Overall Score 68%
Caribbean Pirate Quest
The first time that I booted up Carribean Pirate Quest, I was expecting to draw comparisons to some really fun games like Puzzle Quest and Spandex Force. The initial excitement soon subsided, however, when I realised that this game is not quite as sophisticated as some of its contemporaries. Rather than using puzzle elements as tools to resolve battles and develop characters, the tile matching action in Carribean Pirate Quest is, in fact, the entire game.
The player controls a pirate captain aboard a ship at sea. Between levels the ship sails around the level maps looking for prospective treasure sites. Once you click on one of those, the display changes to the puzzle screen where most of your time in Pirate Quest will be spent. By clicking and dragging tiles either vertically or horizontally, matches of 3 or more identical tiles are made and points awarded. More points are awarded for more tiles cleared in one move, or chained combos that are formed as the rows of tiles above cleared areas crash down.
Clearing tiles will give you points, but to finish a level the player must wipe all of the blue framed squares from the board (as depicted in the screenshot below). This is accomplished by simply detonating a match over them. The blue frames right at the bottom of the puzzle, or on the edges, can pose a real problem. Luckily the player has some power-ups that will help in these situations. The cannon can remove a troublesome piece from play (but needs to be charged up before each use), and the bomb will blow away the tile it is in, as well as the 8 surrounding tiles when used. Bombs are formed when at least a double pattern combo is made.
Two modes of play are available: Treasure Hunting mode and Arcade Mode. The former sees you competing against other pirates all over the world (assuming you have a persistent internet connection). There are two main treasures that need to be found to progress through each of six maps, and a global high score table that will rank you against all other players in the world. The campaign takes an hour or so to play through and the level of difficulty is fairly low. Most players will finish the campaign without much trouble, even without using all of their 3 lives. Extra lives can be bought at towns that are scattered around the maps for gold (points) that are collected on the adventure. The forgiving difficulty level is probably a good thing, since it allows the player to focus on racking up the points, which is really the heart of the game. Arcade mode is good fun too, and pits the player against a series of random puzzles set to a time limit. At the end of a level, players can choose to exchange points for extra time that carries through to the next round; although strategy is somewhat limited by the fact that you never know what level you will be facing next. Global high scores are available for this mode as well.
Carribean Pirate Quest features colourful and thematic backgrounds with well drawn sprites and simple animations. The bomb and cannon blasts are a little underwhelming, and there are no special lighting or particle effects. Nice sound effects accompany most of the on-screen action, and of particular note are the comments of the crew as the ship is moved around the map. With their (peculiarly Swedish) pirate accents, they will complain and rejoice with you at appropriate and various times. Voice acting (when done well) can sometimes bring a unique feel to a game, and this is certainly the case with Pirate Quest.
I think that the biggest flaw of this game is its one dimensional gameplay. I could perhaps see myself playing every now and then for half an hour or so, but suffice it to say that Pirate Quest is not going to be devouring hour upon hour of my spare time. The interface and mouse driven controls are fine, and there are options to switch between full screen and a window, as well as change the detail level on lower end computers. You can even switch between English and Swedish as desired. The game ran very smoothly on both my PC's and there were no technical issues at all. A couple of gameplay related anomalies were encountered but those were nothing close to game breaking.
There are more absorbing match 3 tile games on the indie scene at the moment. Pirate Quest is a nicely presented and very playable time sink, but certainly nowhere near a genre-defining title in any sense. It might struggle for market share at $15 considering the amount of quality competition it has.
Oh, by the way, know why pirates are called pirates? Neither do I, they just AARRRRHH!
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