By Ian McCabe
Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World is a downloadable point-and-click adventure game from Petar Ivancek, developed by Croatian studio Cateia Games. Set in an alternate 19th Century world and as old-school as adventure games get, this is a colourful, rib-tickling journey through space and beyond. So, batten down the hatches, set the sails, and… compute the Bital Synchronisations?!
First things first, disregard everything you learned in history class. Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World is ‘what if’ fiction, posing the question: ‘What if space exploration was made possible as early as 1812?’ That is exactly what has happened in this game. A device known as the ‘Polar Ion Drive’ has allowed humanity to venture outside of earth and land on other planets, creating new homes, industry and of course profit. Naturally, there’s always someone who wants to ruin it for the rest, notably a group of space pirates called ‘The Kribbs.’ So, in order to counter these intergalactic mercenaries, the planets ganged together to create the space union and sent out space police to restore order. Enter the bravest (or brawest) space policeman of them all, Kaptain Brawe.
Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World is a classic 2D point-and-click adventure game, doing exactly what it says on the tin. It’s an old-fashioned puzzle solver which won’t receive any marks for innovation, but what it does, it does very well. The game feels like a throwback to the old days, in particular the LucasArts adventure games of the early 90’s. In fact, it feels very similar to the early Monkey Island games, all the way from the animations, quirky dialogue and the catchy, albeit repetitive soundtrack. From the very first moments of gameplay, I felt a warming sense of nostalgia.
The story follows our protagonist Kaptain Brawe, a heroic yet dim-witted space officer. He is accompanied by his crew, the arrogant navigator Ensign Kralek and his trusty field companion Rowboat. Using their ship, the SPS Mazlow, Brawe travels from planet to planet trying to banish the Kripps and bring glory to the space union. It’s a fun story which offers about 15 hours of gameplay and plenty of laughs, especially at Brawe’s expense (his spelling of the word ‘Captain’ should give you some insight into the man’s intelligence). The comedy isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, mind, instead using very subtle and witty humour. The characters are colourful and the dialogue is clever and humorous. However, the pacing is slightly inconsistent, with many lulls throughout. The most interesting thing about Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World is the unique blend of the old Victorian-era world with science fiction themes and equipment.
The puzzles range from simple to devilishly devious, from “Ah, clever” to “Gimme a break, I just checked the tea-cup! Don’t toy with me!” Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World caters for both casual and hardcore adventure fans and has two difficulty modes, the casual mode and, you guessed it, the hardcore mode. The casual mode includes hotspots which can be highlighted and show clues, whereas the hardcore mode expects you to figure everything out yourself. The hint system has always been an iffy subject with adventure games, often masquerading as a walkthrough and explaining the puzzles outright. Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World’s hint system does a great job of providing slight nudges but still allowing the player to figure it all out for themselves. In fact, the player is actually punished slightly for taking the easy way out; in the hardcore mode you are able to study objects, treating you to bonus dialogue and background information.
The puzzles usually follow the same formula throughout the game. Using Brawe (or occasionally two other characters, Danny and Luna), you will use items in your inventory and combine them with another item. Kaptain Brawe’s sidekick, robot… thing… Rowboat accompanies you, carrying your inventory in his chest. He can even be used directly, for example being utilised at one point as a raft, so teamwork is also essential.
The graphics, characters and backgrounds are striking and colourful, with a very cartoonish feel. The detail is a wonder to look at, although the character animations can be quite clumsy and sticky. The accompanying soundtrack also does a great job of setting the tone for each area, but it can become annoyingly repetitive after a while. Sound effects are quite rare, but are a highlight when they are used, notably the electronic sounds of Rowboat. However, one thing which may put many players off is the lack of voiceovers. Hardcore adventure gamers should be fine with this, but initially it can be quite distracting and sadly it often detracts from the overall experience. Some of the jokes really miss the payoff of a voiced delivery, especially with the lack of character facial expressions. On the plus side, the lack of voices adds to the humour of the spelling mistakes in the subtitles – a recurring joke within a lot of Kaptain Brawe’s dialogue. And it really doesn’t take anything away from the supporting character’s personalities, which are very well developed.
As with a lot of point-and-click games, Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World is more than likely an acquired taste. Adventure fans should fall for its charm and clever puzzles, even if some will likely involve your head becoming friends with a wall. Others, unfortunately, may become frustrated at the game’s pacing and repetitive nature. The lack of voice acting may also diminish the experience for some. This game doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but it is still a solid and fun point-and-clicker. It looks great and doesn’t force the humour, relying on frequent small belly laughs rather than constantly aiming for massive side splitters, which has bogged down many an adventure game in the past. The blend of old and new is a unique touch too.
Overall, for the casual gamer, perhaps pass, but if you’re a point-and-click adventure enthusiast, this is a game you’ll definitely want to play.
8 OUT OF 10