Burly Men At Sea is a strange side-scrolling game by Brain&Brain in which you play as three brothers, each named after a trait they possess, ala the seven dwarfs of Snow White. These three brothers, fishermen in search of adventure, find a bottle with a map inside it. Perplexed by its nearly vacant nature, they ask around town for advice. Guided by one of the locals, the brothers set out on their boat, ready to explore and experience what the world has to offer.
Mechanically, the game is bare-bones. The player drags the mouse to the left or right to navigate and clicks on objects in the hopes of finding something interactable. What the game does offer, however, is a variety of stories to tell. All of them begin the same way, and the choices are simple enough to find if one clicks randomly on the screen. There is little to indicate that a given clickable object represents a choice, as many things which are clickable simply move or, as is the case with most of the townsfolk, provide a touch of dialogue. In at least one instance, however, the game prevented what appeared to be a split choice: Explore the island or hop back in the boat, by way of a line of text indicating that there was something to interact with on the island. It was an in-character comment and took no risks of breaking immersion, but still corrected player behaviour. There may be other instances of this which simply weren’t stumbled across.
The music and art of the game are both simplistic, but not sub-par. Many of the game’s most interesting characters are little more than a handful of lines, and even the protagonists are differentiated purely by beard color. The game’s sounds are distinct, and the music atmospheric.
Burly Men At Sea is, at its core, a basic game which could have existed, in spirit if not within the memory constraints, in the era of Super Nintendo Entertainment System. What gives it a unique flair and charm is the feature which Brain&Brain included at the end of each playthrough. The player is given a numerical code, as well as a series of images, which represent the journey of that particular run. Players can take this code and input it at the game’s website to reveal a secret. This review won’t spoil what the secret is, but it isn’t a half-baked cutscene or snippet of text as an epilogue. The secret is something truly unique, and it takes this game above other narrative-driven games lacking gameplay features, particularly those with only one story to experience. It is, however, still a simplistic game with little to offer in the way of challenge or compelling narrative. It is difficult to feel threatened by a nearing danger while in the throes of a tedious pixel hunt, and the story, when it does happen, is as basic as it comes. For children old enough to read, but not old enough to experience stories with real depth, Burly Men At Sea may be an enjoyable game. Otherwise, it will last an hour at best. There are better ways to entertain a child, with more longevity, for the price of the game.