"There ain't no such thing as too many pirates, matey. Arr..."
Those were Steve Ince's words when So Blonde prequel/spin-off adventure Captain Morgane and the Golden Turtle was first announced and people expressed concerns about the originality of the pirate theme. Set in the same world as So Blonde and its darker “what if?” Nintendo alternative Back to the Island, Captain Morgane reveals how Morgane Castillo, the female ship captain we met in those two games, became one of the most fearsome pirates of the Caribbean. The developers from Wizarbox thought she was such an interesting character that she deserved her own game, so they contacted Ince, who wrote and designed both So Blonde games, and asked him if he wanted to work with them again. He did, and at the gamescom in Cologne we got the chance to look at a few scenes from the game, which will be released on PC, PlayStation 3, Wii and DS later this year.
Morgane is the daughter of famous pirate Alessandro Castillo, and as the game starts we see her as a carefree young girl exploring Bounty Island with her friends. This serves as an introduction to several characters, including her playmates Nell and Bobby. When her uncle Eduardo is lost at sea, Morgane is inconsolable, refusing to believe he is really dead. Shortly after, her mother dies and her father doesn't have any other option than to take her with him on his travels. This unusual upbringing causes Morgane to grow up wanting to be a pirate herself.
Ten years later, she is still friends with Nell and Bobby, who are now lovers, and when Bobby goes missing Morgane promises Nell she'll help find him. Her father realizes he can't go on protecting her forever, and wants her to take on some more responsibility. This means she'll have to go on a treasure hunt of sorts, to find two things: cargo and a crew. As this is the 17th century, initially most men are quite reluctant to serve under a girl, but she eventually manages to get a crew together, and cargo is also found when merchant Thomas Briscoe charters her boat to search for a legendary artifact. Thomas has been looking for the Golden Turtle for years, following a trail of clues left by adventurer Buckleberry Tanner, and he suspects it is hidden on Turtle Island. He is not the only one to look for the treasure, however, as the villain Hilary Simpkins is also searching for it.
The journey takes players across fifty locations through five different tropical islands. One of the islands we visit is Forgotten Island, where the two So Blondes were set, but the other four are completely new. Each island will have a distinct look and feel, with plenty of attention to funny little details, such as blinking animal skin rugs and small creatures on Bounty Island. These kinds of details are never distracting from the main objective but are fun to discover for the meticulous observer. More effort has also been made to make the characters blend in with the backgrounds this time.
The Wizarbox team claims to have listened carefully to reactions from players and reviewers, and they promise not to make the same mistakes in Captain Morgane. One issue they have tackled is the amount of backtracking required. Once you have found a map, you will be able to use it to fast-travel to any previously visited location on that island, and from the docks on each island you can instantly reach the other islands. This also eliminates most of the loading screens that annoyed a lot of players.
The developers claim there will be more optional 'sidequests' here, and the game will be less linear. Like in the Wii/DS exclusive Back to the Island, there will be a diary function that lists the current tasks to help you remember what you should be doing next. The hotspot highlight function also returns, making interesting items sparkle at the press of a button. Focus tests have been held to ensure that clues provided by other characters are not too obscure or too obvious, and the puzzles will be more intuitive than in So Blonde. Obtacles will be mostly inventory-based again, and the difficulty level will be about the same as the original So Blonde.
There will also be minigames similar in style to those in So Blonde, but these will once again be skippable for any who don't like such sequences. If you do so on the PlayStation 3, you might miss a trophy here and there, but otherwise bypassing them will have no consequence. Speaking of the PS3, the game will have full HD graphics and support the Move controller as an optional means of moving the cursor, though it will also playable with a normal gamepad.
With the noise at the fair we weren't able to hear much from the soundtrack of the game, unfortunately, but we heard enough to know that the voice actress for Morgane is different than the one used in the previous games. She had a Spanish accent in the two So Blonde adventures, but she now speaks very British English, which will certainly take some getting used to. (Update: Since time of writing, Reef Entertainment has revealed its intention to re-record English voiceovers in response to negative fan feedback of the new direction. See the Comments section below for the initial announcement.)
I enjoyed both So Blonde games, but even with Steve Ince behind the story and design for Captain Morgane and the Golden Turtle, I'm not entirely sure the pirate theme hasn't been exploited too much lately. The game does look promising though, with its beautiful graphics, optional sidequests and more logical puzzle solutions than its predecessors, so we'll just have to wait and see if Morgane’s coming-of-age tale is enough to carry her through her own game. In the meantime, AG Editor Jack Allin caught up with Steve for a little behind-the-scenes insight into Morgane Castillo’s (first?) solo adventure.Continued on the next page...