Over the years, I've endured many stupid puzzles in adventure games. Even so, having to direct a trickle of coconut milk onto molten lava to cool it down enough to make a rock-bridge in order to lure a chicken to a temple entrance so that it can peck through a salt barrier may just be the stupidest in living memory.
This is Ghost Pirates' first puzzle. In case you're wondering, no - there is no good reason not to just pick up the damn chicken and carry it. Five minutes into the game, I had the letters QWERTY imprinted backwards on my head from repeatedly slamming it into my keyboard. And no, things didn't get much better from there.
You know a game that wouldn't have led to that? Monkey Island. It's silly to compare every adventure to that classic, but in this case, it's justified – not only is Ghost Pirates about undead buccaneers, it's headed up by Bill Tiller, who also handled Curse's amazing cartoon look. Given this, it's no wonder that Vooju looks great – much more atmospheric than Telltale's episodic series, even with its silly flourishes like the female characters' ridiculously bouncy breasts. Sadly, it fails to live up to its heritage where it counts. The puzzles are mostly tedious, with far too much filler. The jokes aren't funny. It's glitchy, with lines failing, cut-scenes ending early and bad sound mixing at several points. Worst of all, it squanders its best idea – having three characters able to swap advice on their specialist subjects, as well as shifting between ghost form and their physical bodies – by completely isolating them in their own smaller-scale stories throughout.
(Actually, no, scratch that. The worst thing is that you can't skip dialogue. If doing the old paper-under-the-door puzzle is a hanging offence – and it is - offering no way to hurry a dull dialogue warrants hanging, quartering and all bodily organs being ripped out, with all entrails fed to the mangiest of the city's hounds. For starters ...)
Taken on its own merits, Ghost Pirates is a decent concept, weighed down by execution that varies from bad to just uninspired. It's pretty, and pretty average – dull rather than abysmal, much like previous brainless-beauty A Vampyre Story. However, when you take on one of your genre's most loved names, mediocrity is the ultimate curse. From the incoherent theme song onwards (it's on YouTube, and I defy you to sing along ), this is one game that simply never learned Monkey Island's most treasured secret.
Déjà vu island, more like. An imperfect copy of a much loved series that remains unbeaten for a reason.