Indie team Surprised Man got in touch with us yesterday to tell us about their new game, The Wager. Which is how I've spent most of the last couple of hours. I think you ought to do the same. Especially because it's free. Taking bits of inspiration from Colonisation and Sid Meier's Pirates, it's a simple but detailed exploration game, as you attempt to chart islands and make more money than your arch rival, Sir Lester Marwood. I HATE Sir Lester Marwood!
Coo, it's a lot of fun. Finding an island gives you the right to sell the land when you return to port, along with any treasures you may find along the way. A random map means it's a new game each time, along with the randomly occurring events that pop up throughout. And how these are encountered is changed by other decisions you've made. So if you decide to invest a chunk of change in a bigger boat (the exact amount it costs changes each game) you'll have that much deducted from your final total, but you'll also have a better chance if you sail into a whirlpool. Is it worth the loss of crew to keep the cash? Also, do you want to keep a discovered incredibly foul-mouthed parrot around for the advantages he offers, even if it means crew members walk out?
That said, it's all very simple too. One rather large issue is that the minimap isn't saved with the game, meaning if you return later to a game in progress you're met with a big black square. Grrr. In two plays through I saw a good deal of repetition, so I'm not sure how many more attempts would keep my interest. But both were enormously enjoyable, and I think that's mostly down to the excellent writing. Exploring an island may yield a little adventure in text, perhaps being attacked by cannibals, or discovering dangerous tunnels. You're also constantly berated by your opponent throughout the year. The descriptions are superb, and make the whole thing extremely charming. I particularly enjoyed the introduction of the parrot.
"Asking its name, the parrot replies, 'Mr Crackers,' taking a rare break from its usual string of insults. 'The Wonder Parrot,' it adds, and you decide that anything called Mr Crackers The Wonder Parrot can't be all that bad."
Surprised Man are Peter Silk and Kieran Walsh, who previously made March Of The Rorgers. Like that, The Wager was originally created as part of a Ludum Dare contest, and has since been developed into a full game. You can get the 72 hour version here, as well as the complete version.