HIGH Pulling out the clutch win.
LOW There’s just not a lot to do.
WTF Why are there aliens?!
Duel on Board is an easy game to understand, but a hard game to describe. It’s 2D 1-on-1 local multiplayer title in which teams of three pirates fight over a glass of beer and try not to get knocked off of their ship. The first team to reach the beer or knock off every member of the other team wins.
Each pirate has slightly different stats that regulate the number of bullets they carry, their reload speed, and the travel speed of the bullet they fire, but players can use the same pirate three times if that particular one tickles their fancy. Once they’ve assembled a team, they’re placed on opposite ends of a boat with a mug of beer between them. Then it’s time to duel.
Dueling is pretty easy. Each pirate can fire their gun, double jump, dash forward, and use a shield to send a bullet back at their attacker. It’s that simple… and that hard.
Duel on Board asks the player to make decisions in a split-second. Jump or parry? Dash through a bullet or wait? Fire now, or wait until the pirate has more bullets and fire them all at once? Get to the beer, or try to win in a straight fight? If a pirate has their back to the sea and one more hit will mean death, do they parry a bullet, jump over it, or dash through it?
Jumping is safest, but it means a pirate isn’t shooting back. Dashing runs the risk of hitting another bullet, and missing a parry knocks pirates backwards. Each decision has its own risks, all of which are multiplied when there are several bullets flying and players are deflecting them back at one another.
Players aren’t just fighting other pirates, though — they’re fighting the environment, too. Sailing through haunted waters summons ghost pirates who must be fought off in sword duels by pressing the correct buttons in sequence. Sometimes, alien saucers will come down and try to abduct the players, who must constantly jump down to avoid getting beamed into their ship. They can also sail through a blizzard, which turns bullets to ice and freezes pirates that get hit. Stormy weather, on the other hand, means pirates have to jump to avoid lightning strikes.
Pirates who get tired of dueling can try their hands at other modes. Swordfight tasks players with pressing a series of buttons before their opponent, gradually pushing them to the edge. Penalties is a turn-based game of soccer with unlimited jumping and very tall goals — wins are decided by positioning and clutch saves. My favorite of the additional modes is Ping Pong, which takes away the ability to jump or dash and forces players to parry an increasingly-fast bullets, lest they be knocked off. There’s also Cannon Dance, a co-op only mode (no versus) where pirates knock one another out of the way of cannonballs from enemy ships.
And… that’s about all there is to it, aside from the excellent training mode that will get newbies up to speed. Each of the modes can be played alone against the computer or against a friend either locally or via Steam Remote Play. Beyond that, there’s nothing else to do besides pet the dog on the main menu.
It’s kind of a shame, honestly. Duel on Board is mechanically fantastic, it sports some absolutely stunning pixel art and has killer music, but there just isn’t very much here. What’s present is excellent, but unless players have a dedicated partner to play with, they’ll probably be done with the game in a couple of hours. Rebel Rabbit has made something special and I enjoyed every second, I just wish I had more reason to keep playing.
— Will Borger
Disclosures: This game is developed by Rebel Rabbit and published by Indienova. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 1 hour of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game cannot be completed because it has no ending. An additional 1 hour of play was spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game has been rated E10+ by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence and Use of Alcohol. This one is pretty safe, parents. The violence is exceptionally mild with characters just getting knocked off the ship or pushed back when hit (there’s not even any blood) and there’s no swearing or questionable content. About the worst thing these pirates do is drink beer.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles can be altered and/ or resized. (See example above.) Everything has both a visual and audio component, though it can be harder to keep track of your opponent’s shots without an audio cue when they fire. That said, I’d still call this one fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls.