Burly Men at Sea is a unique game in which you follow three bearded sailors as they go on an adventure across the ocean. Along their journey, they will encounter various different creatures, people and events which have multiple outcomes. These outcomes determine which path the sailors will take and how their adventure will unfold.
Your adventure with the three bearded brothers (Brave Beard, Steady Beard and Hasty Beard) begins as they find a message in a bottle. They are unable to decipher the note, so they seek out help in a nearby town. They discover that the note is, in fact, a treasure map, so they decided to head out on an adventure to see what they can find.
Unfortunately, not long after setting sail, an event occurs which sets the course for a much bigger adventure than they had anticipated. From this point on, you have multiple choices on how to overcome this obstacle, which then leads to more pathways and alternative tales.
If you feel I’m being cryptic then you would be 100% correct. I don’t want to spoil any of this game so I’m being as careful as I can to not give away any of the key plot points. Your first playthrough will last you about 30-40 minutes and may not make much sense depending on the choices you make. Once you reach the end of your story you will be back in the town you began in. You will meet up with the old man who deciphered the map, who will then record your story in a book on his shelf.
The old man tells you that there are still many more tales to be recorded and advises you to head back out on your boat again. You will soon come across the first encounter, just like you did the first time, only now you can overcome it in a different way if you wish. Alternatively, you can exit the first encounter the same way as you did before, but then pick new choices at the events you encounter from there onwards.
The story itself has 12 different pathways which lead to 12 endings. There is a lot of fun in discovering all of the different paths as some aren’t as obvious as others. The overall gameplay mechanics aren’t difficult, it’s a case of holding R2/L2 to move your telescope from side to side, with the brothers following your viewpoint.
You can also interact with things on the screen by pressing Cross. The majority of the choices will be made by moving in a certain direction or clicking on a different item. The characters all know they are being looped/repeated as well, so the dialogue will often change to avoid it being repetitive.
The art style of the game is very clean and minimalistic. The assets look great on both the Vita and PS4 (you get both in the same package). The soundtrack is spot-on in this game, it fits the situation and events perfectly along with some decent voice acting. Even with the characters looking like paper cut-outs, you can clearly see what everything is meant to be and the animation of the characters is top-notch!
Time-wise, the game will run you at about 3-4 hours if you don’t use any guides and play the game blind. If you opt for a guide (Which I would only recommend if you get really stuck) then you’re looking at about 1-2 hours. The game also comes with a platinum trophy, but it’s one platinum shared between the Vita and PS4 version.
Burly Men at Sea is a great little indie title, it offers unique gameplay elements which offer a lot of replayability. If you’re looking for a game which you can play in short 20-30min bursts then this game is perfect for you. It isn’t hard, but it is fun to figure out how to activate the next branch in the story.