Puzzle Pirates
Reviewed by Tiffany Craig
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2005-12-19 PC MMO E10 (Everyone 10+) Three Rings Design

Everyone loves the mythical Johnny Depp-in-eyeliner pirate. As we sit at our desk jobs and look at cheap white plaster with dreary corporate art that bores into the retinas, it's a wonder we don't just leap up and sail the high seas. But most of us can't very well exchange our button down shirts for frilly tunics and join a bunch of old fashioned sea faring robber barons. What would we do about the gas bill? And who is responsible enough to sublet out to at this time of year? No, the realities of life mean we're chained and left to imagine gleeful pillaging from the safety of our cube or office. Well, unless you're playing Puzzle Pirates.

The game play isn't as taxing as picking up a sword and dashing around on dangling vines. Instead you undertake duties in the form of puzzles in ships and shops to earn a bit of the booty or legitimate pay. Time-consuming missions to complete puzzles are the best starting point. They are the way you earn notoriety and learn the basics jobbing at ship duties. Your abilities will be tested, if you're as useless at Tetris-like sailing as a parrot with one wing is flying, the ship will crawl. Your score is intrusively and sadistically compared to that of other online players with a duty log at various league points. The waister at carpentry is pointed and laughed at. If the humiliation of being poor at ship duties ends up driving you to the rum then there's always becoming a landlubber. With the correct purchased badges you can either create or take up work in a stall for a bit o' pence.

Jobbing for pillaging ships is always a good time if only for the inevitable gun battles. Player captains who always need someone to bilge man tons of booty searching mighty vessels. Upon joining the crew it's etiquette to introduce yourself and ask what needs to be done. The menial jobs such as bilging, carpentry and sailing go unnoticed and usually need a good threat or two to get people into the stations. Carpentry seems to be the least popular, possibly due to the exasperating game that goes along with it. You're expected to respect the authority of officers when they give orders and act accordingly, otherwise your fate may lay right off the edge of the plank. The more you accomplish and earn the more likely you'll be in a sword fight and eventually earn enough get your own brave crew.

Characters and the world are less a case of sharp realism and more akin to bubbly Fisher Price. The world is drawn with large detail and is sorted with only what you need to know. Major landmarks stand out in the map just slightly out of scale. Your view is mostly as god looking down and slightly to the right, which can make aiming when moving on ships difficult. The view makes it easy to get lost or scroll past important things such as inns. Most game audio is reserved for telling you something has happened in your puzzles or the cheery nautical whistle that notifies you when you have a message, a challenge, an invite or a command. There are various community features for free including chat screens, Hearties or friends and player tournaments. A wide variety of islands on two different oceans await your investigation. Ahoy, one is the Subscriber, which requires a rather robbing $9.95 monthly service fee after a 30-day trial. On the free Doubloon high seas, specific charges apply extras like purchasing fancy clothes, parlor games, running a stall or working at one. To reel you in, many of the parlor and extra ship puzzles have free days.

Overall Puzzle Pirates due to the graphics, premise (pirates!) and community is very fun and endearing. The games within can be enjoyable but vary for quality of tutorials, selection and play. The creators promise more in the future but a timeline hasn't yet been released and that could be a deterrent for potential paying customers. The Doubloon oceans make up plenty of game play with little commitments but are also an experiment. If it is fleshed out with more games then it could be worth a subscription and the time necessary for me to end my own dreary day by getting out my hat and taking over every ship I see. You! Walk the plank.