Release Date – November 22, 2022 Developer – Fika Publisher – Team17 Platforms – PC, Switch, PlayStation, Xbox consoles
Ship of Fools is a beautiful looking roguelike co-op title that while doable solo, really thrives with a friend.
Ship of Fools is the newest co-op roguelike from Team17. Becoming basically synonymous with co-op like games, Team17 brings together a host of good features with a new blend that is sure to scratch the itch of fans of the genre.
As soon as you fire up Ship of Fools, you’ll notice a huge similarity to Cult of the Lamb graphics wise. It’s the debut title from Fika productions, and it will set you on a course for both fun and frustration. Beginning on the Great Lighthouse hub world, we can choose from one of two characters to begin the game. Our guide is named Clarity (irony aside), and she quite poignantly points out that we are the only ones able to stop the endless storm of chaos and monsters on the seas.
The game begins with Todd or Hink taking up sail. We choose our path from one of the preset hexagonal blocks on the map. Each one can have a reward, treasure chest, mystery or nothing on them and an image on each block shows what awaits us. Simply click on the block and our ship sails right to it as we jump into battle. Combat with enemies is similar to how you would progress in Overcooked, albeit not in a kitchen. The game is set up for co-op, but single player is also available. We’ll be given an auto-firing cannon in single player mode to make up for the lack of a second player. We’ll also have a manual cannon to shoot enemies off deck, as well as being able to melee enemies on the ship and nearby. Balance is key in Ship of Fools. We’ll need to properly use our time to hit enemies while also repairing our ship. Trying to figure out a balance between the auto-fire cannon, manual cannon, melee enemies, repairing the ship and harpooning items from the water to use was insanely fast.
Ship of Fools is hard enough as it is single player, but also upgrading your ship and items makes the enemies is harder. So, in the long run there isn’t that much of a difference although the benefit is small. After several rounds, you’ll make it to the boss fight in your run (if you don’t die first). Your ship will sink after five unrepaired hits, so you’ll need to prioritize the ship over enemy damage in the later rounds. There are over 100 items you can find, buy and upgrade during your play. Some are found with harpoons, others in chests for completing a stage and even others from located NPC characters. Seeing as some of these characters are only in certain spots on the map, you may very well play for hours before locating a character someone else found in minutes. You may not find them at all. While it could be slightly frustrating, it was a fun aspect in that adrenaline filled gameplay you would be used to in Overcooked. It’s the same here in Ship of Fools.
On each run, you take a limited number of items with you. They can be stored on your deck in order to use them when needed. No other items are available during the run. Although you may find all 100 items, they do not stay with you for each run. When your ship is destroyed, we find ourselves back at the Lighthouse, shipwrecked and all our items gone. I did find it odd that although Ship of Fools boast so many upgrades and combinations available, I found myself only using a limited few as it wasn’t worth it to experiment once you found a good set as I didn’t want to get stuck with a crappy upgrade and screw up my run to lose all my stuff.
The beginning hours of the game are very hard. The amount of things one must do in the limited time available are difficult to balance. Unlike some games, it wasn’t my ability that caused this but rather the limited options available for my ship compared to the enemy strength. In hindsight, the first couple hours resulted in playing simply to get enough money to buy upgrades to succeed. Map selection is key in Ship of Fools. The storm closes in every three rounds and eliminates possible destinations. I suggest going solely for harpoons and upgrade items opposed to treasure as this will cut down on the time needed to upgrade. After the third set of stages, the boss stage appears. If you are lucky enough to get to the boss, you’ll see what I mean in terms of difficulty. Forget about all your weapons and simply go straight for adding onto your ship’s health. Most boss fights see five plus enemies on your deck with the same amount in the sea and your ship sunk within a matter of seconds. Boom, shipwrecked back to the lighthouse and wash, rinse, repeat.
Art wise is where Ship of Fools stands out. It’s a nicely done, hand-drawn environment with all 10 playable characters exhibiting a vast degree of variety. Picture hand-drawn Spongebob characters and you have Ship of Fools. The bosses are huge and incredibly detailed for being hand-drawn. On the flip-side, the level design is extremely mundane. All of the maps are essentially the same exact look embued with a different color scheme. It was odd to see this because everything had so much variety in bosses, characters and weapons, yet the level itself was exactly the same.
Ship of Fools’ music does nicely tie the game together. Mildly symphonic melodies and an acoustic guitar aren’t the choices you would normally pick for a dark and sinister tone of the game, but it surprisingly works incredibly well. As soon as the fighting starts to pick up speed, the acoustic guitar becomes an electric guitar and we’re off to the races.
The game’s presentation takes away from any of its technical flaws. The first few hours of grinding are admittedly rough, and I can see if this turns some people off from the game. I would suggest you don’t because although while difficult, it is still enjoyable. Once you get over the initial grinding hump, it becomes all strategy on your part so passing or failing is up to you.
Ship of Fools is an incredibly fun single player game and even more so in co-op. Fans looking for some local fun or with friends online, or even a decent challenge for yourself, should definitely check it out.