Crimson: Steam Pirates
So Bungie does iPad games now. Wait, really?
Command the high seas and steal treasure in Crimson: Steam Pirates, a thoroughly enjoyable collaboration between Harebrained Schemes and Bungie, the developer best known for its work on the Halo franchise. That alone should pique your interest. The fact that the game's free is an added bonus.
Crimson is a turn-based strategy adventure that casts you as Thomas Blood, a nineteenth century pirate exploring the Caribbean alongside the dangerous Captain Blackheart. Together, you'll raise all sorts of hell throughout the first chapter's eight missions, blowing rival ships to smithereens, boarding others and reducing heavily armed forts to rubble.
Succeed, and your crew and number of ships grow in number, eventually giving way to zeppelins and submarines; the game definitely has a steam punk vibe.
Reaching this point, of course, is half the fun, thanks to a wonderful and easy to digest combat system that'll have you plundering in minutes.
Much like Nintendo's Advance Wars, you're able to plot a course around the map (in this case, the ocean). On the iPad, you direct a ship's outline with a finger, choosing how far and what direction it'll travel.
Once the pieces are in play, you sit back and watch the action unfold. Ships auto fire, so there's no need to rapidly press buttons. The only things you'll need to keep track of are the hulls (you can repair ships), position compared to enemies and the crew, of which, the game has 20. Each person has unique abilities that prove useful later on, particularly when boarding rivals.
Here, you must sweep alongside the ship in question and win three random battles using an assortment of crew members. Who you choose may determine the fight's outcome, so it's best to get to know the scallywags under your command.
That becomes somewhat easier between missions, thanks to the in-depth and entertaining narrative that explains the various goings on, complete with old looking photographs of several characters. Modern hairstyles give these folks away, but we still appreciate the effort.
As we mentioned, Crimson's free. That said, you can purchase the eight mission Chapter 2 for $1.99, and with Chapter 3 on the way, it seems like Harebrained and Bungie plan to support the game long after release.
Our primary complaint involves the overall value, or lack of it. There's little reason to replay missions, some of which take roughly ten minutes to complete, and the lack of online multiplayer is a big disappointment; it's offline only. Finally, you can forget about playing this title on the iPhone, since it's iPad exclusive, at least for now.
With that out of the way, Crimson: Steam Pirates is still a wonderful video game that'll hopefully blossom into a more fully featured effort in the months ahead. For now, head to the App Store and prepare to embark upon a treacherous but thrilling voyage.
Requirements: Compatible with iPad. Requires iOS 4.2 or later.
What's Hot: Excellent turn-based play, 20 different crew members, enjoyable narrative, cheesy but fun photographs, Pirates of the Caribbean inspired music, first chapter's free.
What's Not: Little reason to replay missions, no online multiplayer, iPad exclusive.