"Here, thar be pirates. And Maelstrom. Lots of Maelstrom."- Captain Jack Knife
|Major Characters in Location||Captain Jack Knife|
|Main Location of||Pirates|
|Enemies||Stromling Pirates, Stromling Admirals, Stromling Apes|
Players are first directed to go to Gnarled Forest by Nexus Jay after choosing their Faction. After blasting off from the Gnarled Forest Launchpad in Nimbus Station, players make a landing on an elevated landing pad, with the treetops surrounding them. Down the launchpad's ramp they meet Hugo First, who informs them that the pirates "really made a mess of things here" and that they could use some help.
Continuing on, players come to The Ravine, where, due to a broken bridge, they must build bouncers on top of stone spires to cross the ravine without falling into the rapids far below. Once at the other end of the broken bridge, they can either visit the nearby Tortoise Terrace and tame a Tortoise pet, or smash the broken Pirate Archway and continue on into a cave.
There, they find Toby Squidbarrel, who tells them that Maelstrom infected treasure transformed most of his crewmates into Stromling Pirates and Stromling Admirals. He then asks players to smash ten Stromling Pirates at the nearby Maelstrom Trench, an infected clearing with a rock mutated into a giant skull, glowing with Maelstrom. After doing so, Toby directs players to Renee Tombcrusher, a Venture League explorer assisting in fighting the cursed pirate crew. She asks players to Quick Build a Siren Stunner for her, a robotic Mermaid device which entrances any nearby Stromlings, rendering them unable to fight. She then sends players deeper into the forest to find Arrrthur Arrrbuckle, a pirate near the Elephant Escarpment in need of help building a Siren Stunner.
Arrrthur explains that the Siren Stunner is missing a piece, the head, which can be found in a nearby crate. After building complete Siren Stunner, Arrrthur remarks hearing gunshots further into the forest, at Brig Rock, and sends players to investigate. On the way, they meet Merciless Ned, who was told to shoot and detonate some of the explosive, infected treasure chests, but is unable to do so as he can't find his gun. In return, Ned offers players a bag of peanuts, which can be used to tame the nearby Elephant pets.
Arriving at Brig Rock, players find the ninja-holding jail overrun with Stromling Pirates and Stromling Admirals. Speaking to Bert Scurvyburp, players find that a "mad gunman" has pinned the pirates down. Climbing what remains of some stairs to a higher level of the brig, players find that the "mad gunman" is Swabbie the Monkey, who has somehow found a gun, likely the one Merciless Ned lost. Swabbie asks players for five bananas, which can be found by attacking nearby banana trees. In return for the bananas, he hands over the gun.
Just around a rock from Swabbie and on a wooden platform built into the cliff face is Ralphie Brig-Eyes, the pirate jailkeeper, who is unable to feed the captive ninja prisoners due to being gunned down by Swabbie. He then asks players to feed bananas to the four ninjas - Hashi, Zashi, Mashi, and Steve - and rewards the player with an Imagination point for their work.
Continuing past Brig Rock, players reach the Pirate Camp, and find the leader of the pirate crew, Captain Jack Knife, as well as his ship, the Black Seas Barracuda, oddly sitting in a tree on the beach. Jack Knife congratulates players on their success, and challenges them to get 25,000 points or more in Cannon Cove Shooting Gallery. However, in order to enter the shooting gallery, players must gather ten cannonballs for Black Hearted Kevin, who mans the cannon. In order to get the cannonballs, players must use the pistol gained from Swabbie to shoot caught sharks hanging on rope from the rocks overhead the camp, with the cannonballs - and several bones - falling from their stomachs.
Also at the Pirate Camp, players find the complete story of Gnarled Forest on a Nexus Force Plaque: Captain Jack Knife and his crew of pirates somehow found a collection of Maelstrom crystals, and, mistaking them for valuable gems, loaded them onto the Black Seas Barracuda. The Kraken sensed the Maelstrom inside the ship, and flung the entire ship out of the water, landing in a tree. The pirates set up a camp around the tree, and took the "treasure" inland. However, they became corrupted by the Maelstrom in the treasure, and the now zombie pirates packed the treasure chests with explosives as traps. The Maelstrom also began seeping into the ground itself, and formed the Maelstrom Trench. The Venture League arrived to assist the pirates, but only gave them a launchpad to Nimbus Station.
After getting the required score in Cannon Cove Shooting Gallery, Jack Knife gives players a pirate hook, which can be used to build Crow's Nests which reach special pirates-only areas. Players then use their new hook to reach Crocodile Corner, through the Brig Rock Tunnel or another Crows Nest near the Elephant Escarpment. Here, players can tame a Crocodile pet, and race at Keelhaul Canyon Raceway under the instruction of Swifty McGurk.
A large ravine, most notable for the massive tiki head carved into the cliff side and large stone spires that players must use to cross the rapids below.
A small area on the side of the Ravine, featuring a small pond, a waterfall, and a large rock carved in the shape of a tortoise.
A heavily Maelstrom infected area, with a tiki carving corrupted by the Maelstrom and transformed into a stone skull.
A peaceful pond area between a ledge over the forest and a giant tree stump.
A pirate jail holding several ninja prisoners, and overrun by Stromlings emerging from cracks in the rock wall.
A lighter area with a pond, crocodile pets, and most noticeably, the entrance to Keelhaul Canyon Raceway.
A pirate base set up around the Black Seas Barracuda, which is stuck in a tree by the beach.
Gnarled Forest and Forbidden Valley were initially designed as a single world, containing both pirate and ninja themes. However, the earliest known version of Gnarled Forest was still split into two maps, with a main "Gnarled Forest" map focusing on pirates, and a "Gnarled Forest Ninja" map that was renamed to Forbidden Valley as development continued.
The earliest known version of the main Gnarled Forest map consisted of a small jungle and pathways through it. Some elements of the final level existed, such as the Ravine, pirate archway, and Pirate Camp, but the world was largely different from the finalized zone. Enemies included Hyper Darklings and Maelstrom Ninja.
This version evolved over time; the shooting gallery had been located in a bay to the east of the Pirate Camp that connected to the river crossed at the beginning of the world, but at some point was relocated to the pirate ship in the camp. The path to the bay was removed, and a new beach was added to the previously landlocked pirate camp for the shooting gallery to take place in. Additionally, a new alternate path was added to the northwest side of the map. Video of a playtesting session in Germany also shows Jack Knife at a different part of the Pirate Camp than he appears in a demo at a 2008 LUP event.
Concept art and screenshots also exist of a map with the visual style of the final level, but a different layout. Not much is known about this map, but it is known that it had more elements of the finalized world, such as the Maelstrom Trench.
There are three pre-alpha properties for Gnarled Forest: Tiki Island, Lagoon, and Pirate's Cove. Lagoon and Pirate's Cove were available to play for a short time in alpha testing by using an invisible rocket launchpad where the Chantey Shanty launchpad currently is, while Tiki Island was shown in a demo at CES 2010.