Back in 2007, Nellie Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy! came out on PCs everywhere. The point and click pirate puzzle game was critically acclaimed, but it's sequel entered development hell. So 8 years later, after a delayed Kickstarter, it finally came out. Nellie is back! And, well, it's actually pretty amazing.
Nellie is still a pirate in the story, fresh off of saving spoonbeaks from last time. But it turns out she missed a part of the pirate code, and an old ghost pops up to tell her that the birds are back again, and are now in danger from his brother using them to steal his treasure. While the story isn't bad, it goes in and out of it. It still stays on story, but you get caught up on puzzles and little things. It's a good problem to have, it just gets off track now and then.
Controller-wise it works. As a point and click game there isn't much keyboard action. If you have a fingerpad you'll do fine, and if you have a mouse that's fine too. Gameplay itself is fine too. Some of the puzzles and decisions you make are a little tough, but it's fun to figure out – some it can be a little cerebral, which is always a welcome addition.
Graphically it's beautiful. For a 2D game it has an artistic style close to Don't Starve, but with more water color-like realism. Colors bleed out of objects in a 1940's-colored water color way. Interiors are also especially beautiful and detailed. An askew bookshelf or a small patch of grass somewhere are nice little touches. Whenever a character moves it's very flowing. Nellie walks cleanly and everything, but not in a jerky way. The only sour note is mouth movement – it doesn't always synch and seems do be on a different technological scale as the rest of the game. But overall? Very awesome.
Musically it's soft, but leaves a nice background flow. It's a bit loopy, but not in a distracting way. It's like a warm loop. Mysterious places have an air of enigma around them. Water scenes have a jaunty nautical tune. It's simple, but does the trick.
On the sound side of things, The Fowl Fleet does well. The voice cast is amazing. All English (of course) and that fits in well with the pirate theme. Object clicks sync well too. As a side note, the dialogue is great. It's witty, funny and keeps an overall lighter tone. I actually laughed at some dialogue choices. Her tone is especially amusing – she seems bemused by everything and totally aware she's in a video game, and it's a real treat to interact with.
The mechanics are very smooth. I mentioned the walking effects, but effects also mesh well. Floaty ghosts, bobbing ships – they take the still image-eye blinking from JRPG's to another level. There were no bugs for the entire game either, besides a few times I clicked on something and it didn't respond.
Going in, I didn't think much of this game. Just another indie game really. But with some beautiful art, an engaging story, some fun gameplay and snappy dialogue, Nellie Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet is a nice little gem. No wonder it's Kickstarter did so well.
Final Score: 9.1 out of 10