Sid Meier's Pirates!
We don't usually hold with any type of scoring system here at GWJ but when SpyNavy sent inÃ‚Â his review of Pirates! complete with his own special system I couldn't really say no. You see, Spy is in the military andÃ‚Â they might beÃ‚Â training him to kill people with mind bullets. I'm not going to take that chance so enjoy the review score!
Note: All of SpyNavyÃ‚'s reviews are done on a one to five Spys basis. One being IÃ‚'d rather play extreme Paintball Deerhunter Trespasser and five being IÃ‚'d almost give up sex for at least a day for this game.
As a military officer I believe in the BLUF concept or Bottom Line Up Front so here is.
Graphics: 4 Spys
Sound/Music: 5 Spys
Interface: 3 Spys
Fun Factor: 5 Spys
Overall: 4 Spys
Executive Summary: Sid MeierÃ‚'s PIRATES! is a can of fun waiting to be cracked open. The game is a prime example of Sid at his best. A remastered classic that retains the fun of the original and enhances it with fantastic sound, whimsical graphics and game play that will make you grin like a child and have you coming back for more.
Idle Musings: I remember playing the original Pirates on my Commodore 64 into the wee hours of the morning as a young high school student. Sailing the Spanish Main pillaging ships and towns andÃ‚Â crossing swords with other Captains and the City Guard all while using my battered joystick from my Atari 2600 are still some of my fonder gaming moments. So when the 21st century version of the game was announced and subsequently released imagine my surprise when I was like Ã‚"meh, maybe I will get it, maybe I wonÃ‚'t.Ã‚" Perhaps my general malaise about the game was due to all the other games that were being released or perhaps I had become jaded (I have become jaded, but thatÃ‚'s a different story), regardless I am pleasantly surprisedÃ‚Â by this game.
Sid Meiers makes games and his games are synonymous with fun. I am not a Sid can do no wrong fan, but I have yet to encounter a game of his I havenÃ‚'t enjoyed (I havenÃ‚'t played Gettysburg so I canÃ‚'t attest to its quality). That being said this game has its foibles, but they are only slightly annoying and the rest of the game more then makes up for it. So letÃ‚'s start off with the foibles.
Game on: All games, I repeat all games should come with two required features. The first is the ability to save anywhere and the second is the ability to customize the keys. Sid what in the world were you thinking when you decided I can only play your game with the bloody keypad? I enjoy the simplicity of being able to control everything from the same set of keys, but I want to be able to determine what those keys are. I routinely bring up the menu in the game with the default (and only) set of keys while I am sailing around and it irks me Sid, you wont like me when I am irked. This is a nearly unforgivable design flaw and I hope it is patched. Second, why canÃ‚'t I save in town Sid? It seems like a natural place to save Ã‚– why do I have to set sail before I can? Huh, huh? If I am missing something here, please loyal fans point it out to me. Barring these two flaws the game is well thought out and delivers the boatloads of fun Ã‚– get it boatloads, itÃ‚'s a treasure of a game Ã‚– get it Pirates, treasure, boats, oh well I tried.
The Game: In a similar vein to the original you start off as a lowly deck hand who becomes the Pirate Captain of a small ship with the overarching quest of finding your kidnapped sister. This is all laid out in a well done cut scene at the beginning ofÃ‚Â the game. You are offered a choice of countries to hail from at the beginning of the game and this choice affects which ports you may randomly start at and who initially offers you the requisite Letter of Marque to begin your career. Additional choices include the time period you will start at, your skill emphasis (Fencing, Sailing, Cannoneer etcÃ‚"…) as well as the initial overall difficulty of the game. After, you make these choices the game provides a minimal amount of direction and allows you to either pursue the main plot line of finding your sister or just sail around as a peaceful trader, dastardly Pirate or anything in between.
Plentiful side quests abound and include hunting for buried treasure, wooing any number of governorÃ‚'s daughters, hunting other Pirates or enemies of the crown. These quests are provided in a number of ways and all have tangible rewards of some sort. As you sail around the Caribbean you will find Ã‚"mysterious tradersÃ‚" who will sell you things that will aid you in any number of ways or you can be given these things by a smitten governorÃ‚'s daughter. Items can enhance your skill at fencing, your crews morale (yes just like the original you must watch the happiness of your scurvy sea dogs), your sailing ability or how well you dance.
Speaking of dancing, it is perhaps the most frustrating yet oddly satisfying portion of the game. Unless you have the quickest fingers on the planet you will find yourself getting the hand from the GovernorÃ‚'s daughter many, many times until you are both promoted in rank and acquire some dancing shoes. Your progress in wooing the governorÃ‚'s daughter is shown by a heart and gives you feedback on just how well you are doing and the first time you successfully dance to completion and the young lady shows her appreciation will be a wonderful moment (trust me).
Pirates! is actually made up of a number of mini-games woven together by an overarching goal based system and you are constantly rewarded for playing in some manner whether it is gold from a captured ship or town or the hand of a beautiful governorÃ‚'s daughter. These mini-games include the trading of cannon fire with other ships, the fencing duels, the simplified ground combat required to capture a city, and the dancing. The design and game play elements are solid throughout and just Ã‚"make senseÃ‚" so much that you will only consult the manual sparingly if at all.
Graphics/Sound: The game is full of atmosphere with the sounds and music enhancing the graphical Ã‚"flavorÃ‚" of the game. The cartoon like graphics are well done if slightly repetitive in the model selection, particularly the other Captains you will duel a number of times from the various countries. The Captains of the other vessels each hail from a particular country of the era (Spain, the Netherlands, France, England, and the unaligned Pirates) with each having a model that deviates slightly depending on how difficult the duel will be. A fat rich merchant will look different then the Captain of a War Galleon etc. The detail in the graphics and the little touches show that a lot of love and attention was placed on this game. The CollectorÃ‚'s Edition DVD version lets you add certain musical and graphical flourishes to the game such as different music reminiscent of Jimmy Buffet and a couple of different flag choices. All in all not a big deal, but they are examples of the details that are present throughout.
Sailing into the sunset: I really enjoyed the game and I found myself losing three or four hours of my life at a time without realizing it. The game isnÃ‚'t a revolution, it doesnÃ‚'t break new ground, but it delivers exactly what it promises Ã‚– enjoyment and hours of good olÃ‚' wholesome entertainment. If you enjoy a light hearted, fun, and well crafted game look no further then Sid MeierÃ‚'s PIRATES!.