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Burly Men at Sea (Switch) artwork

Burly Men at Sea (Switch) review

"I am! a man! of the sea!"

Burly Men at Sea (Switch) image

Burly Men at Sea arrived at the right time in my life, when I needed a break from the grimdark or anime-inspired material I ordinarily sampled. I shopped around for a whimsical, silly adventure with low demands and almost no challenge whatsoever, and this product ticked all of those boxes. Its content represented a stark contrast to the junk I play, where I ran away from monsters, explored haunted houses, whipped candles, or saved the world with a motley crew of bright-eyed adventurers. I traded all of that for a title where I would guide three meaty, bearded, Scandinavian dudes who discover a sea chart in a bottle and embark on a sea-faring quest. The game was so relaxed that even the protagonists' motive behind their journey was nothing more than one of them basically saying, "Eh, we might as well have an adventure."

Unfortunately, the chart they find is initially blank and the brothers haven't the foggiest what to make of it. To make matters worse, you might be confused along with them, more so by the game's strange mechanics. The trio sits on the screen, resting in a tiny bubble that only reveals a portion of the environment. You can remedy this issue by dragging the edge of the bubble outward, which not only unveils a bit of their surroundings, but also prompts the siblings to mosey in that direction. From there, you're free to engage in all the usual graphic adventure-type stuff, such as tapping every item on the screen to see if it pushes the plot forward.

Things get moving before long, and the triad hops on their sailboat and sets out, only to be swallowed whole by a whale. At this point, the game makes its core concepts crystal clear: the choices you make shape your adventure and determine which story segments you'll encounter. Not only does a character early in the proceedings spell this out for you, but a few sea nymphs hanging out inside the whale also tell you as much. "Sit with us or get the hell out," they more or less tell you. You might decide you don't have anywhere special to be, so you plop down with the nymphs. Next thing you know, you're on an island inhabited only by trees and a massive hill that turns out to be a very friendly (but not particularly smart) troll. Whatever you choose in that meeting determines what you'll find next...

Burly Men at Sea (Switch) image

As you can tell, Burly Men's encounters take inspiration from Scandinavian folklore and myths, presenting them in a fashion befitting the game's vibe. This title isn't out to kill you or challenge you much, and would rather have you chill while it gives you brief, charming glimpses into a certain parts of Scandinavian cultures. In other words, this game is basically Unforgiving: A Northern Hymn with more of a family-friendly spin. For instance, the aforementioned troll doesn't want to crush you with a rock, and actually offers to pick you some "flowers" because he's thrilled to make new friends. The only difficult part of these exchanges is knowing where to tap your finger or which direction to send the Beard brothers. And really, figuring that out isn't tricky because you're usually limited to two or three obvious choices.

The first few "stages" should tell you all you need to know about this product: it's not some hardcore graphic adventure that'll rattle your brains or send you searching for a walkthrough. Rather, Burly Men provides a more relaxing experience for people who are looking for something free of frustration. This is the kind of piece you download after you've gotten the thrashing of a lifetime or you just need something merry and upbeat to help you unwind. This title is sure to bore some folks, but stimulate others. More than anything, you need to know what you're getting into before you even touch this one.

After four scenes, the game gives you two options that quite literally amount to sink or swim. You make a selection, watch the ending play out, and head back to the beginning of the campaign. There, you learn that there are numerous combinations of adventures just waiting to be discovered. At this point, you need to decide if you're going to uninstall Burly Men and move on with your life or continue bumping into mythical beings.

Burly Men at Sea (Switch) image

Sadly if you choose to stay the course, then you'll start to notice a pattern. Regardless of the choices you make, each "story" ends in a the same fashion, and you wind up back in town to start again. This represents a huge missed opportunity for Burly Men. The game gives you numerous creative and adorable levels, but ultimately caps off with the same anticlimax until someone tells you, "Well, you've seen everything, so you can bugger off now." You don't even get the benefit of a special unlockable or closing segment to wrap up all of those quests (though you do get a proper "credit roll" ending after getting through the first combination). On some platforms, you'd at least get a trophy or achievement or whatever. On Switch, you don't even get that, so venturing through all of that content is even less rewarding.

This is not to say that the portions of story you play through aren't entertaining. It just seems pointless to have multiple pathways that lead to practically two slightly different endings, while also failing to reward your players who go the distance and finish every storyline combo. Burly Men's lack of a challenge factor and minimal interaction don't comprise its shortcomings--those are actually its strengths. Instead, it only falters by offering weak conclusions to its otherwise solid (if bloody simple) stories. The old adage that states that the journey matters more than the destination remains true, but that doesn't mean that the destination doesn't matter at all.

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (May 03, 2021)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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