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Scarlet Sails

by Felicity Banks profile

2015

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From the Author

Related reviews: IFComp 2015
Here are three reviews, starting with the hyper-positive and ending with the hyper-negative. I wrote all of them myself while waiting for IF Comp 2015 results.

There will, eventually, be a major update (it looks like it'll be twice as long as the original, with more scenes and more branching).

Hyper-Positive:

I was immediately drawn into the pirate world by the strong characters and an enjoyable lack of cisgender assumptions (in this world, sexuality is apparently completely fluid, and there is no gender-based discrimination whatsoever - a fantasy world indeed, but a nice place to visit and a lecture-free statement of hope for our own world).

The writing is excellent; fast-paced without compromising on style, and with several moments and images that stuck with me after the story ended. The magic system worked mainly as another "fighting" statistic, but added colour to the narrative at the same time, and foreshadowed the supernatural villains nicely.

As someone who often has trouble picking just one romance, I enjoyed the polyamorous option, and as a relatively new player I enjoyed the ability to look at "Achievements" for insider info on what type of pirate I could be. I've played the game several times, and it feels as if a close friend has written a near-infinite number of pirate stories for me to read depending on my mood at the time.

The optional pieces of actual history at the end reveal that a surprising amount of the fantastical adventure is influenced by real people and real piratical adventures. Truth really is more piratical than fiction! Best enjoyed with a finger (or a bottle) of rum and a sense of adventure. Five Arrrrrrs!

Fair (ish):

The writing is good, sometimes very good - but not as good as Cape, and not funny like Birdland or Brain Guzzlers (funny is harder to write). The NPCs are fun, and it's nice to be able to play as male/female/other and gay/straight/polyamorous without having to have a big talk about it (the other characters are all apparently completely fine with various types of romance, and the game doesn't lecture or educate its audience in any way. In fact it's probably too blasé).

It's probably a bit too easy to die horribly at the end, but that only gets frustrating after the first play-through (also the "trick" is outlined in the player notes at the beginning, and in more detail in the walkthrough). The achievements are fun, especially for beginners, and the coda on historical pirates was interesting.

Hyper-Negative:

Oh good. Yet another quasi-historical story that starts in an utterly stereotypical bar. And the clichés just keep coming - from a peg leg to evil mermaids. Has this writer ever had an original thought?

Speaking of the writer, it's clear she lacks personal conviction and depth of any kind. Even when she obliquely refers to major social issues (such as the gender identity of the protagonist) she takes an offensively simplistic approach.

The only meaningful choice is to be a "good" pirate or a "bad" pirate, and yet the protagonist is forced to kill on at least one occasion (rendering any attempts at so-called "goodness" utterly pointless). Any pleasure derived from the story depends on the player being young enough and ignorant enough to feel that they've achieved something by clicking a mouse a few times in order to increase their statistics - statistics which are almost exclusively based on violence.

The game could be summarised as, "Do you like violence? What kind? Good for you, you blood-spattered snowflake you!" It insults the player's intelligence one last time after the game is finished by giving an abrupt (and wildly speculative) history lesson, evidently designed purely to show off the fact that the writer read a book once. Perhaps she "researched" by drinking a great deal of rum and then throwing up this shallow, mediocre, clichéd disaster. Recommended for people so sad and lonely that a cardboard cut-out romance is satisfying, and a series of largely meaningless (not to mention violent) "level-up"-style choices feels like empowerment.

Playing it drunk might make it appear cleverer than it is, but I tried that and it still sucked. I left one star because apparently it's not possible to leave zero stars.

Comments on this review

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Felicity Banks, November 19, 2015 - Reply
Thanks for the comments. I'm looking into a different cover option at the moment (although no guarantees it'll work out).

I don't think anyone has actually played it drunk and/or at sea and/or with the "Pirates of the Caribbean" soundtrack playing and/or while eating hardtack, bananas, and coconut water straight from the coconut (as recommended by Breakfast Reviews)... but I'm sure someone will try it one day.

Felicity
Sobol, November 19, 2015 - Reply
Thanks for the game, I liked it and am looking forward to the update. Playing it drunk seems like an interesting idea, maybe I'll try it :)

Please consider improving the cover art. It's OK, but I think the game deserves something more complex and ambitious.
Christina Nordlander, November 19, 2015 - Reply
Hey, nice to see a "from the Author" that isn't "Here's a great innovation: an IF game where YOU'RE the hero! I'll just leave these five stars here to trick players into thinking my game is actually good."
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