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Ship of Fools Review: Bring Your First Mate

Ship of Fools is a coop-focused roguelike that’s got a lot of charm, but which solo players might want to wait for a sale on. If you don’t plan to play with friends, you definitely should try the demo ahead of time.

Disclaimer: Nobody is EVER this happy to hold a seagull.

I think it was a bold choice to eschew single player as the focus here, and I’m not exactly a fan of that decision. It’s certainly a great way to set themselves apart from a gameplay standpoint. However, I feel that it takes a certain amount of control away from the player, because it’s no longer JUST about their skill and/or grinding and persistence – it’s about another person’s as well. I don’t think that the genre really lends itself to coop. Given that one person’s failure almost certainly can doom a run for the other, it seems tailor-made to lead to a lot of frustration. That being said, the devs have done a fine job of making the learning curve a relatively easy one.

The game’s art style is second to none.

The character designs and artwork are really good, giving the game a distinct style. The soundtrack is absolutely great, full of instrumental sea shanties which really help set the tone of the game. They’re mildly melancholic, but with just enough major keys and just uptempo enough to imbue you with the slightest bit of optimism in the face of the catastrophe. Two slight complaints (and they’re very slight) that I have is that there’s very little deeper here, in terms of lore. Maybe it’s just because Hades redefined my expectations on that front, but the story and lore just feel lacking. The other aspect I didn’t care for is the “bloop bloop” style voicing on the characters in conversation. I’d rather there have been no voice work, instead of the nonsense noises they make. Again, it’s minor and very me-specific, but I feel that it detracts.

Once you understand the symbols, navigating the map is a breeze.

As to the gameplay itself – you’re on a rickety ship, seeking to drive back the Endless Storm and the monsters it brings. You have cannons to shoot long range at foes, an oar to assault them when they get close. You can also use the oar as a baseball bat to (hopefully) knock projectile attacks back at them as well. You’ll also have to balance repairing your ship in combat – and this is where the co-op is exceedingly important. While the game is entirely playable solo, it was created and tuned as a co-op experience. This means that you’re essentially playing the game on a higher difficulty level, and you’re going to need to multi-task. You should be prepared to fail more regularly and need to grind a bit more than in the two player experience. While some of that is part and parcel with a roguelike/roguelite, I feel it bears mentioning here. If you don’t have a friend to play with, you might want to wait for a sale to take a chance on it.

This island is actually a good place, believe it or not.

The gameplay itself is generally smooth, though sometimes it can be a little fiddly, in terms of placing a cannon properly or loading it quickly. There’s a satisfying feeling of your power increasing, and in unlocking new characters (there’s eventually ten who are playable). There’s four bosses to challenge before you complete the game, though it’s worth pointing out that there’s no randomization going on, so you’ll always see them in the same order as you progress. Overall, it’s fun and polished, but more experienced roguelite fans may find it a bit lacking if the combat or setting don’t really resonate with you, as there’s not really a postgame, beyond just getting your ship fully upgraded, or perhaps unlocking a final character you’ve somehow missed.

You’ll unlock NPC’s and new playable characters at a satisfying clip.

Still, this game definitely rates an A as a high quality co-op experience, and a slightly less (but still great) solo journey.


The Chuck is a lifelong gamer who was born in Ohio, but now lives in much closer proximity to Mickey Mouse.

The Chuck has found his life to be a series of improbable and almost unbelievable events, starting when he was twenty and caught the bubonic plague from a prairie dog. He was as surprised as anyone when he found out that's something that can happen.

When he isn't gaming, The Chuck can be found enjoying baseball, (American) football, pro wrestling, and horror movies. He is most commonly seen in the company of one or more cats.

Reclusive by nature, The Chuck is (like most semi-feral creatures) reward-driven. Approach with caution and some form of treat.

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