What We Think
Scurvy Scallywags takes casual Bejeweled clones to a level worthy of an epic RPG. It will appeal to or at least be familiar to fans of Sony Entertainment Online’s Free Realms MMORPG which uses match-3 and other casual game styles to resolve combat and level progression activities.
Shuffle Off The Immortal Coil
While everyone is going zombie-mode spending precious days (after days) playing Candy Crush Saga, Scurvy Scallywags has sneaked in under the radar to push things a little further, adding RPG elements like combat, character stats, leveling and crafting to the way-overpopulated tile-sliding genre.
You begin as a lowly deckhand, in a theatrical play parodying Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance,” that involves being a lowly deckhand in a grand pirate odyssey – yes, it is all a little inexplicably meta, but the quests begin to tie it all together.
Thrust into your first level, you must drag tiles to match swords, assorted piratey objects like fish, crabs, rum bottles, or gold. By lining up three or more lavender-colored power swords, you add to your overall attack power score which will be used when you finally are adjacent to creeps making their way across the board.
Going into combat is as simple as swiping your pirate onto the enemy’s space at which point you both have at it. You will give up some of the difference in power points between your initial power scores in the process, thus you will be required to power back up before your next combat on that level until you’ve wiped out all the creeps.
As you progress however, you will train in special combat bonuses, be they passive or active, which in turn will greatly alter the level of bad guys you can tangle with. With enough points in your combat stats (you can assign one point per character-level) you should have no problem taking out baddies with much higher scores than you. Also, equipment like a gun (which can also be upgraded) will knock points off a bad guy. All told, this tile-matching game has a bona fide combat system.
Other active skills (with long cooldowns) allow you to leapfrog tiles, swap with a tile adjacent to you, run from combat, turn the most common tile into gold bars and more. The “jump to nearest quest item” ability was a little difficult to understand and it took me at least 5 or 6 levels of wondering what the heck it did before it finally worked. I can’t help but wonder if it could be tweaked to be a little more intuitive.
Cooldown times can be reduced by building better ships, which are available as you collect the required supplies along your journey – tall masts, portholes, lumber, rope, buckets of tar, and so on.
The Pillage People
Once an enemy is defeated, a treasure chest will appear which – should you choose to engage it – will immediately set three wheels spinning in the style of a Vegas slot machine – you effectively get whatever shows up on each of the three reels. More than just gold doubloons, rewards can even include such goodies as new costumes, haircuts, faces, ship-building materials or even abilities. New wardrobe pieces can offer bonuses to your stats or attacks, be it a crit, attack dmg, dodge or otherwise.
After killing your rivals, gold bars will start to appear on the screen, which will fill your coffers with currency when you match’em up. You will get on average 5 moves to make the most of it before the level is complete and your stats and scores are displayed. Then there will be a comedic cutscene and you tap on the next destination on the map where you’d like to continue your adventure, at which point you will be back to playing match 3.
Loot in the Age of Scurvy
Other objects that may show up on the board are quest items needed to advance certain storylines and grant you fat paydays, and/or pink wrapped gifts which will bring up the slot machine wheels albeit with cooler potential rewards and unlockables.
Also, don’t forget to stop by the store every so often and sell off all the superfluous junk items you have collected and get a little extra cash which you can use to replenish special abilities, upgrade others, or save up for when you are ready to build and buy a better ship.
When you die, you can use earned in-game currency to rez your pirate; just make sure to store up and prioritize gold tile matches while playing to buy this kind of life insurance. There are in-game purchases for more quick gold, but they are only a last resort QoL (quality of life) option and not needed to complete the game.
Arrr You Sure?
A couple of small wishes and/or gripes:
I with there were incentives or rewards for solving tile matches faster; adding a timelock element could greatly enhance the excitement, particularly when levels begin to look the same and things get “grind-y.” Also, presently, if you DO take a while to do your next match-3, a tile will start to throb to help you out – I wish this could be toggled off as it would to the challenge and prevent monotony by rendering it more puzzle-like.
And to make the game extra-special, changing up the match-3 with one other variety of casual game – say a quick Plants vs. Zombies style tower defense challenge level – between your pirate crew and Davey Jones’ minions – would take this title to a whole other level. But for now, it is a very nicely dressed pony with a couple of extra tricks.
The music is an interesting and sometimes anachronistic mix of ragtime, Captain Beefheart and yo-ho-ho but with the long, time-independent levels, it can become a bit repetitive. In the latest update, however, the devs have implemented the ability to use your own music from your iTunes library, so points for that.
Scurvy Scallywags is brimming with humor, good looks and charm – exactly what you would expect from Ron Gilbert (best known for his work on Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion at the now sadly defunct LucasArts Games studio) and Clayton Kauzlaric – co-creator of DeathSpank.
Sure, it would have been nice to see a whole new full-fledged PC title from this combo, but instead, we get a stellar casual game for tablets. *Shrugs* maybe they are just starting out with something a litle more streamlined just to see how it goes, or maybe they believe mobile casual games are where the money is at; either way, Scurvy Scallywags is a very tightly designed game with excellent replay value, and our iPads are glad they did.