Pirates & Spectral Poultry — Why We Love Chook & Sosig: Walk the Plank
Chook and Sosig: Walk the Plank hits all the right notes of a classic adventure game, all done up with a modern sensibility. When we look at the best games in this genre, certain elements can be seen often: good puzzles that don’t stretch logic too far, an interesting world to explore, and memorable characters that pull us into their wacky problems. Chook and Sosig offers all of that, and even has an extremely clever framing device to help it stand out. It’s hard not to fall in love with this motley gang, to imagine that we are in fact sitting across the table from Cow, Exley, and the rest as they spin their yarn.
While this isn’t the first game to feature Chook and Sosig, the game is set up in such a way that it doesn’t particularly matter if you’re being introduced to them for the first time. Two friends arrive on the scene and sit down at a table to engage in a little role-playing session with the rest of the group. A quick bit of dialogue around the table lets us know the most important things about this lot, then quickly gets into the meat of the game. They’re going to play a pirate role-playing game, with the spaghetti cat Sosig taking the role of the hero, the undead Exley doing the game master chores, and the rest of the group filling in whatever other roles are needed.
Beyond being a novel set-up for a story, it also informs a lot of the game’s style. Just about everyone you meet in the game will be played by Cow, Hebble, or Min. They’ll be acting out different roles, but of course their own personalities inform those roles to a certain degree. Cow is always going to be a little gruff. Min takes her role-playing a bit more seriously, but her cool demeanor is always apparent. And you know when you see Hebble that things are going to get silly in a hurry. Why do you run into so many goblins? There’s a reason for that, too!
The length and scope of the adventure fit the tabletop setting as well. You could easily imagine this all unfolding during the course of an evening as the bowls of chips and bottles of cola slowly empty. The game within the game cuts back to the table now and then for a bit of meta-banter, sometimes to let the characters comment on their own role-playing and other times to show them quibbling over the details. Exley is trying to keep things reined in, to moderate success. Certain other parties are always trying to derail things. At the end of it all, however, these are friends enjoying some gaming together.
Moving past the framing device and into the game, we find a lighthearted island-hopping pirate adventure. There are two major end goals to focus on, and it’s up to you which one you want to pursue. Each of them will require a different chain of problems to be solved, though you’re never locked out of either goal until you actually accomplish one and get the ending associated with it. This set-up interestingly solves a problem many modern adventure games suffer from. By having two different goals with two different quest chains in play, the game avoids being too simple or straightforward. Whichever ending you work towards, the existence of the other presents a fair number of red herrings. It forces you to properly consider what you’re trying to do and how best to accomplish it.
Some of the quests can get a little convoluted, but they’re never illogical. Sure, the parrot has quite a few more uses than you would initially expect, but after the first time you’ll have a good idea of how it can be used in future cases. There’s a nice split here between dialogue puzzles and inventory puzzles, with the latter sometimes requiring you to use items with other items to deal with the matter at hand. Everything is useful somewhere, though some items won’t be necessary for the ending you’re currently shooting for.
Some of the dialogue is just there for flavor, but it’s generally quite amusing and rarely tries to throw you off of the trail in unfair ways. It generally links together smoothly, though it is possible to get ahead of some situations due to the somewhat non-linear nature of the game. Adventure veterans may find themselves solving problems without even having a reason to do so. While some games might have the characters speak in a way that it seems like you haven’t already dealt with the situation they’re talking about, Chook and Sosig usually gets what you’ve done.
While this is meant to be a pirate adventure, it’s very light in its tone. Even situations that might ordinarily be scary are presented in a fairly breezy way here. There are some spooky environments, but it’s hard to get too worried when your old pals Cow or Hebble are waiting for you in some guise or another. It’s meant to be humorous and a bit silly, and it pulls that off with a commendable consistency. Following in the footsteps of some of the greats, there are a lot of amusing bits of dialogue and scenes here reserved for those that poke around where they aren’t necessarily meant to. You won’t get anything special for finding them, but it’s nice to run into them all the same.
The island-hopping nature of the adventure helps the game feel really expansive. In reality, you’ll never have to worry about getting lost or having to comb through dozens of screens to find something you’re looking for. Each island has at most a couple of areas, and they’re rarely more than a few screens long. The game somehow fits everything it needs to in these areas without them feeling overcrowded. Depending on the ending you’re aiming for, you may visit some of these places frequently or barely at all, which adds to the feeling that this is a world that isn’t entirely crafted for your benefit.
Chook and Sosig: Walk the Plank is a welcoming adventure game for newcomers while also providing an engaging journey for veterans. The wacky characters keep things jovial, and you’re sure to find a favorite or two in this group of buddies. The puzzles take a bit of thinking but never overwhelm, the various locations offer plenty of hand-drawn art to gawk at, and the characters express themselves wonderfully both through their dialogue and animations. Make yourself comfortable and sit down at the table with Chook, Sosig, and the gang. The hours will fly by as the good times roll on.