Cap'n GoldGrubber's Treasure Hunt
Despite the trope's prevalence in fiction, historical pirates weren't much for burying treasure. After all, while everyone loves gold, it's much more useful to have on hand, than covered in sand on some atoll. Besides, most plunder consisted of booze, ammo, food, trade goods, and the occasional illegitimately-copied DVD... none of which much improves in quality by being underground on a hot beach. Still, a few pirates did bury a stash either to offer as leverage if they were captured or, as in the case of Jacksmack's Cap'n GoldGrubber's Treasure Hunt, to present an island romp for our Casual Gameplay Design Competition #8.
You see, Cap'n Goldgrubber is ready to retire after a lifetime of high-seas marauding, and he's taken you to the island where a fortune of ill-gotten gains is buried. He's giving you fourteen days to find and dig up enough treasure to live the rest of his days in comfort. Succeed and you share in the wealth. Fail and it's a one way trip off the edge of a plank.
What follows is a set of orienteering puzzles. Each day takes you to a different islet with numerous buried treasures and one "secret" treasure hidden therein. Click on a square to move to it, and click on the square you're standing on to dig for (hopefully) treasure. You are given a compass that points in the direction of the closest treasure (and spins when you are right on top of it), but the only way to find the very expensive bonus treasures is through following lists of cryptic clues. Keep in mind that each day you have a limited amount of energy for your task, but various upgrades are available for purchase. And the boisterous Cap'n is thar to be offerin' his hilarious commentary on the items you find.
Analysis: The theme was "sandbox", and the game does successfully capture the feeling of two kids playing as pirates, digging up treasure in the backyard. There's some kind of visceral joy about uncovering something in the sand (an interesting shell, a piece of sea glass, a mysterious old coin...) and Cap'n GoldGrubber excels at replicating that experience. While very "Find-Dig-Repeat" in its mechanics, each of the maps are quite engaging. A large part of the game's appeal is the titular captain. He's a scurvy sea-dog who's 100% cliché, but a well-written one, and he may just be the best character of the competition. The dude just cracked me up. Kudos to Joshua Tomar for his exceptional voice acting.
While the gameplay is enjoyable, it is also quite unbalanced, and that is where the experience falters. It's fun to hunt treasure (though occasionally made difficult by the scenery), but, once you've purchased a handful of upgrades, finding becomes so easy that it becomes non-challenging and repetitive. Unfortunately, without said upgrades, you probably wouldn't be able to find the amount of gold the captain expects, which leaves the player in a bit of a bind. Regardless, the game plays out all fourteen days even if you've reached the treasure goal on day seven. This is nice for the players who care enough to rack up an Overachiever Achievement, but it makes the endgame kind of aimless. Fortunately, there's a button that allows you to end each day early, but I felt kind of bad when I was skipping days of gameplay just to get to the end.
Cap'n GoldGrubber is a little like "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" : Hilarious in concept, initially charming, more than a little repetitious, and something only a small group of people will want to go through more than once. Still, it is a worthy entry to the competition and you should enjoy the voyage. In conclusion, arrrr.