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Review

Bilkins’ Folly Review

X marks the spot

We’re heading into the busiest time of year on the gaming calendar. For the next few months there will be a huge AAA release from an established IP dropping every second day, and a high-profile indie in between each one. I’ll never complain about a downpour of big-budget games, but the deluge can be a bit exhausting, which is why it’s so refreshing to find a little hidden gem for you to covet and enjoy away from the big hitters. Developed by Webbysoft, a one-man team from my neck of the woods in Hobart, Tasmania, Bilkin’s Folly takes the hidden gem analogy, buries it on a secluded island and draws a cryptic map leading to its location.

Rather than setting sail with grand ambitions of wealth and infamy, our young protagonist begins his journey admirably searching for his lost mother and grandfather, but if fame and fortune are to be found on the way, it would be rude not to take the opportunity. Red-haired and wide-eyed Percy Bilkins takes to the open ocean in search of his missing family members, but fate intervenes, stranding him on a deserted island with nothing more than his wit, a sense of direction, and his trusty canine companion, Drayton.

Through some long-abandoned signs and old, forgotten map fragments, we’re introduced to Bilkins’ Folly’s main mechanic: hunting for buried treasure. This tiny island acts as tutorial, with a rather friendly ghost of a long-dead pirate giving you simple direction and clues that lead to an unmarked grave, giving you your first taste of puzzle-solving success and the thrill of finding hidden loot. Hobbling together a shovel and setting off toward a neighbouring island on an unconventional vessel, Percy’s new adventure begins.

Huh, that’s on me for assuming I guess 

Wearing its old-school Zelda influence on its frilly sleeve, Bilkin’s Folly is a classic adventure game, through and through. Exploring various islands you’ll meet a diverse range of swashbucklers, thieves, redcoats, and even undead musicians, each with their own tale to tell and, more often than not, quest to give. Much like the aforementioned inspiration, Percy will progressively gain new skills and equipment to aid him in his journey. Starting with nothing more than a shovel, you’ll eventually find use for a pickaxe, rope, a telescope and more, allowing you to revisit previously inaccessible areas and unearth even more trinkets and gold.

Of course, having these tools is fantastic, but they’re good for nothing if you don’t know where to use them. While hobnobbing with townsfolks and riffling through ruins, you’ll come across treasure maps and scribbled notes that point toward buried bounty. Early maps are simple, with a clearly defined landmark being visible, while others will, particularly in the back half of the game, require some cartography. Using a map of each explorable island, you can utilise a ruler, complete with a centimetres-to-feet scale, pencils, and markers to plot your treasure-tracking course. Furthermore, Percy can count his steps by holding in a trigger, letting you live out your cartoon pirate fantasy. It’s a unique level of tangibility that few games explore and it’s very satisfying when you find your target, even if the loot isn’t always that exciting.

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While only a fraction of it is required to complete the game, there’s an insane amount of treasure to be found. Scattered throughout the game world, there are three kinds of items to be found: quest items, pieces of eight and junk items. Quest items are self-explanatory and pieces of eight are the game’s currency that are used to purchase new items at vendors, while junk items are used to complete a larger puzzle that spans across the campaign. While I enjoy the hunt, finding junk item after junk item left me a bit unenthused after a while. Digging up wearable helmets or items that boosted Percy’s abilities could’ve helped to keep me invested, but eventually, I ignored the non-essential goodies.

Pfft, who would willingly head to Van Diemen’s Land? 

Your faithful friend Drayton isn’t just about to be a good boy and accept all the pats, he’s also a little treasure-hunting hero in his own right. He’ll often sniff out loot and let you know with a little bark and will even lend his paws to the digging effort. As your bond grows, you’ll even be able to teach him new tricks, by way of a skill tree. This allows you to give him commands, like stay, go to a spot, or even scoop him up to avoid a muddy bog. It’s a cute addition that gives the good boy some added depth, though I do wish there was a skill that would prevent him from getting stuck in the environment because he is prone to that.

Making it through to the end of Percy’s adventure will take around 10-15 hours, depending on your skills of deduction, and your patience. Mixing up the gameplay formula are several minigames that simulate lockpicking, fishing and the like. While lockpicking is fairly inoffensive, as you slot in shapes to fill an oddly shaped space, other activities, fishing in particular, are poorly explained and a bit tedious. Tinkering around with awkward mechanics that only pop up once in a blue moon gets frustrating, and while this can ultimately be skipped, the option is only offered after you’ve struggled for a good long while.

Each of the islands and its colourful cast of characters is brought to life in a bright and charming pixel art style. From the beachy archipelagos to the cobblestone cities, all the locales are filled with life and cute little details that will make you smile. Digging will occasionally cause worms to writher about, Drayton’s cute little ears bob up and down when the runs and every character throws their arms around like they’re Conor McGregor walking to the octagon. This charm continues to your interactions with other characters, as the light-hearted writing is filled with quips and jokes that wouldn’t be out of place in a Monkey Island game.

Scribbling down directions like a mad man

Unfortunately, for as visually appealing as the game is, it’s not without its technical issues. I ran into several moments where I couldn’t select a conversation option, forcing a full restart, the dreaded menu cursor would often find its way onto the game screen, and I hit a wall at one point where a quest giver didn’t spawn until I rebooted the game multiple times. Worst of all is the dip in performance when more than five or so characters are on-screen at once. Even when running, the entire game will slow down so severely that it feels like moving through molasses.

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Final Thoughts

Pirates and their plank-walking, scally-wagging exploits have been explored thoroughly in the video game space, yet Bilkins’ Folly manages to corner an aspect of the pirate life that doesn’t get much love. Adventuring about using real cartography skills in this beautiful pixel art world is fun, and the story of Percy and his family curse that unfolds is an entertaining one. The technical woes, clunky side activities and unfulfilling rewards sully the overall experience, but Bilkin’s Folly more than proves its concept in the ways that matter, leaving me excited to see where Webbysoft goes next with Percy and Drayton.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Bilkins’ Folly Review
Imperfect Pirate Plunder
A pixel art treasure-hunting adventure title with a pirate theme and boatload of charm, Bilkins’ Folly gets lost and digs holes in the wrong spots, but ultimately finds the booty.
The Good
Beautiful pixel art style
Engaging cartography mechanic
Charming characters and animations
Cute story and even cuter doggo
The Bad
Side activities can be a chore
Late-game clues are a bit too obscure
No real hint system
Rough technical troubles
The treasures are a bit boring
6.5
Has A Crack
  • Webbysoft
  • Armor Games Studios
  • PS5 / PS4 / Switch / PC
  • October 3, 2023

Bilkins’ Folly Review
Imperfect Pirate Plunder
A pixel art treasure-hunting adventure title with a pirate theme and boatload of charm, Bilkins’ Folly gets lost and digs holes in the wrong spots, but ultimately finds the booty.
The Good
Beautiful pixel art style
Engaging cartography mechanic
Charming characters and animations
Cute story and even cuter doggo
The Bad
Side activities can be a chore
Late-game clues are a bit too obscure
No real hint system
Rough technical troubles
The treasures are a bit boring
6.5
Has A Crack
Written By Adam Ryan

Adam's undying love for all things PlayStation can only be rivalled by his obsession with vacuuming. Whether it's a Dyson or a DualShock in hand you can guarantee he has a passion for it. PSN: TheVacuumVandal XBL: VacuumVandal Steam: TheVacuumVandal

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