Game Reviews

Scurvy Scallywags

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Scurvy Scallywags

Be honest - there was a part of you that was disappointed when you heard that Scurvy Scallywags was a match-three puzzler. It's okay, we all felt that twinge, that glum certainty that even Ron Gilbert couldn't do anything new with the genre.

And, oh, how foolish we were. Scurvy Scallywags might be a match-three puzzler, but it's also a romp through a pirate musical, complete with spectacular sea shanties, vast ships, terrible nautical jokes, and a fiercely addictive central premise that takes the match-three template and shakes it until it's fun.

Dead men's chests

The game sees you sailing round a map in search of the verses of the greatest sea shanty ever written. You'll need to explore islands, fight pirates, and grab some gold if you want to find the whole tune.

You explore on a treasure map, sailing a predetermined path to a number of islands. Once on an island you've got a number of places of interest to visit. Tap on one of those and you're taken onto the game grid.

The basic concept will be familiar to most people - you slide symbols in straight lines to combine them with other matching symbols in groups of three. The twist is that while you're combining symbols there are bad guys stalking you.

Clearing symbols moves the grid in the corresponding direction, letting you shift your pirate - and the bad guys - around. Matching the glowing sword symbols gives you extra attack power, and you're going to need it.

Bottles of rum

Both you and your opponents have an attack score, and yours is generally an awful lot lower than theirs. That means you need to match swords quickly, all the while avoiding direct contact with the undead pirate or fertiliser monster that's chasing you.

Once you're powered up enough you need to navigate your way to the bad guys and give them a beating. Kill them and you can grab some treasure from their corpses. To begin with there's one enemy per level, but as the game goes on you're fighting and dodging four or more.

The treasure you pick up is handed out at random and ranges from stacks of golds to materials out of which you need to build ships. Different ships give you different boosts when you play, and you need to collect bundles of nails, wood, and other items to get them built.

As you play you're also upgrading your pirate, spending stat points every time he levels-up to buff his skills, and decking him out in new stat-boosting clothes that you find as you fight and explore.

Polly want a cracker

The game isn't perfect, and there are times when you're strong enough to take on the last monster but the pieces just don't fall right, leaving you shuffling around trying to get things to go your way when all you want to do is smack the beast and move on.

But extra skills and new boosts keep the gameplay fresh, and the panic you feel when you realise a zombie pirate is about to kill you if you don't get away from it is surprisingly strong.

Then there's the brilliant soundtrack, the genuninely funny one-liners, and the gorgeous art style, all of which drag you a little further under Scurvy Scallywag's siren song.

This is the sort of game where you can forgive a few faults. Despite what you might have thought - despite what any of us might have thought - Ron Gilbert and co. really have made a fresh, interesting, and above all hugely entertaining match-three puzzler.

Scurvy Scallywags

A masterful mix of match-three, RPG, and pirate jokes, Scurvy Scallywags is a brilliant addition to any iOS game collection
Harry Slater
Harry Slater
Harry used to be really good at Snake on the Nokia 5110. Apparently though, digital snake wrangling isn't a proper job, so now he writes words about games instead.