Described as a “seafaring cooperative roguelite”, Ship of Fools is Team17’s next release in a busy season for them. Developed by Fika Productions, it’s out for all major systems and we tested the PlayStation 4 version.
On the surface, Ship of Fools looks like like another play on the popular Overcooked formula – overhead visuals, frantic gameplay and playable in solo mode but better when played together. It plays quite differently though, and not just because it’s set aboard a ship on the high seas. In this roguelite, you’re looking to chart a course through treacherous waters, navigating between tiles to try and pick up bonuses while steering clear of tough fights. If you run into defeat, you’ll sink to the bottom of the ocean and will start over again for another run – but some of your spoils can be spent on upgrades, so after a while you’ll get strong enough to make it pretty far. In other words, typical roguelite mechanics.
During a run, you’re trying to keep your ship afloat by fighting off a variety of sea monsters. That’s not just a case of manning the cannons though – you can actually move them to different corners of the ship to get a better angle, and when playing with a friend you’ll have to coordinate what works best. The same goes for the ammo supply, which can be moved so you don’t have to walk far between when traveling back and forth to load your cannon – though this is tricky when you have guns on either side of the ship.
Should an enemy board the ship, you can fight them off with melee combat, and you’ll also need to factor in which type of enemy it is. Some will spawn additional creatures if you’re not quick enough, while others will explode after death, possibly damaging your ship if you don’t get rid of the corpse. Boss battles usually have phases, so beating them can be a bit of a learning process, and the learning curve can be steep prior to a few much-needed upgrades.
There’s a good diversity of upgrades, but you’re also able to pick up things like health packs and ways to repair damage to your ship. As you sometimes have to actively reel in these objects, it’s a risk vs reward mechanic, which can add to the frantic nature of games like this. And while there’s some minor strategy involved when it comes to gun/ammo placement and boss battles, your success largely depends on your upgrades – which you’ll acquire over multiple runs. Stick with it, and you’ll gradually progress and ultimately succeed.
Ship of Fools isn’t groundbreaking in terms of gameplay mechanics, but it’s a nice entry level roguelite, and the co-op gameplay makes it especially interesting if you have the opportunity to play with a buddy. Lovely cartoon-like visuals make it fun to look at as well, and although we’re not sure this would be as much fun as a solo game, it’s an easy recommendation for a co-op experience.