Yo ho ho and a barrel of fun
Set on Treasure Island, this, the latest Chillingo published dual-stick shoot ’em up, puts you in the boots of a salty old sea dog and pits you against hordes of mutant creepy crawlies, zombies, mummies, the Grim Reaper, and, er, a demonic heifer. If you hadn’t already guessed as much, Pirate’s Treasure doesn’t exactly stick faithfully to Robert Louis Stevenson’s much-loved tale of pirates and buried gold.
That said, rather unusually for a game of this type, Pirate’s Treasure does take time to set up a story by way of comic book style cut-scenes, before tossing you in at the deep end to do battle with armies of baddies with your trusty blunderbuss. It seems our peg-legged protagonist’s insatiable lust for gold has provoked him to, quite literally, defy death by attempting to swipe ‘ol Boney’s stash of the shiny stuff; what follows is a delightfully daft romp as the Reaper unleashes all manner of hell on this tropical paradise.
The island’s lush jungles, sandy coves and steaming lava pits make for the perfect back-drop for the top-down action that ensues, with GameLab doing a wonderful job of conjuring up a vibrant 3D world for you to shoot and loot your way through. The cartoony style and pint-sized hero may (intentionally?) recall a certain other trigger happy Chillingo title, but the fact that Pirate’s Treasure eschews the shallow survival mechanic of Minigore and opts instead for a sprawling, level-based campaign, means this game feels much more like a fully fledged adventure, and has more in common with the Alive 4-Ever franchise than it does John Gore’s escapades. Arr, now isn’t that a salty breath of fresh air?
Much like A4-E and its recent sequel, Pirate’s Treasure fleshes out the inherently repetitive nature of the dual-stick shooter by cribbing a few ideas from the role playing genre, namely upgradeable weapons, special abilities – you can transform your pirate into an indestructible sea-monster! – and collectible bottles of magic potions. Okay, the core game-play may still ultimately boil down to the tried and tested dual-stick shooter formula of blasting everything that moves and avoiding bumping into enemies, but there’s enough well implemented tweaks here and there and welcome surprises to ensure Pirates Treasure feels far from formulaic. For the first few hours at least…
You see, although the game boasts a lengthy six hour campaign, less than half-way through you’re likely to have bought all the booty the shop has to offer and upgraded your abilities and gun to the max, meaning the remainder of the game lacks the same motivational drive and sense of discovery as the initial stages.
Which is not to say you wont enjoy gunning down those fearsome foes, the diverse range of challenges on offer, your seemingly bottomless repertoire of piratey one liners – “Arr, feel the hot lead you scurvy dogs!” “I’m here to kick ass and drink rum!” etc, etc – and battling an array of increasingly bizarre bosses, because you undoubtedly will. It’s just a shame that after such a strong opening and an obvious conviction on the developers part to distance this game from the rest of its ilk, that Pirate’s Treasure reverts to derivative high-score hunting and unimaginative missions (get X amount of gold or survive for X amount of time) for the home stretch, thus losing momentum. Overall, a patchy shooter that squanders its potential to really shine.
iFanzine Verdict: A veritable treasure trove of great ideas make this a worthy addition to Chillingo’s line up of dual-stick shooters. Too bad the RPG style upgrade system runs out of steam early on, meaning the latter half of the game drags and your hard won stash of gold goes to waste.