Not since the Pirates of the Caribbean series have we seen such resurgence in the popularity of the good ol'pirates, it was only a matter of time until the video game industry was hit like a cannon ball and what better platform than on ever hugely popular DS. Oxygen games brings us 'Pirates Duels on the high seas' but will it be walking the plank or leading you to a treasure trove of riches? Well read on and find out.
When first booting up the game you will be glad to see it has multiplayer support, and if you were observant enough to look on the packaging you'd have seen that it's a single cart multiplayer game meaning you and your friends can play multiplayer with a single cart which isn't uncommon is a perfect addition for a game like this but I'll get onto the details later.
The main part of the game is the story mode which revolves around you the captain of a pirate vessel down on your luck and a crew close to mutiny, in a tavern one day you hear about a map which leads you to several keys spread out across the seven seas, these key's unlock all a bounty of riches so you reckon what can you loose and set off on your quest. As clichéd as the story is right up to the point when you get your first key and find out you have been cursed and have to get all the other keys in 7 days you know not to take the story too seriously though the narration is well written and the art work that shows on the top screen is very well detailed and polished.
Once you have your 'quest' it's time to set sail. The game plays in a three-quarter top down perspective with you in control of the pirate ship itself. Instead of going for the more obvious touch screen to control the ship, Oxygen have decided to go more traditional with a control scheme consisting mainly of the actual DS buttons with the touch screen relegated to secondary tasks.
At first your ship will feel awfully sluggish but all the AI controlled ships in the game suffer the same sluggishness and once you are used to it you'll be dodging cannon fire left right and centre and you'll need to too. The action begins when you have to escape from a port which seems to be more like a maze littered with enemy ships than any port I've ever seen, but I digress, you guide your ship through the maze to get to the end of the level and complete whatever objective was listed in the story. Along the way you'll come across different power ups and weapon drops such as rockets and saw blades which can easily turn the tide of a battle, especially when you are out numbered 6-7 to one and strategy really becomes the name of the game.
When you destroy enemy ships sometimes the ship will leave behind crewman whom you can pick up, these men are specialists and for a price will boost certain attributes of your ship which can also give you an edge over the enemies.
I briefly mentioned the touch screen controls earlier and I thought I should expand on what it is exactly the touch screen does in the game. Say you've just had a run in with a few enemy ships and you've taken moderate damage on the bottom screen you have your map but at each corner of the screen there is an icon that if you tap it will boost your ships performance in that area, so if you took damage you can click the repair button and your ship will be repaired faster though it does cost money which is overly available within the game so no problem there.
I think now is a good time to discuss the games difficulty which after you get used to the controls is pretty much non-existent as long as you remember to continually move and only shoot at the enemy ship as you pass it by, but saying that just because a game is easy doesn't mean it isn't any fun and thankfully this game is fun, the levels do get a little repetitive as they mostly seem to take place in the maze like ports but the level design ensures you won't be bored.
The graphics aren't anything to write home about, the game is in 3D but the textures sometimes look a little dirty and the lack of enemy ship variations from the stock half dozen each zone has makes the game seem a little drab, the water and cloud effects along with the flying seagulls are a nice touch and help to give a crispness to the scenery.
The game sports some very clichéd and stereotypical pirate themed music which I found to be a total blast and really helped with the cheese factor along with the story. The sound effects can get a little annoying at times as there is no in game music just general sea noises with seagulls blaring away so picking up money and hearing the pirate go "Yar!" more times than I care to count can get a little monotonous.
Each level is very short requiring less than 10 minutes completion time on most occasions with the exceptions being the end zone bosses which can take a little thinking to get around and since the controls are mainly button based it is an ideal game to play when on the bus or train.
Now the multiplayer, I mentioned right at the start that this game had multiplayer but there is a problem with said multiplayer - load times. Playing with a single cart you can wait upwards of 5 minutes for the game to start, I even thought the DS's had crashed at one point which if you're a seven year old child a wait like that is unacceptable, they will have the game turned off and they'll simply move onto something else. That being said though once the multiplayer has loaded it is a great blast to play with friends fighting it out in an arena. First one to 10 wins was really fun and highly recommendable even with the extreme load times.
If you find this game cheap in a bargain bin pick it up without hesitation, an underrated game by all accounts, it's fun, addictive and is perfect for those on the go even despite the minor problems.