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Burly Men At Sea Offers Hyperstylised Folktales

Burly Men At Sea [official site] is another game from the Leftfield Collection at Rezzed which I want to post excitedly about. It’s a beautifully stylised folktake about fishermen heading off for adventure. It made me think of children’s books and how, when you get one which has been well-designed, the art and the story work together to create the sense of particular events or objects. A simple scene transition used a widening triangular shape to create the sense of exiting a whale’s mouth, for example.

I’ve only played the demo and not the full thing so I only know that the three Burly Men – called Hasty Beard, Brave Beard and Steady Beard – find an empty-looking map and head out to sea to investigate further. But in that short space of story it was so charming.

Set in early 20th-century Scandinavia, the game’s story branches through discovery in a series of encounters with creatures from folklore. The player acts as storyteller and wayfinder, shaping the narrative around the characters through interaction with their environment.

The interface is unusual in that you have a view of a scene and can then use the mouse to drag and extend it from side to side, taking the characters with you as you go. At one point I found myself in a barn and clicking a chicken had it lay a little egg, then clicking the egg produced a tiny chick.

Off we went in our boat and suddenly a whale appeared, swallowing us (and our boat) whole before depositing us… who knows where because the demo ended.

Burly Men At Sea is being developed by husband-and-wife team, Brain&Brain (David and Brooke Condolora). It’s another one which is “coming soon”. I now feel like an impatient kid at bedtime, wanting the next chapter instead of going to sleep.

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Philippa Warr

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