Ship of Fools – Review
Follow Genre: Roguelite, Tower Defense
Developer: Fika Productions
Publisher: Team17
Platform: PC, PS5, Xbox Series XIS, Switch
Tested On: Switch

Ship of Fools – Review

Site Score
Good: Fantastic visual presentation
Bad: Being defeated resultsin a lot of backtracking
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With the sheer amount of heavy hitters vying for a place under the Christmas tree, it’s often easy to overlook some of the smaller titles that have been released recently. One such smaller title is indie developer Fika Productions’ debut title Ship of Fools, which is being brought to us courtesy of Team17. With characters that look like they could’ve been SpongeBob extras and a heavy focus on co-op gameplay, Ship of Fools gives the impression of a fun little party game, but looks can be deceiving. We didn’t tackle the game as the co-op experience it’s intended to be, instead opting to sail the Forgotten Waters solo. Here’s what we found during our seafaring journey.


Opening with a black screen and ominous music, Ship of Fools sets a dramatic tone from the start. A short text blurb tells us of the history of how the sea warriors were able to drive away the darkness from the world and how they are now a legend. During the 30 seconds that this opening scene takes, the game sets up the feeling that an epic tale about these mighty warriors is about to unfold, but this presumption is crushed when we meet our protagonist, a little frog-like creature known as Todd. He wakes up on a beach, stranded after a storm, and is immediately recruited by the mad scientist Clarity, who needs Todd’s help to drive away a giant enemy crab. After successfully doing so, Clarity declares Todd as the Stormstrider, the chosen one predestined to get rid of the Everlasting Storm that threatens the ancient Great Lighthouse. The ever-happy and agreeable Todd simply replies with “Ok then.” and takes on the arduous task of saving the Archipelago. Ship of Fools’ narrative may not be the deepest or most original, but the tongue-in-cheek presentation makes it enjoyable enough to sit through. The connection between Todd’s adventure and the legendary sea warriors is tenuous at best though, with the only real connection being that the warriors constructed the Great Lighthouse that our little froggy hero has to protect.


Visual presentation is one of Ship of Fools’ strongest suits. The characters look like they could’ve come straight out of a Nickelodeon cartoon. There’s a tremendous amount of attention to detail too, to the point where the effects of the ammo you use are represented through visual gags. Loading a seagull in your cannon, for example, will result in a flock of birds being shot out rather than generic explosive effects. Small things like this ensured that we were always excited to try out new ammunition as we wanted to see just how the resulting blasts looked like. Both the good guys and the bad guys look cute, but the subdued color palette adds an air of darkness and seriousness. Because the game relies on these hand-drawn visuals, it ends up not being too taxing on the hardware, and we didn’t encounter any performance issues. We were a bit let down by the way the world itself was presented as a hexagonal grid, which didn’t really carry the same vivid atmosphere as the rest of the game.


The soundtrack stands in stark contrast with Ship of Fools’ light-hearted and cutesy visual presentation. The dramatic music pushes the dark undertone up to eleven, and during some of the more frantic battles, things felt more serious because of the gravitas that the tunes added. Unfortunately, Ship of Fools lacks voice acting, even though the featured characters would have benefited from being audible. The game’s sound effects are okay but nothing special.


With its tower-defense-meets-roguelite gameplay, Ship of Fools doesn’t really stray off the beaten path. The core gameplay loop sticks close to an established formula: you head out on your ship, weather increasingly strong waves of enemies, use any rewards gained to upgrade your ship, and head out again to face even stronger enemies. Rinse and repeat, until you make it to the game’s final boss, and watch the credits roll. Your ship has four spots where you can place one of your two cannons, and enemies will attack from different sides. You’re often required to pick up your cannon and swap it between these spots to deal with the onslaught. Ammo management is also incredibly important. Not only do you have to manually load your cannon, but there are different ammo types that are more effective against specific enemies, so managing these effectively can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Certain enemies will leap onboard, and when this happens, you’ll need to swap to your trusty oar and give them a paddling instead. Defending your ship feels fast-paced and relentless, but despite how brutal things get, Ship of Fools manages to still feel fun. It helps that when your ship is eventually dragged down to the depths of the ocean, you’ll simply wash up on the beach again, ready to take on the sea’s worst inhabitants another time.

In between enemy waves, you’ll travel the surrounding seas and you are able to visit the islands in the Archipelago. These are presented on that aforementioned hexagonal map, and they’re filled with a wealth of events and encounters. You’ll find shops that carry the obligatory ammunition or are able to repair your ship, but there are also games of chance, shrines that aid with upgrading your ship, and more to discover. As you make progress on the map, the Everlasting Storm grows in power as well, eventually leading to a boss encounter. Boss battles stick to the established gameplay, but they kick the difficulty up a notch, as they should. All enemies stick to established attack patterns, and the game gradually gets easier as you familiarise yourself with these, but unlike with normal enemy waves, memorizing a boss’ attack pattern becomes an essential affair if you want to stand a chance of success. One thing that really irked us was that you’re taken back to the game’s first area whenever you are defeated. While Ship of Fools never felt unfair when we lost against standard enemies, the difficulty spike that came with bosses really took the flow out of the game as we kept getting crushed trying to learn the attack patterns, as it meant having to backtrack. And while certain upgrades to your ship are permanent, not all of them are, so you’re either going to have to grind them out again or take on the boss with a weaker ship.

Now, supposedly Ship of Fools is much better as a co-op experience, where you don’t have to rely on an automatic cannon as the second ‘player’. In fact, the game was designed as a co-op experience first and foremost but unfortunately, we weren’t able to try out the game in this way. As such we’re looking at the game as a single-player title but given that it can be tackled this way, this mode warrants looking at, as we’re probably not the only ones tackling the game on our own. As a solo game, Ship of Fools is tough but not unbeatable, serving up a solid by-the-numbers tower defense experience. It’s not a very long game either, and it took us around nine hours to complete, but the game’s €14.99/$14.99 price reflects this. You’re not limited to just Todd as a playable character either, even though he is the protagonist. There are different unlockable characters, each offering different perks. This does increase the game’s replayability as they drastically can alter your strategy, and we’re actually itching to find a buddy to join us on our sea-faring quest and return to the unruly seas, allowing us to try out different characters and combinations. The fact that we’re already eager to set sail again speaks volumes about Ship of Fools‘ merit.


While we definitely can see Ship of Fools’ merit as a co-op experience, we weren’t able to experience the game’s supposed best version for ourselves. As a single-player experience, the game manages to offer plenty of fun. The appealing presentation, challenging gameplay, and high replayability factor all add up to a solid little title, with the only downside being that the punishment for being defeated can really take the flow out of the overall gameplay experience. Even then, Ship of Fools offers a competent and fun experience, even if it doesn’t quite feel like a wholly unique or original title.

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1 Comment

  1. […] With Ship of Fools, players can cooperate in hectic sea battles against impossible creatures and odds. A colossal leviathan is nothing unusual as you need to reload and aim the cannons or repair the ship trying to defend yourselves. This sort of gameplay now has new free content with the “‘Fish & Ships” update. You can play as Otto, the reverse Kraken, and use one of four new ships. There’s also a second paid DLC now available named Water Garden Duo, which allows you to play as Mikoi and Noh, characters with sound blast attacks and incredible speed. Ship of Fools is now also 50% off on Steam at the time of writing, so if you want to try it out with a friend, this is a great opportunity. […]

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