Black Sails: The Ghost Ship

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Black Sails: The Ghost Ship Game Poster Image
Dark, violent tale features drugs, smuggling, flawed play.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Plot involves two shipwrecked people trying to find help on an abandoned ship. Not much positivity here. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Through dialogue options, players can choose to make heroine kind, cooperative; regardless of how she's played, her male companion is an outright jerk. 

Ease of Play

Gameplay involves exploration by point-and-click controls, solving real-life puzzles such as unlocking doors, fixing machinery. Puzzle difficulty depends on player's level of puzzle experience, common sense. 

Violence

An accident leaves a character injured, bloody. Violence implied during flashback sequences when oil is thrown in a character's face; a character is forced into a flaming oven, screaming in agony. Players have the option to shoot a character in cold blood (but this isn't shown). 

Sex

One creepy character menaces a little girl, talks about "visiting her" later. This seems like a clear threat of rape, some other sexual assault. One scene shows a pile of dead naked bodies, but they're decomposed. 

Language

One character says "goddammit." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Empty bottles of alcohol are found; an injured character takes morphine. Flashback sequences discuss a doctor giving unnamed drugs to a child for some sort of sinister experiment. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Black Sails: The Ghost Ship is a downloadable dark mystery depicting illegal smuggling, shipwreck, injurious accidents, and the imprisonment and manipulation of a child. Alcohol use is implied, drug use is shown (morphine and other drugs used in scientific experiments), blood is smeared on floors, and dead bodies are found. Players have the option to shoot a defenseless character near the end, and a character is forced into a flaming oven, with screams heard but the violence not shown. There's also an implied threat of rape or sexual assault from a creepy character toward a little girl.

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What's it about?

BLACK SAILS: THE GHOST SHIP is about two shipwreck victims. When their own boat goes down on the ocean, a young man and woman are miraculously saved by the appearance of a black-sailed ship. They climb aboard, hoping to find help, but discover the ship is empty except for a collection of dark, disturbing secrets. They decide to try to steer the ship back to civilization, but when one of them is hurt, it's up to the other to navigate the ship's treacherous interiors, repair its old machinery, and uncover the fate of its missing crew. 

Is it any good?

This is an English translation of an adventure originally released in German; whether this is the reason for the horrible, artificial dialogue is uncertain. In any case, bizarre character exchanges, wooden voice acting, and sloppy presentation very nearly scuttle this ship. Fortunately, some interesting puzzles more or less keep it afloat.

Most of us know how real people talk, and that means fake dialogue is easy to recognize. Black Sails, unfortunately, is full of this. Its two main characters are strangely at odds with each another -- the man a belligerent jerk and the woman unbelievably caring -- and the voice acting is equally bad (though you have to wonder if it's the fault of the writing). Along with this, Black Sails suffers from sloppy presentation: Characters constantly reach through walls, voices cut out suddenly in the middle of scenes, and there are occasional game crashes. Though all this is annoying, the impact is lessened by interesting common-sense puzzles and an intriguing overall mystery. (Note: Things get pretty dark here, with clues regarding smugglers and the indeterminate relationship between a child and a sadistic doctor.) The start and middle of the game are truly absorbing as you explore the ship, discovering clues and seeing visions, but the end is a definite letdown. If you make it all the way through, you'll discover the promise of dialogue-directed multiple endings is utterly broken, with each ending playing out the same. Black Sails: The Ghost Ship should've been an engrossing horror adventure, but instead this vessel barely avoids sinking under the weight of its problems.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games such as Black Sails. Is the level of violence in this game unjustified, even though you never actually see the acts committed?

  • Discuss the history of smuggling. Have you seen any news stories about modern-day smuggling?

  • Think about a past memory. Do you think your memory accurately reflects the events of that time? 

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