Setup & Timing
Pirates: Duels On The High Seas is an easy game to navigate (no pun intended). "Multi Player" is right on the main menu, followed by "Create Battle" and then "Single Card Play" is an option. The opening credits aren't extremely long. The download time, on the other hand, is overly long for a game sending only one match at a time.
Menus & Navigation
The menu options themselves react well to tap and react perfectly to button navigation. Tap navigation is difficult, though... not because there's anything wrong with the game's ability to sense the input, but rather because the menu options are unnecessarily, ridiculously small, with the vast majority of the lower screen going unused.
Ease Of Use / Play Control
The vast majority of the controls are button based and respond exactly as they're input. The only touch controls are switching between abilities/modes (which is key to strategy) and those controls are based entirely on simple tapping. The tapping, however, is very sensitive and requires precision to the center of the respective button/icon; even tapping the outside of the button/icon won't trigger it. It's not impossible to manage, just an annoyance that will take some time to really move past to the point it doesn't bother you anymore.
Visually, Pirates: Duels On The High Seas has a very simple look. The ships are displayed from an overhead bird's-eye view, from what would be approximately 10-20 shiplengths in the air (depending on which ship was selected). There are some nice depth details programmed into the game's graphics, like the light, transparent clouds that blow buy between the "camera" and the map (on the upper screen), and many of the non-moving details on the screens are very detailed, but the majority of the graphics are simple and to the point; in otherwords, not a bad thing, but not great either. Audibly, there's some extremely annoying GameBoy-esque music during the connection and options stages (on the host's Nintendo DS). Thankfully, the music gives way to sound effects (and only sound effects) once the game itself starts, and the sound effects come from all Nintendo DS systems, localized to what sounds occur in their immediate area. Feature-wise, the game features three ships to choose from (labeled based on how easy/hard they are to hit), win game conditions (how many kills), and 35 maps (five in each of the seven seas), plus an option to select a random stage. There's a lot of content, but two things are missing that would have really topped off the package. Missing Thing #1 is the ability to play a second match without disconnecting, powering down (the guests), powering back up, and reconnecting. Missing Thing #2 is a downloadable, single-player Demo.
Category Score: 12.5 / 15
Pirates: Duels On The High Seas is one of those game where the review score for the Single-Card Download portion of the game (the part reviewed here) is going to differ vastly from other websites' review scores for the game as an overall package. I knew this almost as soon as I read through the instruction manual and played the game. Why? The Single-Card Download portion of the game is almost the same as the multi-card multiplayer and the single-player gaming experience (aside from the storyline elements, of course). So, then, why does this mean the scores would be vastly different? The answer is simple: some things that will make a good Single-Card Download gaming experience just won't fly as a "main game" when playing alone.
The reason I say I knew right away when playing was because the game is a result of a "Wouldn't it be cool..." statement. No, I don't know the developers personall, nor do I know anythone that does (to my knowledge). So what does that mean?
- Anyone that's ever heard a song and thought "Wouldn't it be cool if ___ (another group) did that song too?" knows the feeling.
- Anyone that's ever seen a movie and thought "Wouldn't it be cool if ___ (another actor) acted in that role?" knows the feeling.
- Anyone that's ever played a game and thought "Wouldn't it be cool if you could ___ (another feature or ability)?" knows the feeling.
In this particular case, the game seems (to me) to be the result someone playing a pirate game and saying "Wouldn't it be cool if you could just sail around and shoot at each other?" The game, much to its credit, does just that -- and successfully, too. It's not really in depth, but successfully achieves its main purpose. For a main, single-player gaming experience, this could easily come across as shallow and unfulfilling... but I don't review that portion of the game here. Here, I review the Single-Card Download multiplayer. And, while the game's Single-Card Download multiplayer comes across as a mini game (much as I suspect it does in the main game to many gamers), it's a functional, to-the-point mini game with a robust set of options and no killer flaws. It's a fun experience for a budget title and, can easily pass plenty of time, particularly for anyone that wants a pirate fix.
Decrease the download time or have some of the downloading take place in the background while the host is selecting options.
Enlarge the menu options.
Increase the tap-response precision of the buttons/icons on the lower screen.
Add in the ability to play a 2nd, 3rd, etc. match without all of the guests powering down, poweing back up, and reconnecting.
Include a downloadable, single-player Demo.
Category Score: 11.5 / 15
Overall Single-Card Download Rating: 82 / 100 (a.k.a. 41/50)
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