes you move faster or slower, depending on your direction, and walls. The mandatory collectibles make their appearance as doubloons, which you use to unlock more ships.
As far as the levels themselves go, “artificial challenge” was the phrase that crossed my mind several times. The movement mechanics, item placement, and obstacle implementation just wind up falling flat and being aggravating instead of challenging. The first thing you’ll notice is that Billy’s on-rails movement is very clumsy, specifically, the ladder climbing. Since you have no direct control over Billy, he gets onto any ladder when he touches it. That’s obviously a requirement with the devs’ choice to go with preset movement, but it’s still broken. Not only that, but Billy exits facing the opposite way he started climbing. It sounds like something you’ll acclimate to, but trust me, in the later levels with a ton of ladders, you’ll be frantically trying to remember which way Billy will head when he exits before he walks into a hole.
Even the items seem to be “cheapened up”. The hit zone on the water bottles, doubloons, and bubbles are in the dead center. If Billy doesn’t hit the item dead on (DEAD ON), you won’t collect the item, or get into the bubble. It’s made worse on some levels where you’re required to collect water bottles that are hidden in flames, and not hitting it on the miniscule sweet spot will scorch Billy and earn a restart.
The obstacles they throw in later on don’t really add anything to the gameplay either. The only ones that really require you to rethink your strategy are the fiery platforms and the steam, and those still aren’t actually interesting. Even the doubloon collecting isn’t intriguing, as you’ll unlock all the ships well before you get three on every level, so there isn’t any initiative to go back anyway.
In reality, the actual “puzzles” aren’t that hard; it’s the devs’ bad choice to go with on-rails movement and the punishing item and ladder placement that work to hide that fact.
The graphics fit the pirate theme, and they look ok, I guess, but there is really no variety in between ships, except for different plank colors. The supposed six actually wind up being three ships, each one having a “day” and a “night” level, the only difference being the ambient light. The sound is likewise mediocre. The lone track of upbeat “pirate music” can get annoying, but it’s the falling down sound effect that grates the most. The harsh accordion that accompanies Billy’s tumble I swear was recorded louder than the other effects.
In the end, Clumsy Pirates just isn’t fun. The levels blend into each other, the game is frustrating instead of challenging, the “new mechanics” fail to add anything to the gameplay, and even the most basic offense is broken: the core gameplay is just boring. Suffice it to say, Clumsy Pirates gets a delete.