Recently I have been making an effort to play a bunch of the smaller, indie titles that I did not find the time for last year (thanks in large part to all the 100 hour + games that I ended up enjoying last year), and one that I had been looking forward to for a long, long time is the narrative folk-tale adventure Burly Men at Sea. Originally released on the PC in September 2016 (and eventually coming to PS4/Vita in September of 2017), Burly Men at Sea is a whimsical and outrageously wonderful narrative experience from Brain&Brain Games (a husband and wife duo who literally worked as farmhands to help fund their creation).
I have totally tipped my cards already on how I feel about this game, but let's take a deeper look at it anyway:
Burly Men at Sea follows the exploits of three, burly, heavily-bearded fisherman (brothers) who leave their normal, early 20th century Scandinavian lives behind and set off for adventure. Over the course of the game, you (the Player) are put in control of what is essentially a "choose your own adventure" story wherein you make a set of 50/50 decisions and see how the story plays out for the Brothers Beard. The adventures themselves (and I will not spoil them for you, I promise) tend to involve creatures from Scandinavian folklore, and you can easily complete one in roughly twenty minutes-to-half an hour. There are several stories you can experience, and something that I absolutely loved about the game was that even though you would have to repeat a few story beats (sometimes) in order to get to make a different choice, there was slight variations in the story...the Brothers would comment on how things had gone "last time" or what they expected, in such a sweet way that it made every story feel well worth it.
Then we have to talk about the artstyle and music....but first, in case you're unfamiliar with the game, check out the launch trailer (to at least give you a taste of the two):
Absolutely beautiful, in such a pure, minimalist style that made me feel like I was playing through a truly excellent storybook from my childhood. The art is just perfect for Burly Men at Sea because it instantly sets the tone for what you are about to experience, and over the course of my 2 hours of gameplay (roughly, to get the Platinum trophy AKA play every story) I often found myself snagging screenshots, just because I loved what I was seeing, or, there were even occasions where I was caught off guard by just how damn pretty a frame was.
This was all helped by the excellent original soundtrack from Plied Sound; I got flashes of things like The Lego Movie, Swiss Army Man, and just sitting around with my friends recording and making sound effects for things, all wrapped into one endlessly charming package. As soon as I had finished the game, for what I think is the first time ever, I started looking into picking up the soundtrack from Burly Men at Sea to just have.
I never do that.
I, considering I write the Daily Song Drop, used to DJ, do some sound design for theater, excellent sound is something I am very particular on, and this was not only fit the project, it fit it so well that I would never want to imagine Burly Men at Sea without this soundtrack.
If i have any complaints about Burly Met at Sea, it would probably be to do with the controls on PS4. I completely understand that the game was originally for PC, and that having a mouse for the game would be ideal, but moving with the cursor with the joystick took some getting used to...and at a certain point, I discovered that I could use the touchpad, and for what felt like the first time ever, I used that for my primary cursor. I just wish I wasn't like 80% through when I discovered I could do that...
The thing is, however, there is really no precision required when it comes to Burly Men at Sea, you are never asked to make a snappy decision, or execute a difficult puzzle or be forced to restart, so the controls are not a serious problem, I just wanted to mention them as if you are jumping into this experience, it may take you a bit of time to get the hang of everything.
Burly Men at Sea is a short game that, if you are looking to do everything, will probably run you around 2 hours, but frankly this feels like the perfect length, and once the stories are concluded, is quite satisfying. I say that I may have wanted more, but this run time feels so perfect, that I would worry about it overstaying it's welcome, rather than ending where it did and leaving me with the feeling that I want to encourage more people to play it, and having the idea that I may end up resetting the story and playing it again for myself in the future.
Burly Men at Sea is an experience that I feel everyone should consider having; if you are a fan of narrative games (with a heavy focus on story over gameplay), and you are at all interested, you really do owe it to yourself to try this out. It's funny, charming, and sweet in a way that makes it feel like the very best of your childhood storybooks, and I hope that there are those of you out there who read that and rush out to try it.
I mean, just talking about it here makes me want to play it again, and I only just finished it.