Burly Men At Sea
How many hours have you spent wishing to be burly? Or to be sailing around in a charming, 2-D adventure on Scandinavian waters? Or even to find a cryptic map that leads to a series of 4-step adventures? Maybe not as many hours as you should, but that can all change now with the newly released game: Burly Men At Sea.
Developed by husband and wife duo Brain&Brain, Burly Men At Sea is a “folktale about a trio of large, bearded fishermen who step away from the ordinary to seek adventure,” as the developers put it. The story is set in the early 20th century in Scandinavia and puts the player in a mariner’s world of simplicity and folklore. You are given the opportunity to choose the path of the game as you shape the story of the three brothers Beard. The brothers embark on a ship in each of the stories and are led to a whale who promptly swallows them and their ship. From the Whale, you are given three methods of exiting. Based on which of those paths you choose will determine what sort of mayhem or monster of actual folklore will greet the brothers. Each story ends with “Her,” which I will leave as a surprise. The Beards return to their tiny village of four people to share their findings with a coffee brewer. At the end of the game, the player should have twelve books each telling a different story.
Not only are the developers of BMAS creative and brilliant, they are also very personable, as they allowed me to contact them directly and ask them a few questions about the game. So to save room for their answers, I will give a concise review of this wonderful game:
Graphics: Hipster 2-D. Very simple settings and characters conveyed through beautiful pastel colors. The word “pleasant” comes to mind. The game offers a creative viewpoint of the scenes, as it will transition through a full-screen view to a view that appears to be through a telescope. Also the cursor is a captain’s wheel, and that’s pretty hilarious.
Story: Definitely a “Create Your Own Adventure”-esque model. The NPCs are simple and not especially game altering to give you more room to decide what comes next. The writing and dialogue is beautiful and gives the feeling that you’re being told an ancient story. The mystery and simplicity of the story doesn’t necessarily drive you forward, but the puzzles and necessity of getting all twelve books does.
Controls: Perhaps the most unique and simple controls I’ve ever seen. You have a cursor that you drag to move. You click on things to interact. Yes, that’s all. Think classic Mario where you’re running in one direction, but even more simple and with significantly less mobs. (Pro tip: When in doubt, drag. You might be missing something.)
Soundtrack: Imagine Sigor Rós remaking a soundtrack for a Zelda game. Also, all sound effects come from the mouth of a human, which makes animal sounds and splashes much more funny.
Characters: You have three brothers: Hasty Beard, Steady Beard, and Brave Beard. Four NPCs: A lazy village musician, a coffee brewer, an old baker, and a grunting blacksmith. You will also encounter a number of monsters and other creatures of folklore, such as a glum Grim Reaper or a Mountain with the soul of a golden retriever. Each character has hilariously proportioned bodies.
Media: Each book you collect will give you a code that you can enter at here, which will allow you to purchase an actual book telling your story later this fall. I foresee beautiful coffee table books in your future.
Before you rush away to purchase this game for Mac, PC, Android, or iOS, take a look at this charming Q&A I was able to have with the husband of the Brain&Brain duo, David:
1.) What was the inspiration for Burly Men At Sea?
It actually began as a name that we’d joked about years ago. After releasing our first game, we decided to turn that name into a folklore-inspired seafaring adventure about three bearded men. A Scandinavian setting felt perfect for that sort of story, with creatures drawn from the folklore found in books like Benjamin Thorpe’s 19th-century Northern Mythology.
The game’s aesthetic was inspired by a variety of things: modern Scandinavian illustration, illustrated storybooks like Saul Bass’ Henri’s Walk to Paris, even the colors of paint traditionally used in Norwegian fishing villages. Henry’s short story “Roads of Destiny” was a good reference for our branching narrative, in which small choices each lead the character through a different series of events but ultimately to the same conclusion. And it’s no secret that we’re big Star Trek fans, so the idea of three protagonists with strong personalities was most definitely inspired by the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triad.
2.) What about the game do you think is the most unique?
Our draggable viewport mechanic is something that’s never been done in a game before (as far as we know), but the unique aspect that we’re most proud of is the way we handled the branching story. Branching narratives are pretty common in games right now, but we tried to take a different approach to it: short loops that could each be completed in a single sitting, and choices that are about discovery rather than morals or character-shaping.
We’ve played a lot of games that made us curious about what other choices would have led to, but the length kept us from going back to find out. They’re great games, some of our favorites, but we wanted to try a different approach with Burly Men at Sea.
3.) Will there be any updates for the game in the future?
We still have some animation and sound effects we’d like to add that didn’t make it into the release. Beyond that, our future plans for the game are primarily to focus on a console release.
If you would like to read more on the game before you purchase it, go here, and then follow the links on the left to the appropriate store for you! Safe sailing!