Kaptein Sabeltann is a game based on the Norwegian fictional pirate of the same name, known in English as Captain Sabertooth. Captain Sabertooth originally appeared in theatre plays by the singer and actor Terje Formoe, but has since been adapted into books and cartoons for children. This is the captain's first appearance in a game. The player takes control of Spinky (or Tiny as he is also known as), a young boy working at the captain's ship The Black Lady. Spinky dreams about becoming a real pirate and therefore he needs to help Captain Sabertooth in finding Red Ruby's treasure. The aim of the game is to find all parts of the treasure map so that the treasure can be located. For each piece of the map that is found the player is able to sail to the next level.
The player navigates Spinky through the 3D worlds of the game from a behind-the-shoulder third-person perspective. The gameplay involves platform jumping, sword fighting and puzzle solving. Interaction with the world is done by pressing the space button at specific locations to perform a specific task. This includes for example jumping over obstacles, moving objects or talking with characters. Throughout the game Spinky will find gold which can be used to buy necessary equipment. First he needs a sword to fight the bad guys that he comes across. He also need to buy a lantern to move through dark locations and a shovel to dig away obstacles or find treasure. The fights are simple and involve the player pressing the space button to lash out against the enemy. Enemies include pirates and skeletons which can fought in sword duels. Spinky will also encounter monkeys that need to be scared away and crabs that can't be fought and therefore have to be avoided. Each level ends with a boss fight that is tougher than the regular enemy encounters and forces the player to figure out the weakness of the boss. Since the game is aimed at children, there is no death in the game. Enemies that are defeated will simple get knocked out.
Between levels the player gets to navigate the captain's ship with the mouse. Here the player can be attacked by enemy pirate ships. When this happens Spinky gets to take control of a cannon from a first-person perspective and shoot at the opposing ship. The aim is to destroy all three cannons of the enemy ship.
The game has a clear reference to the Monkey Island series. One of the levels in the game is in the Swedish version called Apön which translates to exactly Monkey Island. It's not just in the name, but the actual layout of the island is similar with a volcano in the centre surrounded by jungle.