Gaming Editor Imogen Mellor dives into the quiet adventure game Burly Men At Sea. Can this branching folk tale deliver the moving narrative it tries to? Or is it a fish out of water?

Sociology Student. Decent Musician. Part Time Gamer. Makeup Enthusiast. Not too great Kickboxer. Likes to speak in short sentences...
Images by Brain & Brain

Burly Men At Sea is described, quite rightly, as a ‘quiet adventure’. You play as three brothers, who come across map without anything on it, and set off to try and fill it in. The brothers and other characters never seem to have much more description than their role. The siblings are simply named Brave, Steady, and Hasty with the only difference between them being their beard colour, which makes for an aesthetically pleasing premise.

The entire game is aesthetically pleasing, really. The colours, the shapes, the feel. Even the sound design is engaging to listen to, mostly made up of what sounds like a man making little sounds with his voice to reflect water or eerie, mysterious noises. It’s honestly such fun to observe and imagine the way that the soundscape is created.

Still though, something wasn’t right. I couldn’t put a finger on it. Then it hit me. I keep waiting to be charmed by this game.

It’s beautiful, the characters are sort of quirky, as is the music. Heck even the title, Burly Men At Sea, is adorable. Shouldn’t I be giddy looking at it and feel excitement just to jump into this world? But I didn’t. It was like I didn’t really care too much.

I never connected with it, whatever ‘it’ may be. It makes me sad, as I can’t say it did anything particularly wrong. My one gameplay issue was controlling the camera was the only way to control the characters. You’re presented with a limited amount of space to look at and using bumper buttons you can look left or right, and the three brothers would follow. Stopping the camera in the right place for them to interact with what you want was a bit tricky and annoying at times, but not particularly bad in any way.

I guess my issue was that the game didn’t concern me. It’s about choices, right? It’s based on the build your own adventure premise, but I didn’t even feel as if the choices were significant enough for me to care. This type of game could never kill off the main characters, because the main characters don’t even have names. Why should you care? The most I cared in the game was when I left a small chatty mountain behind because the three brothers were getting annoyed at its attempt to bring you flowers. It made me even dislike the siblings.

I was just filled with a nonchalant attitude to the gameplay and it’s presentation of the characters I was playing. I just did not care. The one other person I know who has played the game also said he couldn’t be bothered to play it through again after finishing a second storyline. It troubled me that it wasn’t only myself that felt this way, as I was hoping my lack of connection with the title was just down to me rather than something the game did wrong. Despite me not feeling invested in Burly Men At Sea, please don’t take it to be a completely negative view of the game. Like I said before, it’s perfectly pretty in graphics and sound. It’s cutesy and harmless and I’m sure, if you wanted a relaxing gaming experience, there aren’t many titles that could beat this one.

Unfortunately, however, as much as I tried to love this game as it was, I can only love its concept and the dream it was borne out of, rather than the product itself.