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Nelly Cootalot:
Spoonbeaks Ahoy!
Developer:Alasdair Beckett
Release Date:March 2007
Article Posted:June 2010
System Requirements

It is a beautiful day out on the open seas. The sky is clear and the ocean is peaceful. Nelly is taking a nap as the waves gently rock her boat. Unfortunately, she will have to finish her siesta later. There is no time to rest when innocent animals are in peril. The waters start to churn and the specter of Captain Bloodbeard appears. Bloodbeard tells Nelly that spoonbeaks have vanished from the isle of Meeth. The disappearance of the birds is surely an ill omen. Nelly must immediately travel to the island and find out what happened.

Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy! begins as the young pirate arrives at Meeth. Nelly immediately sets out in search of the spoonbeaks, but her task will not be easy. She will have to face unfriendly pirates, a primate voodoo master, and an obnoxious baron with an almighty beard. Nelly will need all her wits and charm to unlock the mystery of the spoonbeaks. It is a good thing she remembered to put on her adventuring corset this morning...

Developed by Alasdair Beckett, Nelly Cootalot is a point-and-click adventure game that uses the Adventure Game Studio engine. The game takes place at the island of Meeth as players take control of Nelly and look for the missing birds. The premise might be simple, but with its humorous tone and amusing puzzles, Spoonbeaks Ahoy delivers an excellent adventure gaming experience.

For starters, Nelly is a remarkably likable lead character. Her pink cheeks and purple dress do not exactly invoke the image of a fearsome pirate. At times she is a little inexperienced, maybe even gullible. Her innocent demeanor stands out against the callous characters she has to face during the adventure. But that doesn't mean she is a helpless. She is quick-witted and definitely not afraid to speak her mind when needed. She can craft elaborate lies and put together a masterful disguise. She has a great mix of naiveté and resourcefulness that makes her endearing.

The remainder of the cast is quite amusing as well. Living up to his name, Baron Widebeard has enough facial hair to provide shelter for a small family of woodland creatures. Full of himself and more than a little delusional, Widebeard makes a great antagonist. Shopkeepers Bjorn and Olafssen are happy to go on about their powder-monkey grooming kits or brand new iHook. Whether you are trying to convince Captain Rehab that you are a real pirate or discussing the latest fashion trends with the baron's wife, the quirky characters are consistently entertaining.

Nelly's investigation primarily unfolds through conversations with other characters and inventorybased puzzles. The dialogs offer plenty of humor while staying true to the game's pirate theme. There were several times during the game where the absurdity of the conversation or weirdness of the characters brought a smile to my face. You may not exactly fall out of your chair with laughter, but you can expect at least a couple of chuckles thanks to the colorful cast and great dialog in Spoonbeaks Ahoy.

The puzzles are also fairly amusing. The majority of the challenges involve obtaining and using the correct inventory item on the right hotspot. These puzzles are not exceptionally difficult, but you do need to be creative about how you use certain inventory items. There are also a couple of hotspots that are a little too blended into the background. You may need to visit some locations multiple times before you find all the interactive areas. In addition to the inventorydriven challenges, the game features a couple of logic puzzles. You will need to decode an encrypted message and figure out how to correctly operate a piece of machinery. These puzzles offer a nice break from the regular challenges.

Nelly Cootalot is played from a third-person perspective. If you have played a Lucas Arts adventure game such as Full Throttle, the interface should be very familiar. The left mouse button is used to move Nelly around the screen. Nelly can interact with other characters and certain objects in the environment. When you bring the mouse over one of these hotspots, a short description appears at the bottom of the screen. Holding the left mouse button while hovering on hotspots opens the 'action compass'. The compass has three icons that can be used to interact with objects in the environment. The 'speech bubble' is used to talk to other characters. Clicking on the 'porthole' causes Nelly to look at the selected object and provide some commentary. The 'hook' icon is used to perform actions. Nelly can pick up inventory items or try to operate various devices. The inventory is accessed with the right mouse button. Players can combine items or try to use them on objects in the environment. The game also features a map that can be used to quickly travel between the different locations.

Considering that it is a freeware adventure, Nelly Cootalot offers plenty of play time. The island has several locations to explore and a good number of puzzles to solve. It should take several hours to get through the game in your first play-through. The game is also effective at communicating your objectives. The conversations and Nelly's monologues provide fairly clear instructions as to what you should be trying to do next.

The graphics, sound effects, and music are more than adequate as well. The character models and backgrounds help augment the game's lighthearted atmosphere. The oddly shaped buildings and contraptions feel very appropriate. Mr. Beckett has clearly put some time into designing each location. One minor issue with the presentation is the absence of color at certain locations. For instance, the shelves at one of the island's stores are stacked with a large variety of items. However, all of the items and the shelves themselves are colored brown. It would have been nice to see a few more vibrant colors on these objects. Thankfully, this is not a prominent issue and does not truly detract from the experience.

Composed by Mark Lovegrove, the music seems well suited for the tone of the game. The cheerful themes enhance the mood without becoming overbearing. The only issue with the soundtrack is that it can become a little repetitive if you spend too much time at one location. Fortunately, since the game uses different tracks for different portions of the island and this is not a serious problem.

Overall, Nelly Cootalot is an excellent adventure game. With its likable main character, witty humor, and fun puzzles, the game is very easy to recommend. There are a few minor issues, but they do not significantly affect the experience. If you enjoy pirate-themed games and like dialog-heavy adventures, do not miss Nelly Cootalot. A free copy can be obtained from the Adventure Game Studio Web site.

PC System Requirements:
500 Mhz Pentium Processor
128 Mb RAM
Windows 95 OSR2, 98, ME, 2000 or XP with DirectX 5+
DirectX compatible video card that supports 16 bit 640x480 resolution
DirectX compatible sound card