Crewing your pirate ship with undead brings with it a number of advantages. There’s no danger of mutiny from mindless zombies or animated skeletons, and there’s no risk of scurvy, either. The lack of libido of the deceased also guarantees you won’t walk into a cabin and stumble across an able seaman being boarded by the first mate after two bottles of rum. Granted, rattling bags of bones and rotting shambling corpses might not be able to tell port from starboard, but their unceasing drive and nose for human flesh is bound to get you to a harbour sooner or later.
Woody Two Legs, however, hates the undead. All he wants to do is bury his newly found treasure, as all good pirates must (the only bank they trust is a sandbank, and quite frankly we don’t blame them). The trouble is, Davy Jones – who Woody pilfered the treasure from – wants it back, and keeps sending fleet after fleet of various ghastly undead ships to attack Woody. This budget game from Paradox is best thought of as a simple arcade game of island defence, with the player stepping into the splintered soles of Woody.
The island is home to your treasure, and wave after wave of pirate ships come towards it. Some attack your galleon, some dock with the island and load up with as many gold coins as they can carry, and others do both of the above. Should a ship be allowed to loot some gold and disembark the island, you can still sink it with your cannons and scoop up the bullion cargo to save it. If an enemy sails off the edge of the map, however, the gold is gone forever. Lose all your treasure and it’s game over.
Woody’s ship can be steered by either the keyboard or a gamepad. Unfortunately, the gamepad option is designed for the Xbox controller, and doesn’t let you redefine the buttons on other joypads. Which in our case left it pretty useless: the default fire keys on our Logic 3 controller were mapped to the diagonals of the second analogue stick, which was too awkward to cope with. So we had to use the keyboard controls, which are spread across two banks of keys, one for turning and speed, the other for firing salvoes to port and starboard and triggering power-ups.
Movement is a bit fiddly to say the least. Tight turns are trickier to pull off than they should be, not helped by the fact that the throttle jumps in fairly large increments, so you accelerate (or brake) considerably with just one tap on a speed key.
Grabbing power-up crates quickly – these give you flaming cannonballs, or specials such as smart bombs – can become a frustrating exercise, particularly in a game where time is of the absolute essence. Floundering about trying to retrieve dropped bullion cargo crates on the edge of the map just means that more ships will be steaming into the island, docking and thieving more of your precious treasure.
Blasting wave after wave of pirate ships with little difference between them also becomes quite monotonous fairly quickly. The game consists of five levels, the first of which throws zombie crews at you, then skeletons, and then ghosts, but there’s not much variation. The skeleton ships are a bit smaller and nippier, the ghost ships a bit bigger and more dangerous, but these are minor adjustments. The final two levels just throw everything in together, which feels a little cheap, and the only other spice here comes from the bosses which appear at the end of each level.
Fighting the Kraken or a huge invisible ghost ship is marginally more interesting, although no real pressure is put on the player by these giant boss creatures or vessels, as you’ve got an unlimited amount of lives – almost. Die and you respawn, losing a little bit of treasure to pay for your new ship, but such a small amount that you can afford to die quite a few times. That means you can effectively wear a boss down through attrition, continually running at it and chipping away, which isn’t really very satisfying.
There’s the odd bug here, too, with some iffy collision detection present. Yes, we know these are ghost ships, or some of them are, but you can find yourself completely entangled in a solid one, too. Also, when we failed on the last level of the campaign, the game told us we’d won and defeated Davy Jones. A result which, to be honest, we were quite happy to accept if it meant we didn’t have to go back and play through all five levels again…
Company: Paradox Interactive