Pirates: the City of Skulls from Van Ryder Games – Review

Steve Mayne
Steve Mayne

Theme&What is it?

An Ocean of Possibilities

Pirates: City of Skulls is standalone sequel to Pirates: The Great Chase. These are both Graphic Novel Adventures. You take on the role of a pirate chasing after a fugitive in a chose your own adventure style story. The book uses comic book art to help players navigate through the titular city in their quest.

Land Ho!!!

I likes the first one and enjoyed the Crusoe Crew which is by the same people. I’m also a long-time fan of the Chose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy novels. Deathtrap Dungeon still holds a place in my treasured memories. As such, I was very much looking forward to this.



A City of Mystery

The mechanics for Pirates: City of Skulls are pretty straight forward. You’ll choose a pirate from a selection of four to be your character as you journey through the city. Each pirate comes with a set of stats which include Strength, Agility, intelligence, Intuition, and Persuasion stats that you’re familiar with if you played the first one. This book also adds a piracy stat that determines if you are a nice pirate or a mean pirate. These stats will come up and influence your ability to complete certain tasks and puzzles over the course of the book.

Beyond that you read the book. You’ll start at the beginning and look at the panels. Each one will have some blatant numbers that will tell you which panel to go to. If there are more than one then you choose which path you wish to take. The book also includes several hidden numbers that are secreted about the different images. These will give you secret areas and puzzles to find and interact with.

You’ll also need to keep track of an inventory. You can pick up anything that could reasonably fit in a backpack or be carried by your pirate. You’ll be asked to use these things as you travel around and can be given quests by some of the town’s residents. There’s even one quest that sends you back to the previous book.

You continue to travel the town, solve puzzles, and help the townsfolk until you find the escaped pirate and win the day.

Hearty Lumber and Gentle Souls

The book is excellent quality and held up very well.



A Fetching Tattoo

I like the art in this. It has a nice cartoony look that fits the aesthetic. However, it could use some cleaning up to be a bit clearer in places. I had some problems with the first book and when there were things I could and could not collect. This one had similar problems and I felt were more pronounced in places. While I think the art is visually appealing, it just needed to be a bit more defined for a gameplay stance.

Time Worth Spending

While these books are aimed at children and the puzzles and complexity are set to that level if you enjoy that sort of thing this is a good fit for it. The book is a couple of hours of looking for clues, solving puzzles, and making decisions.



A Spritely Lad or Lass

There’s no age given for the book, but I’d say maybe 12+. There’s a bit more reading in this one over the first but still not a lot. The puzzles were a little tough but not impossible. I think 12 is a pretty good level here though you could play along with younger children if you played together.

A Journey’s End

Overall I like this. While I have a couple minor problems it is a good game book. The puzzles are challenging without being impossible. Some of the riddles and references are fun. The art and the couple of characters you interact with over the story have neat twists and ideas.

The art is a partial barrier to gameplay. One of the puzzles involved finding a daffodil and I’m not entirely certain if I found one or not. The story also hits a bit of a snag that I was not fond of. In the previous book you could revisit areas and go back over places to find clues you might have missed. In this one I got stuck in a perpetual circle that had me rounding the city multiple times. I got bored looking at the same few places. The puzzle to escape the loop was harder than it should have been. Though that may just have been me.

In the end I will recommend this book as a follow-up to the first but would honestly point to the first book or the Crusoe Crew as better alternatives. This one is fine, but I had some fundamental problems that just wore on me in the end.

As always, try before you buy, though in this instance that might just involve heading to your local library.

Until next time, stay safe and be well.



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