Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island

Posted by Patrick Talbot.
First posted on 05 April 2010. Last updated on 30 August 2013.
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Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island
From afar, Vooju Island looks ominous.
Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island
Papa Doc senses trouble is coming, but he does not know that trouble is much closer than he thinks.
Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island
Jane spies on Captain Greenbeard, who is scheming to murder Captain Flint.
Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island
Blue Belly is a silly pirate who is oblivious of the danger around him.
Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island
Dressing up as a witch doctor will surely scare away the zombie servant.

Without a doubt, pirates are amongst the most favored characters in popular fiction, who are frequently portrayed as fearless, swashbuckling adventurers. There are good pirates and evil pirates—historical accuracy matters little here. For adventure games, pirates also make for fun and endearing plot devices. In Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island, Biller Tiller of Autumn Moon Entertainment mixes up just the right recipe of ghostly pirates, exotic locales, and a dash of ye olde voodoo magic to create an entertaining classic adventure.

Tiller, a LucasArts alumni who has previously worked on the classic pirate adventure game The Curse of Monkey Island, lends his talents to create a new pirate adventure game in which sarcastic humor is cleverly infused within a whimsical story. Unlike The Curse of Monkey Island, however, Ghost Pirates of Vooju Island features not a single but a trio of playable main characters. There is Papa Doc Mystère, a voodoo priest and ruler of Vooju Island. He is a cantankerous man with a conscience who is married to Queen Zimbi, a woman with a dark and deadly secret of her own. Then, there is Blue Belly, a plump and silly pirate whose real name is Ham Rackham (a detail that is mentioned only in the game's official website but not in the game itself). He is a cook aboard a pirate ship who is trying to steal enough booty to pay for sister's dental work. Finally, there is Jane Starling, a pirate spy. She becomes aware of a conspiracy to murder Captain Flint, the Pirate King, and tries to save him from an otherwise untimely demise.

Papa Doc, Blue Belly, and Jane are thrown together when they discover that Queen Zimbi is involved in Captain Flint's murder plot with another pirate named Captain Greenbeard. Queen Zimbi tries to kill them, but Papa Doc casts a spell to keep their earthly bodies alive and escape as ghost spirits. As the game commences, you take control of the trio of ghostly characters as they venture forth to reunite with their comatose bodies and stop the murderous scheme. They must also expose Queen Zimbi and Captain Greenbeard's vile plan to take over Captain Flint's crew and turn them into zombie slaves and release some very evil Vooju spirits.

At first glance, the game is a classic third-person, point-and-click adventure. What makes this game unique, however, is the way you control Papa Doc, Blue Belly, and Jane. To change characters at any time, you simply right click to bring up the inventory menu from where you can choose which character to switch over. Moreover, because the trio is spiritually linked, your current character can communicate at will with the other characters in the party, even when they are far away from each other. This interaction allows for some interesting puzzle mechanics. For example, whenever a character finds an object of interest, that character can show the object to the other characters, who can then make use of the said object from a common inventory. This is a neat and bold design, and Tiller is to be commended for thinking outside of the usual paradigm.

Otherwise, the game uses a fairly standard interface. You left click to interact with the environment. You hold down the left mouse button to bring up a control menu that is in the shape of a skull wearing a pirate hat. You can then choose the eyes to examine an object, the hand on the hat to interact with an object, or the mouth to speak to a character. The interface takes a bit to get accustomed to use, but it is quite easy to learn. You press Tab to show all the current hotspots and exits. This is a great help feature since it eliminates any need to pixel hunt in the game.

Objects in the inventory are handled somewhat unusually. Since you are a ghost, you cannot physically carry any object. Instead, you can only take a mental image of an object as a suggestion or idea. When your character touches an object, a blue ghostly image of the said object appears in the inventory. When you need to use the object, you simply click on it in the inventory to direct your physical body to use it in the real realm.

The 3D graphics in this game are stunning and gorgeous. The game natively supports widescreen resolution. The colorfully painted and hand-drawn background arts provide depth to the scenes. Background animations also litter some scenes, such as the moving glowing lava river at Papa Doc's temple. My only criticism of the game's visuals is that the spectral appearances of the main characters' ghostly apparitions are not as detailed as their fleshy bodies.

The game's music is abundant with pirate tunes sung by drunken pirates to traditional pirate melodies. The catchy jingles make for great background music that compliments but does not distract the gameplay.

Most of the puzzles in the game are inventory based, such that you must acquire all the needed objects necessary to accomplish the required tasks. The puzzles I have found to be most challenging are those that are invisible triggers which exist late in the game. Interestingly, there are no timed puzzles, slider puzzles, and mazes.

The voice acting in this game is very good and lends a lot of flavors to the characters. Papa Doc speaks with a Caribbean accent, Blue Belly speaks with a Scottish accent, and Jane speaks a Spanish (of Spain, not of Mexico) accent. The sarcasm in the dialogs is quite funny and reminiscent of the Monkey Island series.

Overall, Ghost Pirates of Vooju island is a great adventure game. The comical storylines, the exotic graphics, and the clever puzzles all make this game a must play for any classic adventure game fan.

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