The new puzzle game, Scurvy Scallywags, was made by Beep Games, Inc. and Ron Gilbert, formerly of Double Fine Studios. Gilbert is famous for having worked on classic adventure games such a Maniac Mansion and the Monkey Island series, but has he managed to instill his own brand of magic in this game? Or should we just eat a bunch of lemons to ward off a most unpleasant experience?

The game uses a theater motif and plays out as if you're putting on a show called, "The Voyage to Discover the Ultimate Sea Shanty." Right off the bat, you can tell that the production values for this game are pretty damn good. Everything is colorful, the animation is smooth, the music is catchy and whimsical, the sound effects aren't distracting, and there's just a level of polish that puts it above the rest of the App Store's puzzle games at first glance.

But being just another pretty face won't cut it, because a game needs to have heart and be fun as well. Fortunately there's a whole lot of game in this tiny package.

After you create your pirate avatar, you'll sail away in your ship to different points of interest on the map. Each point of interest is a puzzle game that can be played in order to advance the story, collect special quest items, rack up gold coins, and defeat enemy pirates.

If you've ever played Puzzle Quest or Bejeweled, then you'll feel right at home. You can swap different tiles in order to match three (or more), and make them disappear. The object is to defeat the enemies on the map by swapping places with them and then swordfighting. But each enemy has a number on them which denotes their power level. If your power level doesn't match theirs, you'll lose the duel and a heart. Luckily, every time you get three crossed swords in a row, you'll gain one power level. Then it's just a matter of repeating this until you can get a higher power level.

It's actually great fun to play the puzzles. I found myself swapping tiles until all I could see were patterns of threes and fours. Sometimes you'll be rewarded with a treasure chest that brings up roulette wheels. Spinning these suckers could net you some extra gold, or maybe even a quest item you were trying to collect.

After you've defeated every enemy, you'll get a gold bonus and rack up the doubloons for use in the skill shop, where you can buy different buffs that help out your performance. You can also build a new ship that has different effects, like increasing the likelihood of quest items showing up during a game.

Of course, you won't need to buy anything, but I'd recommend stocking up on the Free Swap skills, since you might get stuck next to an enemy when you're underpowered. Using this skill lets you safely move away so that you can build up your strength and come back with a burly vengeance.

And this is all great, because the game actually rewards you for playing it. The only downside I can see is that it will suck up more of your time than you initially thought, so try to refrain from whipping it out during work or school. {That's what she said. Sorry... —Ed.}

Scurvy Scallywags is a surprise hit with a great pedigree and even better gameplay. I don't remember the last time I was so enamored by a puzzle game, but this one has me wanted to play even as I write this review. It's great when a simple game with a simple premise can go a long way when it comes to delivering a fun experience with no frills and no cheap ploys to get at my money via in-app purchases and the like.

And since this game only costs $0.99 and is universal, it's pretty hard for me not to recommend it. Of course, you should stay away from it if you hate fun, charming puzzle games. If you do, then all I can say is that you're missing out and you should walk off the plank and into a sea of less-polished mobile gaming experiences.


App Store Link: Scurvy Scallywags for iPhone & iPad | By Beep Games, Inc. | Price: $0.99 | Version: 1.0.1 | 88.5 MB | Rating 9+

9.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating