Adventure Gamers Awards
Chook & Sosig started out as characters in a number of free visual novel games. A ghost chicken and blue cat with noodly arms, respectively, the two protagonists and their friends share a variety of fun times together. Indie developer TookiPalooki used the earlier games to gain experience before starting work on the first commercial 2D point-and-click adventure Chook & Sosig: Walk the Plank. Their newest get-together sees the gang participating in a roleplaying game enacted on a number of Caribbean islands, with Sosig playing the part of a pirate on a quest for treasure. Even though I’d never played any of the previous titles, I had no trouble getting into this one and was very glad that I did. Walk the Plank is simply a lot of fun!
The game opens with the titular pair joining their other friends for a relaxing tabletop RPG. Exley, a sort of undead goat, is the game master and runs the event. The playable portions all take place within the roleplaying game itself, with Sosig as the main character. As he interacts with the others, occasionally the view switches back to the table for the characters to exchange some light and usually witty banter. For instance, Hebble, an orange wiener dog, is frequently trying to find ways to get a dragon into the game because he happens to have a dragon miniature in his game box. Although he says he’d play a friendly dragon, the others know that never lasts nor ends well.
Sosig’s other friends include Cow, an undead ungulate who always speaks in capital letters. Technically he’s only part of a cow, as his head has been separated from his body and mounted on a placard. Nobody quite knows where the rest of his body is. And then there’s Min, a bat who is the head of the Psychic Association (outside of the roleplaying game). Actually, she’s the de facto head as she’s the only psychic in the association. Each of Sosig’s friends portray multiple characters within the context of the RPG, and it’s interesting to see the different situations they get involved in. Cow proudly proclaiming he’s joined a cult and Hebble showing up as a mermaid are equal parts endearing and disturbing.
The stated game-within-a-game goal for Sosig is quite simple. As a pirate he’s searching for lost treasure hidden on a similarly lost island. His travels to find both lead him to quite a number of different isles, each consisting of one or two rooms. Early on he only has access to a few such places, but as the game proceeds more areas are unlocked. When leaving one island, a map of all the places currently available is brought up. Clicking on another destination will sail Sosig there and deposit him on its shore.
Although there are relatively few locations overall – perhaps only a dozen or so – Walk the Plank makes good use of the ones it has. There’s quite a lot of variety, from the storm-swept island of Cow’s cult to the bottle mail depot (an island devoted to a mail system that delivers messages via bottles in the ocean); from the sunny tropics of an island of goblins, to Hebble’s adventuring guild (with its assorted examples of taxidermy). It’s a weird mix that somehow always feels appropriate and, in an unorthodox way, rather comically piratey. Each locale is beautifully hand-drawn with clean lines, vibrant colours, and plenty of background details. Occasionally the level of detail works against the game, as it can sometimes be hard to pick out which parts are interactive, but a context-sensitive mouse cursor and optional hotspot highlighter help to rectify that situation.
The locales are also well-utilized throughout the adventure. There may not be a lot of places to go, but each one tends to be used multiple times. For example, Hebble’s adventuring guild not only provides an extension to the travel map early on, it’s also revisited a number of times later when various exotic animals in the region are referenced. It’s important to return to places you’ve been as the game progresses to see if anything has changed or if any of the characters have anything new to say. And yet even though it’s necessary to make multiple repeat trips, it doesn’t occur so often that it feels like being stuck in one spot or even caught in a loop. Backtracking is never random as there’s always a hint of where you need to go, but some hints are given early on and aren’t utilized until much later.
Most scenes incorporate some animation, and indeed this is one of the areas where Walk the Plank really shines. There’s something delightful in seeing two goblins hopping from foot to foot around a cauldron, or watching an angry seagull messenger – a competitor to the bottle mail service – squawk angrily at Sosig for getting too close to his nest. My personal favourite, though, is simply Sosig’s normal walk cycle. With a semi-dopey grin and languid swings of his spaghetti-like arms, it’s great fun simply to watch him move about. (I even took some time out from actual adventuring just to walk Sosig in circles a few times!)
For those not interested in waiting for Sosig to mosey along, he can be made to run by clicking and holding the mouse button, although his normal speed is fairly swift already. If that’s still not fast enough, double-clicking an exit will immediately load the next screen. The rest of the game plays in typical point-and-click fashion, with the left mouse button used to either examine, interact, or talk depending on the selected target. A few items can be taken from the environment and placed in inventory, which is available at the top of the screen with the click of an on-screen button. From there they can be dragged to an appropriate hotspot for attempted use.Continued on the next page...