Washing up on the sandy shores of a mysterious island is not an unfamiliar start to gamers, and whilst Bilkins’ Folly stays in that vein and does not offer anything truly new, it does succeed in offering an eclectic crew of characters and good puzzling gameplay that turn Bilkins’ Folly into a very amiable adventure. However, the adventure is slowed by the ease of which you can dig yourself into a hole with some of the more obtuse puzzling and some lingering technical issues.
Publisher: Armor Games Studios
Release Date: 03/10/2023
Travelling into the new world in search of his Mother (who had left some years before in search of her father), our protagonist, Percival “Percy” Bilkins, must continue his quest whilst navigating the fact his ship had been destroyed in a storm. Bilkins’ Folly immediately shows its chipper and slightly dopey tone with its introduction of Percy, who, like most people you come across in the game, has a big red nose and goofy walk to match. This tone is one that stays entertaining through the island-hopping adventure, bringing many wry smiles as the characters are brought to life effectively through the art style that offers plenty of characterisation and expression. These characters and their dialogue are a highlight of the experience, and it places Percy’s adventure as a charming and delightful one and one where I rarely skipped dialogue.
After washing up on the first small island, you are greeted by Drayton, your four-legged companion on this adventure. Drayton helps you find the immense amount of junk treasure in Bilkins’ Folly related to a side activity. Whilst adventuring, he will pick up a scent and give you a couple of barks, meaning that there is some time to be found beneath his feet. This makes him a good boy and one you can teach new tricks to as you level him up. This first island also has you greeted by a ghost who helps introduce you to the other concepts of the game as you come to grips with the puzzling gameplay in order to get yourself ready to head off to the next island, slowly regaining everything destroyed in the storm as you progress through the islands.
The main puzzling mechanic of Bilkins’ Folly is one essential to a treasure hunter in a pirating world – locating buried treasure with the use of maps. This is the puzzle mechanic that sticks with you the most throughout the game, and whilst it does drag a little towards the end, there is still immense satisfaction when you have struck gold through your ability to interpret the often less-than-clear maps. Sometimes, these were as simple as locating the ‘X’ between 2 hills on an island or being much more abstract as you utilise your cartography tools to locate all the treasure. Not just used in the main story, Bilkins’ Folly gives you plenty of treasure maps to track down, each major island hosting a side quest competition to keep your treasure-hunting skills active.
However, throughout the adventure, treasure hunting is not the only puzzle that Bilkins’ Folly offers. These other offerings are a bit more hit-and-miss in their implementation. Some of the minigames through the main quest were enjoyable, and some I found quite difficult. They could often be worked through to completion if you are willing to invest the time in them, but some were poorly explained. For some, the game does mercifully let you wave the white flag and progress the story without actually managing to herd three sheep into the pen. My personal favourite of the recurring minigames was the lockpicking, which presents you with Tetris-like pieces and tasks you with filling the squares, which were the right level of challenging and progress that challenge at a good pace.
Whilst Percy is ambling along, digging up treasure marked on maps, picking locks and talking to the oddly wonderful inhabitants of the four islands, Bilkin’s Folly is an enjoyable time. However, there are times when you trip on your spade and ground my galavanting to a halt. Of course, some of this was player obtuseness, but on more than one occasion, I was digging and digging where I thought the treasure should logically be, to no avail. Upon a restart of the game and a reattempt, I found I had been right all along; the game had just glitched into making my attempts naught. This, along with a slowdown that would consistently happen in certain areas and make Percy move as if he had been tied down by a ball and chain, meant that my enjoyment of Bilkins’ Folly was replaced with frustration.