Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl is an ideal summer movie. The franchise went on to become single-mindedly obsessed with its breakout star, Captain Jack Sparrow, but the first movie was an agile, lightly spooky swashbuckling adventure. Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew shares that movie’s spirit of goofy haunted slapstick with a heart and real dramatic stakes, and blends it with an expertly crafted stealth-strategy campaign. It all comes together into one of my favorite games of the year.
Shadow Gambit centers around the Red Marley, a living, talking ghost ship with an undead crew who have fallen to the Inquisition of the Burning Maiden. You play primarily as Afia, as she revives the cursed compatriots one by one and gathers information on the hidden treasure of the Red Marley’s captain, Captain Mordechai, who is conspicuously absent. The search for Mordechai’s treasure is an intriguing hook that propels the plot forward and balances well against the often eccentric subplots of the individual characters.
The crew is distinctly drawn with one-of-a-kind visual attributes and backgrounds that makes discovering each team member a joy. Afia is permanently seen with a spectral sword sticking out of her chest, which she draws to eliminate enemies. Suleidy looks as if she’s been partially consumed by plant-life. Pinkus is a fancy lad in a powdered wig, while Quintin the treasurer carries around his own golden skull. For a game about the undead, the personalities are just crackling with life and personality.
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