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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: Sid Meier's Pirates! (iPad)

Dueling pirates will never get old
Sid Meier’s Pirates! is a classic example of how to dress up a minigame compilation in a way that’s attractive and entertaining for a wide range of players, and thankfully it has been optimised well for the iPad.

After an introductory sequence that acts as a briefing (you’re an angry guy on a quest for revenge for wrongdoings done to your family, so naturally you decide to become a pirate), you’re left free to roam around the Caribbean, causing trouble and plundering loot as you will. There are four nations that you can ally yourself with – France, Spain, England and The Netherlands – and there’s some political tension between these nations – so if you help one you could end up drawing the ire of another.

Within that simple context, the various cities of the Caribbean belong to one of the nations. It’s possible to attack and capture these, or alternatively, you can port peacefully and engage in a spot of rumour mongering or trade. Docking in each city pops up a menu of locations, from the Governors’ office (where you’ll be assigned jobs), to the Inn (where you can recruit new sailors) and the shop keeper (where you can buy essentials, such as provisions, and trade goods, such as sugar, that you can take to another port and hopefully sell back for some profit).




On the high seas, it’s possible to get in a scrap with another ship where you’ll enter a minigame and either fire cannons at the opponent, or crash into them, kicking of a melee where you’ll duel the rival ship’s captain in a separate minigame. When you’re sailing around you’ll need to take into account wind direction, while also avoiding reefs and other nautical nasties.

Though you are free to go about the game as you see fit,
there is an overarching time limit you need to be aware of
Then there’s a No More Heroes-style ranking system of the top pirates in the world to work your way through, and a number of broad “campaign paths” that you can go after in your own leisure – the quest for revenge is just one of those. So there’s some sense of freedom involved in the game, even though it’s far from what you could call a sandbox.

On the iPad, the game looks good, although the characters are a bit blocky and animations are as a whole stiff. The sailing and boat models look great, though. It also controls really well – minigames have been turned into a series of swipes and taps and navigating your boat around is a simple matter of tap and drag. It’s all quite intuitive.

At the end of the day, Pirates! is still a glorified minigame compilation, and there isn’t all that many minigames. It’s also a game that’s starting to really show its age and limitations. Unless you’re right into the whole pirate thing, the appeal of this game can wear thin surprisingly quickly, but then for less than $10, it’s difficult to complain. 2K Games already brought the iPad the awesome port of Civilization, and this is another feather in its cap.




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Review: Sid Meier's Pirates! (iPad)
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