While zombies are perhaps too common in games nowadays, and pirates are certainly getting there, we haven't seen nearly enough zombie-pirates. At least that's the argument given by Pirates of the Undead Sea: Rise of the Ribcage, the new point-and-click adventure game from Pahu Pahu. Given its quality, its a strong argument indeed. Captain Black Sam has spent years sailing the seven seas plundering and pillaging. After a night of too much rum, Sam wakes up to find he and his ship are at the bottom of the ocean, both not looking too much better for the experience. Fifteen years of decay later, a chance mermaid-sighting convinces him the time is nigh to set out on another grand adventure. And so, you're off to seek glory, gold and grog! Mostly grog!
Pirates of the Undead Sea is controlled entirely with the mouse. Click anywhere on the ground to walk. Click characters to converse with them by selecting dialogue options. Click items to look at, use, or collect by selecting the appropriate icon. Open the inventory by clicking the treasure chest in the lower-left corner. Click items to use them with others on the screen. Click the exits to move around the undersea landscape. Oh... and try to find some clothes for Blackbeard's sake.
Analysis: Pirates of the Dead Sea probably wouldn't exist if the Monkey Island games didn't, and its protagonist is an undead ringer for Jack Sparrow. Not judging, just stating. A game about piracy that happens to borrow from other sources? Who would have thought? Well, if you're going to pillage, pillage from the best and pillage well. Pirates of the Undead Sea does both. It acts as a fitting tribute to its inspirations while effectively showcasing the developers' own creativity and appreciable talents. Oh... and try to find some clothes while you're at it.
Pirates of the Undead Sea does nearly everything right. It has a wonderful cartoonish aquatic aesthetic, that utilizes some neat parallax effects. It's plot is of the loose "walk around doing piratey things" variety, but that allows the characters to take center stage. And what characters they are! The cast's designs and dialogue sparkle with personality and there's not a single one who doesn't get a laugh-out-loud bit of conversation. Fluffy the Salt-Water Pirahna! Finny, the sarcastic mermaid with the prerequisite convenient hair placement! McGonnagal, the ship's poet who didn't really think through the whole "hanging oneself while one is already dead" thing! So few browser games take the time to develop an ensemble cast, but this is definitely one that does.
Not that the puzzles are too shabby either. They have a logical progression, and incorrect attempts will at least cause you to crack a smile. Of particular note is an early sequence when you must find a replacement hat: there are about a half-dozen red-herrings that you can try on, and each of them garners a snarky comment from the protagonist. When developers enjoy making a game, it shows in the details, and one might suspect this team enjoyed it a lot.
The negatives of Pirates of the Undead Sea are standard for the genre: a few obtuse solutions (especially the last puzzle of the game), navigation that's a little confusing, and a protagonist that deserves a faster walking speed, even if he is a zombie. The background music is high quality, but a mixed bag tone-wise: some of it would be suited better in an elevator than for a terror of the seas. However, these minor drawbacks mean little when compared with the positives. Any fan of classic Lucas Arts adventures will love Pirates of the Undead Sea, and it's sure to be a strong performer in our annual Best of 2011 awards. In conclusion... ARRRRRR.