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RPS 2016 Advent Calendar, Dec 11th: Burly Men At Sea

A videogame storybook

There were a lot of great stories told in PC games in 2016, but only one great storybook. Day eleven of The RPS Advent Calendar, which highlights our favourite games of the year, brings...

It's sea-faring adventure Burly Men At Sea!

Pip: Burly Men At Sea is probably my game of the year. It's charming. There's no other word for it. Charm oozes from every gorgeous setting and every evocative syllable. I've gone back to replay favourite adventures, both using the real game, but also in my head while having a bath. The best way I can think to describe it is that it's like a children's bedtime story but where you can vary the pages a little each time.

The Brothers Beard have that joyously indestructible quality I associate with those bedtime stories. They flirt with mild peril thanks to sea creatures and strange characters, but you'll always end up looping around to safety.

I'm also so fond of the art style. It's got such upbeat colour palettes and the shapes which make up characters and environments are simple without being dull. It's just a delight. A short, charming, replayable delight.

Graham: I sometimes forget I love adventure games. The LucasArts games of my youth were a long time ago, I no longer make the time to trawl through the often excellent work by the Adventure Game Studio community, and I don't much enjoy many Telltale games. But Burly Men at Sea is a good reminder.

It doesn't have dialogue trees, inventories or discernable puzzles, but it is excellent at what I often like most about the genre: place, mood, story. I like spending time inside Burly Men at Sea. Each scene is beautiful to look at which helps, but its different locations also offer plenty of opportunities for jiggery-pokery. Clicking a chicken till it lays an egg may not be a challenge, or relevant to the gently random tale, but it's a lovely way to spend time in a lovely place.

Because the game is basically all narrative, to describe any of the events within constitutes a substantial spoiler, so stop reading now if you're already convinced to play it. If not:

My first adventure saw my boat swallowed by a whale and destroyed, the Brothers Beard wash up on an island which turned out to be the head of a giant sea creature, the Brothers being tossed to the bottom of the ocean where they were gifted the ability to breathe underwater by a friendly passing sea creature, before my foolhardiness caused them all to drown anyway. When you play, you may encounter some or none of these events, but I include them here in brief to show the kinds of encounters you'll have in the game. They're diverse enough that it's exciting to see what you'll get on each revisit, and yet the events are always child-friendly in content and you can play from beginning to end in around 15 minutes.

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