Sid Meier’s Pirates!

Yes, this is the same ‘life of a pirate’ sim that was released on Xbox and PC back in 2005. The belated conversion is likely down to the developers changing hands – Atari did the publishing honours first time round, but now Firaxis is part of the Take Two stable. It’s a game that suits the PSP well, being open-ended in design and essentially a collection of nautical mini-games.

Sid Meier's PiratesThe storyline involves a young buccaneer out to find his family, although it’s up to you how you spend your time at sea. Want to take out the pirate hierarchy? Track them down and do so. Fancy becoming a fine trader? Then go out there, buy cheap goods and pile them high. Want to dance like a pansy with the Governor’s daughters? Go right ahead, sissy boy.

A small sailboat and a handful of cash is all you start off with, but by visiting ports to recruit pirates and sinking ships your reputation starts to grow. You sail the ships from a bird’s eye view and when visiting the numerous locations that are dotted around the map a list of options opens up. Here you can choose to buy and sell goods, receive tip-offs from the bar maid and more. There’s also the option to retire at any time. End the game, basically. Your loot is divided then a brief summary of the rest of your life appears on the screen. It’s a nice touch.

When sailing from port to port it’s not uncommon to come across other vessels. Upon entering attack mode the camera zooms in for the one-on-one battle that ensues. Small craft can carry a couple of cannons, while the bigger ones can hold twenty or so. Cannons have to be loaded before you can fire, but if you’re too impatient for that then you can just ram your craft into theirs and indulge in a spot of sword fighting. Or just hope that they’ll surrender, which does happen quite frequently.

Once onboard you can’t go running around in glorious interactive 3D. You just have to sword fight your way to victory by tapping the X button in perfect timing. Every time you take or land a hit the characters take a few steps back or forwards, until you’re either cornered or in position to knock them into the sea. It’s a very basic affair, as are the dancing mini-games and the sea battles. As a whole though it comes together quite nicely.

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