Sid Meier’s Pirates! PSP Review

Sid Meier’s Pirates! was essentially just a collection of mini games, although it was still somehow one of the Xbox’s most absorbing games and Full Fat have done a wonderful job of porting the game to the significantly smaller PSP.

There’s few differences between this PSP version and the Xbox version that we reviewed many moons ago. The loading times are really quite reasonable for such an ambitious game on the PSP, although sadly some of the tracks from the rather pleasant soundtrack are missing. On the other hand, the enjoyable treasure hunting mini game, that was for some inexplicable reason removed from the Xbox version, has been resurrected for PSP.

You begin the game as a young Pirate with your very own ship, an entire ocean to explore and around half a lifetime to do so. The idea is to travel around this vast world and live the notorious life of a Pirate by of course, plundering as much gold as possible, discovering lost cities, romancing governor’s daughters and just generally doing things that assures you’ll become the number 1 ranked Pirate of the high seas.

Much of the game will be spent sailing around the gargantuan ocean, and whilst you are doing so you’ll notice other ships doing their own thing. The big draw is, it’s your choice who and when you attack. Choosing to attack a ship will result in you taking it on in combat where you then fire upon them, hoping to whittle down the numbers of their crew, before ending it by colliding your ship into theirs and duelling with the onboard Captain.

With few attack options that limit you to using a single high, medium and low attack these duels are simplistic, therefore it’s needless to say that this is certainly no dedicated fighting game. This mini game is impressively animated, probably one of the most enjoyable, and on the higher difficultly levels offers a pretty stiff challenge.

Of course doing lots of evil things to a nation, such as attacking their own as well as their allied ships will leave them disgruntled, and results in them putting a price on your head and sending out Pirate hunters to hunt you down, and even worse they’ll bar you from entering many of their towns.

Approaching hostile towns or cities will give you two options, both of which initiate a separate mini game; you can either take control of the town by force, or if you are severely lacking in manpower you’ll want to sneak in alone.

The “attack town” is a more attractive choice for more reasons than one; victory will not only gain you gold (the amount of which differs based on how prosperous that particular town is) but also allows you to place a governor of your choice as the new leader, turning a formally hostile area into a possible powerful ally.

Taking a town is done via a real time strategy battle, which like the rest of the game is simplistic, this we’re thankful for as much too often we can’t get our heads around these dauntingly complex games. As strategy games go, attacking from the rear or the side of the enemy will do additional damage, but that’s about as complex as it gets here.

If their manpower exceeds your own by a significant margin and you must for some reason or another get into the town, your best option is to sneak in. These stealth sections are fairly poor and lack any real challenge, but are fortunately over in mere minutes allowing you to mercifully return to the fun stuff again.

Doing many favourable actions for any country will not only grant you the privileges of such things as free ship repairs and upgrades, but also invariably gives you the opportunity to meet, dance and even marry the daughter of a governor.

The dancing mini game is unsurprisingly rhythm action and requires you to follow on screen prompts (which scarily aren’t present on the higher difficultly levels) as well as hand gestures from your female partner. This game is one of the weakest, but is worth involving yourself in all the same, as impressing your companion with your dance moves will allow you to gain valuable information as well as items that will be of great assistance to you on your travels.

This however isn’t Pirates! biggest problem, that accolade must go to the sea travel, which can become quickly tiring, particularly on the longer journeys (and this shockingly coming from someone who actually enjoyed the Windwaker’s and Suikoden IV’s much derided sailing sections). It’s perfectly fine when there’s a wind blowing behind you and can even be a fairly pleasant and tranquil experience, but otherwise it’s horribly tedious and a ludicrously time consuming task, so much so that we feel Firaxis (the original development team) should really walk the plank for this evil or at the very least lose an eye, we apologise for the bad jokes matey!

You’ll be watching the same cut scenes frequently (but don’t fear they can be skipped) and doing much the same thing for the games entirety and this repetition can too be a problem. If you seek variety in your games, you won’t find it here, but even so we were rarely bored and for the most part were hooked on living the shady life of a Pirate, striving to retire with as much gold as possible and living the remainder of our life with a successful job (which is essentially a rank) then we returned to it again and again and plan to do so in the near future too, it’s that addictive!

Sid Meier’s Pirates! sucked us in like a whirlpool, its pull was rather frightening, but also delightful at the same time. It’s absolutely compulsive stuff and every bit as good as the Xbox version.