January 26, 2011
Ahoy and Arrrgh: "Pirates" Is Back
Do you want some booty? How would you like to plunder? Well arrrgh, matey, consider setting sail in a big ship, taking part in swashbuckling battles, and firing boat cannons at enemy docks — all in "Sid Meier's Pirates."
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This is a pretty fun (if rudimentary) 2010 Wii version of a 2004 PC remake of a 1987 game. I didn't play the 2004 "Pirates" but people who did say this Wii game is quite similar.
The setting is the late 1600s. You portray a ship captain harboring a typical back story of revenge and loot:
When you were a child, your parents were well-off, but the Marquis stormed into your home, seized their property and enslaved your family. You escaped and became a pirate ship captain.
With screenwriter's efficiency, the game promises you what it beholds: "A fortune to be had. A family to rescue. Revenge to be served. Your destiny awaits."
At the beginning, you must choose to sail on behalf of one of four nations — the English, Spanish, Dutch or French. Then you take off in a boat in the Caribbean, engaging in several different kinds of games-within-the-game.
First, you sail the ship from harbor to harbor, but you encounter enemy ships along the way, belonging to the three nations you did not choose to fight for. This leads to cannonball battles between boats. They are quite fun.
Second, during those boat battles, you rush your ship up to the other ship, storm onto the deck by foot, and engage in a one-on-one swordfight with the rival ship's captain. This is OK.
Third, after defeating that captain, you pilfer all the booty off his rival ship (food, booze, sugar and such). Fine.
Fourth, you find a watery port to dock, where you can buy and sell booty. Business-like.
Fifth, while docked, you occasionally take part in dumb mini-games where you dance with a woman who gives you clues as to where the main bad guys are hiding — the ones who enslaved your family.
All these challenges are just hard enough to keep casual gamers on their toes, I think. I suspect hardcore gamers could get a little bored, or at the very least angry (as I do) with the snail's pace of sailing a ship. Wow, are these boats slow.
But I especially want to tell you Wii gamers about "Pirates," because most Wii games are terrible, and this one is a great one for casual Wii players and role-playing action fans.
I would have reviewed "Pirates" a few months ago, when it came out, but it got lost in a pile of big holiday releases.
To me, "Pirates" is another addictive "Sid Meier" adventure. It's not amazing, as "Sid Meier's Civilization" games are.
But I would venture to say it's better than almost every other Wii game on any store shelf, and it's super fun for what it is: A charming romp that embraces the clichés of a pirate's booty.
("Sid Meier's Pirates" by Take Two for Wii — Plays fun. Looks subpar. Easy but with optional harder settings. Rated "E 10+" for alcohol reference, mild language, mild violence, suggestive themes. Three and one-half stars out of four.)
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at http://www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html.