Top positive review
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Imaginative updating of a classic
on 21 June 2005
Ahh, Nostalgia. It's a wonderful thing.
Years ago, back in the mists of time, I was lucky enough to be at a school that invested in Macintoshes. Not the waterproof raincoats I hasten to add, no the Apple Macintosh home computer that completely revolutionised the marketplace adding a Windows- based graphical interface with icons and a mouse thing to interact with the machine.
Naturally kids, being kids, we instantly went out to see what sort of games you could get for the thing and one of those games was Pirates!
Now, more years than I care to count later, Pirates! is back. Polished up with spiffing graphics, a plot, a number of new minigames and ... it is just as much fun as it ever was.
Pirates is a game almost in a catagory of its own. It is an RPG in many respects as you have missions to complete, skills to attain and levels to reach for your character (who you name, choose a starting skill bonus and country allegiance at the start). However much of this is hidden from you by the game in much the same way that GTA hides the character stats from you, so you nothign gets in the way of having fun.
In other respects the game is very level based; though you only move up a level when you want to, the challenge increases (as does your share of the plunder) and there is no way back down. This often serves as a curb to your ambition, as I've had many a character end up broke and ill who showed such promise earlier on in the game.
These two points are probably scaring a lot of people off, but don't be. All of this levelling and skill gaining is done, seamlessly, via a number of minigames based around a map of the Caribbean. You can sail where you want from Florida to Northern Brazil, and do pretty much what you want. Mug the Spanish treasure fleets for gold, stifle English sugar exports, conquer French islands for your country - all of these options (and more) are open to you. Sea battles are conducted in real-time, land battles are turn-based but both use roughly the same controls. Most sea battles end in a duel with the other ships captain, which is basically a game of timing: pressing the key when you want to block an attack or launch one.
Also you can protect diplomats and settlers, raise gold by skilful trading, take on freelance vigilante missions, and romance Governors' daughters. The vigilante missions usually involve sailing to a port, visiting the bar and having a swordfight with the scoundrel. The governors' daughters require you to partake in a ballroom dance in a sort of rhythm action game, but without the intrusive arrows, instead you have to watch for your date's hand gestures - a far more subtle way of doing things.
On top of all this you may have to sneak into a hostile town if you are running short of supplies, or break out of prison should you have been captured, or hunting for treasure, or a lost city, or your kidnapped family members. There is an awful lot going on.
This is all terrific fun, and everything runs seamlessly together. There are problems, for example the wind always blows from the East and the sneaking minigames don't really work well, but the freedom given to the player and the sheer fun of everything makes this a very worthwhile game. The interface is equisite, with carefully worked out controls (nine buttons for everything)and simple gameplay balanced for fun. Graphically the game is ok, pretty enough but it isn't going to win Miss World. however the style of the game (which is cartoony in a Sims sort of way) balances this and the gameplay more than makes up for it.
This is a great game for kids to play as it never gets too tricky to cause frustration (except for the sneaking bits)and you can choose when you want to make things harder for yourself.
This is a game you keep coming back to, even after you have played it through to completion once as you know it will be something totally different next time. A brilliant updating of a worthy classic that just falls short of five star brilliance with some tiny niggles. Make yourself smile; Buy it.