Version Tested On: PC
Available On: PC, Mac, Linux
Where To Buy: Steam, App Store, Developer Website
Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet is a shining example of how a Kickstarter campaign can bring a dream to reality. Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet is wholeheartedly a passion project which would have struggled to have been published by a mainstream developer. With the funding accumulated from the fundraiser, the team at Application Systems Heidelberg (ASH) created a piece of work, unrestrained by the conventions of the mass market. Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet is brimming with charm, wit, and sarcasm; a distinct aesthetic and ultimately, is a joyous adventure.
Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet is actually the second game in the series although you will be forgiven for not being aware of the first installment. Created by Alasdair Beckett-King as a birthday present for his partner, Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy was a free to download game. The reception to the game inspired Alasdair to think bigger and as such, The Fowl Fleet is more ambitious in every way with its bigger story accompanied with improved visuals and animations. Rest assured, although this surreal pirate universe was created prior to The Fowl Fleet, you will not feel stranded ashore when starting the sequel.
Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet is a point and click adventure game reminiscent of the classic Lucasarts games of the early nineties. Heavily inspired by the Monkey Island series (subtle references will appear), Nelly has admirations of becoming a famous pirate (Guybrush Threepwood?), a title which her ideological naivety makes appealing. Nelly is set upon her quest for the ‘Treasure of the Seventh Sea’ by the ghost pirate, William Bloodbeard. Nelly embarks upon the adventure in creative measures by mailing a crate ashore, with her inside. As the tale proceeds, Nelly uncovers the truth about the disappearance of birds that have been hypnotized by Baron Widebeard (who of course, has a wide beard) and the baroness. This narrative is simple and bizarre but feels at home in this abstract world.
This is not a pirate tale as you might expect but a warped world, where pirates still reign. You have ships, peg legs and talking birds but you will also find family board games, claw machines and quaint, coffee shops. One of the first establishments you visit will be a gambling venue. Punters are placing bets but instead of horses, members of the aristocracy are forced to run on treadmills. When not racing, these individuals have their own stables, waiting for their next race. Nothing in this universe is serious and your mission is to sabotage the next event which requires a concoction of drinks and a tar covered horseshoe.
As is the case with the great adventure games, the writing and characters bring the world to life and Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet embodies this, whilst adding a British twist. The classic adventure games, albeit hilarious, felt very American yet the British are renowned for their sarcasm and self-deprecating humor which compliments this genre beautifully. The Fowl Fleet is at its best when this hilarity if fully embraced with Nelly and her coot sidekick Sebastian, leading the charge. Tom Baker voices your bird companion and anyone who is familiar with his work (Doctor Who, Little Britain), you know what to expect here.
Although the voice cast is rather small, they all play a number of characters and bring accents from around the globe including English, Welsh, Scottish and even Jamaican. The diversity on show allows each character to feel distinctive and when accompanied with their unique, hand drawn design, their personalities develop. The cast show hints of being caricatures so expect stereotypes to hold some truth as the Scots adore their deep fried food and the English act… well, English. The writing is wonderfully articulate with great uses of the English dictionary but at the same time, really capturing local colloquialisms. Prepare to learn British lingo as Nelly will natively ask “What’s the crack” and refer to the word “mint” upon hearing good news.
Some of the cast feel more self-aware than others and as such, know that they are in this surreal world. The wicked Van Zandt almost seems annoyed with having to be a part of this game and hearing the frustration and boredom in his voice kept me amused. The abstract, pirate setting allows for smugglers to exist such as the wheelin’ dealin’ Gusty Nethers but also contemporary phenomena such as the elusive hipster making a particularly foreshadowing appearance.
The remaining key ingredient for such an adventure game are interesting and perplexing puzzles, however, this is where Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet does not succeed so well. The riddles on display here are unusually logical, which deviates from the sometimes outlandish solutions seen in other titles. Although I appreciate being able to use my rationale, I almost wanted to become stuck at times because sailing through the story culminated in the experience feeling shorter than I hoped. Over the course of the game, you will visit three locales and the difficulty never increased. The same tactic of distracting a character and taking advantage of their momentary lapse of concentration happened all too often. Simply talking to everyone and examining the environment will give you all the information needed to progress.
If you do find yourself stuck, Sebastian will act as your hint system. Hearing Tom Baker speak is always welcomed but the hint system is unique in the fact that it will cover all of your ongoing predicaments. Instead of simply directing you towards the ultimate objective, Sebastian will give you hints towards solving each of the obstacles currently preventing you from reaching that final goal. This witty tool could have allowed the developers to be more experimental and devious with their puzzles but this is not utilized.
The overall narrative is a promising one but never comes to fruition. Baron Widebeard has an army of hypnotized birds at his disposal but this plot element never amasses too much more than an amusing cut scene. The low stakes lessen the impact of the story and in turn, the events seem tame and unspectacular. Memorable moments do occur such as entering a voodoo monkey’s subconscious and being ambushed by an abdominal penguin but, given the wacky circumstances around you, nothing truly breathtaking occurs.
Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet is a brilliant adventure that wonderfully demonstrates quirky British humor and is totally unique. The entirety of the game feels like a project devised from the heart with hand drawn animations to the enchanting score, presiding over each scene. Brilliant writing and great vocal performances outweigh the weak narrative. From the opening xylophone music to the folk song, being sung as the credits roll; Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet is exactly why the Kickstarter campaign should exist.
- Gameplay: Puzzle Based Point and Click Adventure Game
- Graphics: Hand Drawn Art and Animations
- Sound: Xylophones, British Accents, and Folk Songs
- Presentation: A True Passion Project
- British Wit
- Diverse Characters
- Self Awareness
- Simple Puzzles
- Weak Story Conclusion
An Englishman living in Australia. I edit and provide video/written reviews for all of the latest games.