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On the box, Bilkins’ Folly is an adventure game about a boy named Percival ‘Percy’ Bilkins and his adventure to find his missing mother and grandfather, during the Golden Age of Piracy. Accompanied by a crew of misfits and his loyal dog, Drayton, Percy solves dozens of mysteries, loots a tremendous amount of buried treasures, and discovers the titular family curse.

On paper, that makes for a good romp, but what I didn’t expect to find when playing Bilkins’ Folly is a love letter to a very specific type of adventure game from the late ’90s and early 2000s that just doesn’t get made anymore, one I didn’t realise I missed so much.

Comedy

The primary example of this is the game’s sense of humour. The jokes in Bilkins’ Folly shares DNA with games like Grim Fandango and Out of Order with punchlines that are crude, but rarely mean-spirited. It’s the type of humour that has fallen out of style lately, with games choosing to adopt a more modern ‘Marvel’ approach to humour. It’s one of Bilkins’ Folly’s greatest strengths.

Here’s an example. While I was getting my bearings on Tutorial Island, I came across the friendly ghost of a pirate who had died on the island. He kindly informed me that he died and was buried with his sword. Upon further exploration and a few dug holes, I came across the aforementioned sword and his skeletal corpse with it. The game then asked me if I wanted to give Drayton the Dog one of the bones. Obviously, I do. Drayton then ran off, and presumably buried that bone, causing the ghost of the skeleton below me to become suddenly very distraught and started moaning and groaning like one would expect a ghost to do. He wasn’t willing to converse with me anymore after that, and I found that extremely funny.

Now, with that sword, Percy mentioned that he would be able to chop the palm tree down on the beach, use it as a raft, and finally escape “Lonely Palm Island.” Once I prompted Percy to begin chopping down the palm tree, the screen faded to black, and a hilarious “Weeks Later…” message popped up, which caused me to audibly chuckle.

The jokes use elements of breaking the 4th wall at times too, to great effect. Percy often looks directly at the camera for a beat, usually with a blank stare, emphasising the fact that someone just said the dumbest thing imaginable to him. There’s even one time, where after choosing a particularly ‘dumb-choice’ dialog option, Percy looked at me with an angry face and answered the NPC with a remark that implied that the option I was going to choose was the ‘dumb one’ and that he would do the smart one instead. I couldn’t get enough of it.

There are two main types of puzzle-solving throughout the entirety of Bilkins’ Folly, Treasure Hunting, and Riddle Solving. They are two sides of the same coin, to be sure, but feel very different in nature. When treasure hunting, you will primarily be looking at maps, counting steps, and digging holes, and for the most part, it’s quite engaging. As you progress, you’ll also obtain more tools that help in your cartographical navigation, like the ability to draw ruled lines on any map and drop markers that appear in-world.

The other side of that doubloon is riddle solving. I found this one to be a bit more lacking in comparison. Sometimes it might be a limerick sung to you by a friendly zombie that has the ability to traverse highways known only to those who have died, or it might simply be a piece of paper with text written on it. The riddles in Bilkins’ Folly swung wildly between seemingly deliberately obtuse, and completely obvious, with a sprinkle of the classic adventure game feeling of “This is absolutely correct, why are you telling me it’s wrong.”

All of that said, I never wanted to avoid them, which is a testament to the world design of Bilkins’ Folly. Every time I arrived at a new island, there was a sense of wonder and excitement I felt as I discovered what new and unique things awaited me. From dense swamps with hidden caves, to surprisingly lively feeling towns, each location kept me engaged and inside of the world. Further along, once I explored more of each island, not just building up maps with points of interest, but my own personal mental map of routes and clues and pointers.

Another really important way the game forces you to slow down and take note of what’s around you is Percy’s loyal companion and best boy, Drayton the Dog.

The best boy

The game’s prologue sets the stage for the type of relationship the player is going to have with Drayton. It starts off with barking off-screen, a crab on his nose, and him freaking out about something realistically you wish he was able to deal with himself. Then it turns into immediate affection and love because honestly, that’s what a relationship with a dog is. Drayon rules. Behind a simple interaction/love-based progression system, he can learn some awesome tricks too, like sit, run, pull lever, and find buried treasure. At any point too, you can give him a pet, or a hug, or eventually, even carry him because he’s just a big baby and I love him. One of the more unintentional quirks that Drayton has is he will often get trapped on parts of the scenery and then can’t find you. When that happens, he repeatedly barks until you go back and grab him, and then he sprints off in the direction you just came from, and then rubber-bands back towards the player. This is definitely a bug, and I found this really annoying at the beginning, but giving him a quick pat alleviates all my frustration, and turns it into an “Oh, you big loveable idiot” kind of relationship.

Playing on the Switch, the game unfortunately doesn’t control great. There are a lot of puzzles that implement the standard ‘cursor controlled by joystick’ approach, which is never the best. Regularly, when attempting to rule lines on a map, I actually found myself struggling as I just wasn’t able to gain that level of precision needed with the control scheme presented to me. The menu navigation was also inconsistent between being able to use the d-pad and using the joystick-controlled cursor.

Speaking of my experience playing it on the Switch, I feel obliged to mention that unfortunately, and surprisingly, this game doesn’t have the greatest performance. In plenty of locations (and especially in the ‘busy parts’ with many NPCs), the game struggled to keep a consistent frame rate, and often the entire game would slowdown. I’m not exactly sure what is going on there, as the game is relatively ‘simple’ when it comes to the graphics that are being displayed on the screen, and those drops can often happen when the game is sitting idle, without any input at all. I’ve reached out to the publisher of the game, in the hope that there will be a day 1 or post-release patch that can address these issues. I’ll update this article once I get a response.
If I was asked where I would recommend playing Bilkins’ Folly based on my time playing on the Switch, without even playing the PC version, I would definitely recommend the PC version.

Pet a crab!

On top of the performance issues, I also managed to soft-lock myself from finishing it, due to accidentally skipping some of the stories, thrusting me into the final stretch of the game early, and being unable to return. This prevented me from finishing the story, which is really unfortunate because I found myself really digging the direction of the narrative. The game’s opening chapters begin simply, with fairly low stakes about finding long-lost family, and throughout the story, Percy uncovers this family curse, experiences no small amount of betrayal, and hilariously accidentally gets married to a fishing champion. It’s a really fun time, and I hope I’m able to experience the end of the game sometime soon.

Overall, I do recommend Bilkins’ Folly. It carries a lot of heart through its humour, while also giving the player a worthwhile treasure-hunting adventure. The puzzles are sometimes a bit obscure, and it’s in dire need of a hint option, but the charm of the world, the jokes, and Drayton shine through to the point that it’s overall worth your time, despite its shortcomings.

Bilkins’ Folly is out on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and PC on October 2nd.

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VIAReview code courtosy of Player Two PR
Managing Editor of MiniMap. Contact me: Jeremy(at)minimap.com.au
bilkins-folly-review-tactful-treasure-huntingOn paper, that makes for a good romp, but what I didn’t expect to find when playing Bilkins' Folly is a love letter to a very specific type of adventure game from the late ’90s and early 2000s that just doesn’t get made anymore, one I didn’t realise I missed so much.