Sid Meier's Pirates! PSP
Published by 2K Games
Developed by Full Fat Games
Release Date: Out Now
The PSP has, so far, been home to a wave of mediocre titles. Few have been impressive and it's fair to say that on the whole the games catalogue has paled in comparison to those of its rival, the Nintendo DS. Still there are bound to be some great games on the way for the console soon. In fact what we have here is easily one of the best games on the console. Sid Meier's Pirates! has been a classic ever since the original title was released back in the late 1980s. The remake that was released a few years ago managed to recapture the magic and the title even enjoyed a successful transition to the Xbox. Finally the game has made the move over to the PSP and surprisingly it retains all of its charm.
Although most of you will have already played the game at some point (the original, PC remake or Xbox version) let's first cover what the game is about. The game begins with a family celebration that goes horribly wrong. The cause for the celebration is that the family have long owed money to the Marquis Montalban and they've received news that their fleet is arriving shortly with money to pay off the Marquis. However, the celebration is interrupted by the Marquis who informs them that their fleet has been lost at sea. The Marquis has had enough of waiting for his money and he decides to seize their belongings. He also takes the family members as slaves. Only the young boy in the family escapes. The young boy is determined to get revenge for what has happened to his family and the game begins 10 years later, with the boy now a man.
After this introduction you'll have to give this young man a name, choose your difficulty level (there are five on offer), skill (you can either choose to be skilled at fencing, gunnery, navigation, medicine or simply have wit and charm) and start date (1600, 1620, 1640, 1660 and 1680). Finally you'll have to decide which nation you'll want to sail to the America's and begin the game as allies with. The choices on offer are the English, Dutch, Spanish and French. On the journey to the America's the crew are treated harshly and a mutiny takes place, with you now becoming captain of the ship. From here on in it's up to you to play the game as you see fit but not forgetting that your character will age and you won't have forever to exact your revenge.
Of course the story simply sets the scene and the game pretty much allows you to do as you please. Pirates! is made up of different elements and they have all been done really well. Top of the bill has to be the sea battles. You only control one ship in a battle (even if you have more than one ship), although the ship you control (your flagship) represents your whole fleet. This keeps the battles uncomplicated and allows you to enjoy them rather than having to change between different ships all the time. You have 3 different types of cannon ammunition, round shot, chain shot and grape shot, which can be changed at any time. You can even board the enemy vessels and engage in swordfights. It's also worth mentioning that you get to control different ships throughout the game and there are a variety of upgrades that will help make ships perform better in battles.
From time to time you'll engage in swordfights, for one reason or another, and before you start you'll have a choice of 3 swords. There's the light and quick rapier, the sturdier and defensive cutlass and the more balanced long sword. The choice is up to you but on the easier difficulty settings it's just a case of going with the rapier and button mashing, although on the more challenging difficulty levels it's not quite so simple. You'll also get to dance with the governor's daughter (where you have to press the directional buttons in accordance with the indicator to correctly perform the dance moves), engage in land battles with enemy towns (which is carried out by a turn-based mini-game), trade goods between towns of your choice, sneak into enemy towns for various reasons and go on treasure hunts amongst other things. You're also given various quests throughout the game that you can pursue if you're interested. Essentially then there's a lot to do and no limitations on how you do it.
By the look of the game and how smoothly it plays you'd be forgiven for thinking that Pirates! was designed exclusively for the PSP. The developers clearly put in the hard work to tailor the game for the handheld's specifications and the end result is impressive. Having played both the PC and Xbox versions I was expecting the PSP version to represent a real drop in visual quality but that isn't the case and never once have I felt I was playing a game that had been compromised or cut-down in anyway. Even the load times are very decent and the frame rate is very good. Sure, some of the character models may not look as sharp in the PSP version but on the whole the presentation and look of the game is excellent and it's easily one of the best looking games I've seen on the PSP.
It's always good to see a game being deaf gamer friendly but it's especially satisfying with Sid Meier's Pirates! Like the Xbox and PC versions, there is no real speech in the PSP version and all dialogue is shown in text. All of the game's instructions and tutorial messages are shown in text so you'll have no problem understanding what needs to be done. In fact there's little else to say except that Pirates! is fine for deaf gamers.
Full Fat Games have done an excellent job in making Sid Meier's Pirates! feel at home on the PSP. The game looks excellent and plays very impressively too. One of our criticisms of the Xbox version was that it felt a little repetitive but due to the game being on a handheld (and therefore usually played in short bursts) this isn't really a valid argument for the PSP version. In fact the game is perfect for when you only have 10 minutes or so and it's sure to keep you playing for months on end. It has bags of replay value too thanks to multiple difficulty settings, the nation you choose to side with and the starting skills you pick for your character. All in all it's a top class PSP title and one that deserves to sell by the galley load.
Sid Meier's Pirates! really feels at home on the PSP and it is without doubt one of the best games on the handheld. Surely Pirates! must be an early contender for the best PSP game of 2007.