Ship of Fools is a cooperative roguelite action game from Fika Productions that puts you and a friend at the helm of a ship sailing headlong into a mysterious storm swallowing everything in its path. You play as adorable anthropomorphic sea folk that wash up on the shores of a temple island and are immediately met by an old mystic who warns you about the threat of a storm wreaking havoc on the archipelago. She lends you her ship, Stormbreaker, in order to reach its eye and bring the storm to an end.
The lore and story is pretty minimal beyond that, and the NPCs have fun designs but aren’t especially witty or enthralling to speak to. The player characters are charmingly dimwitted but similarly lacking in personality except for flavor text detailing their unique passive or active abilities.
Despite the thin setup, the core gameplay loop is immediately engaging. And though you can play solo, your slow-firing autocannon makes it clear that playing with a partner is the intended experience. Each character has a mountable cannon they can attach and reattach at any of the four placements on the ship, as well as a melee combo and charged attack used to repel projectiles. Your cannons require ammunition, which is a cargo item housed on a pedestal on the deck.
The cumbersome nature of moving weapon placements and reloading ammo makes juggling the logistics of combat a skillful game within itself that rewards teamwork but can punish incompetence in hilarious ways. We watched our newly acquired and powerful resonance ammo, which linked damage between multiple enemies, float away alongside the ship because I accidentally picked it up and threw it overboard while trying to reload mid-battle.
You’ll chart a path through zones on a hexagonal map littered with icons that denote what rewards or dangers await you. Enemies will swarm from the surrounding waters attacking close up or from range, and some even board your ship. Internalizing what dangers to prioritize and executing on the best strategies to deal with them alongside a partner is key to success.
Should you survive the encounter, you may be rewarded cargo items that give new ammo options or passive abilities to your ship, trinkets that grant upgrades to your characters (like a higher crit chance or elemental effects on shots), or opportunities to collect items like planks to repair damage or money to spend in shops. A host of randomized opportunities to power up will present themselves as you push further into a zone, with the challenge of encounters increasing all the while. Soon you’ll be weighing if trying to snag a few extra pieces of shielding is less risky than facing off against a boss at half health as your options dwindle the longer you stay in a zone.
There are only a few boss encounters, but each one is unique and does a great job of making you utilize your full kit of base abilities. Should you die, you’re sent back to start from the first zone, but there’s a persistent currency you can use to unlock permanent upgrades to your cannon’s power or ship’s health that are sure to aid future runs.
The game’s high-quality cartoon aesthetic helps to maintain a clean look even when all hell breaks loose in combat, and the accompanying sea chanty melodies are wonderfully adventurous. Although I was able to reach the final stage after about six hours, I was compelled to play with my partner for a while after.
Ship of Fools makes every bit of its gameplay loop work in favor of pushing you to keep trying. Even the clumsy aspects of picking up and placing items on your ship feel intentional and in service of the kind of memorable moments that make co-op games a massive amount of fun. If you already have a buddy you can see yourself playing this with, a purchase is a no-brainer.
Ship of Fools is out November 22 for $14.99 on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X | S, and Nintendo Switch.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Ship of Fools.