Sid Meier's Pirates!
We take to the high seas with 2K's pirate adventure.
We like a good pirate yarn as much as the next person, and while games have been largely deprived of swashbuckling tales since the days of Guybrush Threepwood, the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies proves there's an insatiable thirst for these particular thematic adventures. Outside of the talented chaps at LucasArts, we certainly can't think of a more distinguished gaming luminary to tackle a tale of the seven seas than Sid Meier.
The most important thing you first realize about the newly-released iPhone version of Pirates! is that this is not the typical Sid Meier fare that you've come to expect: for the most part, it's a game focused on fluid action, rather than the slow contemplative strategy that his titles have become famous for.
As you start out, you'll need to select your character and difficulty level, throw a few attributes around to determine your piratey preferences (fighting style, period of piracy and so on) before choosing your preferred nationality and taking to the seas.
The cinematics between activities are nothing short of gorgeous, with tumultuous waves beneath deadly storms, and the soundtrack is exactly the kind of jaunty flagon-swinging fare that you'd expect upon visiting the taverns, where locals celebrate the survival of another day.
It won't comes as a surprise to learn that for the most part, this is a game of combat, and it assumes various forms. Starting out with a rather sorry-looking ship, you float around the expansive map and take on other ships in tactical cannon-ball fights. Cause enough damage, and the ship (along with its crew and booty) become your own.
Should you board a ship against overwhelming forces, you'll need to do battle with the captain in a fencing match. It's not complex by any means, but you'll need to dodge, parry and attack with careful timing in order to strike the captain down without taking damage yourself.
While the core of the experience is very much a series of mini-games, there is of course some strategy to be had from Pirates!, and it comes in the form of managing relationships with other nations within the game. Sooner or later, the French will notice that you have a fondness for running off with their booty and will respond accordingly. Make the wrong allegiances, and you'll find yourself enjoying the company of their enemies.
If you've historically been put off by the complexity of Sid Meier's other titles, this is a lovely action-simulation that will lead you gently into the genre. For strategy stalwarts, there's nothing to fear from this very different Meier game, because it really is a huge amount of fun regardless of your typical gaming preferences.
Review code provided by 2K Games.
What's Hot: Fantastic graphics and storytelling. It's a role-playing experience that equals any RPG, regardless of the actual gameplay.
What's Not: The mini-game nature of Pirates! can start to feel a little repetitive after a while.