I became bored of pirates around the time Pirates of the Caribbean hit the cinema, but Plunderland literally blew my boredom out of the water.
Basically, you’re a load of pirates, one of whom is a ghost, sailing from port to port, hunting for treasure and destroying everyone and everything in your path from naval ships to massive sea monsters.
The controls are simple: tilt to sail; touch to fire your cannon. You can even chuck your enemies around if you’re particularly furious. The game screen displays no information, about which I had initial doubts, but soon realised it was unnecessary. It makes the whole thing feel like a jaunty cartoon adventure, enhanced by the rag-doll feel of the characters and the rich colour palette.
The cartoonishness actually does a great job of glossing over the true horror of your pirating antics. “Oh, there’s a nice island. I wonder if the natives are friendly,” you think to yourself. But there’s no time to find out before you’re encouraged to smash up their totem poles, steal their treasure and generally cannon their faces off.
Once you have enough treasure you can upgrade your ship. Available are more cannons, bigger ships, a crow’s nest and ‘bow spirits’ with special powers to assist you in your murderous odyssey.
Sadly, Plunderland is not without its flaws. The scoring system makes little sense. The upgrades, although a welcome hook that similar games often lack, are limited and sometimes a tad confusing. A small gripe is that you have to collect your treasure manually in the initial stages. Although upgradeable to automatic I feel that should come as standard because it’s otherwise quite tedious.
The final campaign actually demands that you downgrade your beautiful ‘Pirateer’ ship to the smaller ‘Ice Breaker’ with fewer cannon. Also the arcade mode is the first option before the story mode, which means a slightly unwelcome swim in the deep end before you’ve found your sea legs.
These problems are, however, pretty much overshadowed by the joy you feel playing the game. It’s fast and exciting, and the short levels mean you’ll go back for another few cracks if your pirates are killed and your ship founders.
As a final note, Johnny Two Shoes, Plunderland’s creators, should be applauded for the brilliant in-game tip: “Hold people underwater to drown them.” Well done, lads. Well done.
Plunderland has been available on iPhone and iPad for some time now.