Review: Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates

Rating: ★★★★★
Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates
www.puzzlepirates.com

I first fell in love with this game back when they were still beta testing. It was fantastic then, and has only gotten better. The scope has grown, as have the options and the puzzles, and my wife is wishing I hadn’t discovered this thing – my chores have stacked up to Mt. Everest levels and I’m only getting started.

There are many fantastic points to this game – it’s fun, it’s clean (arguably g-rated). But I think its greatest feature is that the pirate crews have to work (get this) AS A CREW. Some folks work sails as others pump the bilge or navigate. Somebody’s got to load the cannons while the captain barks his orders so you can all collect some booty. And isn’t that what its all about – cooperation and booty? I’d review the game in more detail, but I’m not sure I can. Puzzle Pirates is an entire world of piratey goodness, and your options are endless. I could tell you about my experiences in the game, but they won’t be your experiences. All you can do is take my word that this is a fantastic game and go learn about it for yourself. It’s like a game of Monkey Island that never ends – and I can think of no higher praise. Go there, subscribe – I promise your real life will crumble from neglect.

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I wrote another Puzzle Pirates review for the March 2005 issue of No Quarter Given, reprinted below.
Click the icon, type in my password, click enter and…

I’m whisked instantly to Alpha Island, the most populated location in the Diamond Archipalagos. The dock is full of activity – there must be a good 20 or so pirates gathered around – some conversing, some dueling with swords or grog, others checking the notice boards for posted jobs. Usually the navy is hiring for a cruise, or pirate crews might be looking for a few extra hands. My own crew is out pillaging right now, and I’ll have to wait until they’re out of battle before I can hop aboard.

Having some time to kill, I take a ferry to Winter Solstice Island to pay a visit to the blacksmith. I’d placed an order for a new rapier a few days ago, and it should be about finished…

Later I’m able to board my vessel where I’m greeted with cheerful “Ahoys!” from my crewmates. I see the captain is steering and the first mate is loading the cannons. We have a new pirate I don’t recognize working carpentry, and our bilges are empty. As such, I hop on to work the sails. All the ship’s tasks are performed through puzzles, and sailing is no different. As our ship moves along I’m playing a tetris-like game with blue, gold, and white balls which fall in pairs. My job is to force them to land in the proper patterns. If I do well, I hear the sound of wind blowing and our ship picks up speed. If I do poorly, our ship stalls out and we make very poor headway.

In time, the captain spies a merchant ship and gives the order to engage. He commands the ship, but a captain is only as good as his crew. He decides how he’d like the ship to move – but if I perform the sails effectively he gets a wider range of movement. If I booch it then we’ll be sitting ducks. The same goes for cannons – he gets to fire them, but until our first mate successfully performs the cannon puzzle the cannons won’t be reloaded.

After we beat them down with cannons a bit (our captain is quite the master at this) then we collide our ships for melee combat. Swordplay is also a tetris-like game, but the images and the strategy are very different from sailing. Different color blocks fall across the screen and I try to arrange them into large blocks of the same color. When the block is large enough for my taste, I destroy it. The result is a large clanging noise, and a giant sword landing on my opponent’s puzzle – thus hindering his ability to create blocks of his own. When your screen is full, you’re eliminated from the fight. It may sound complicated, but it’s really quite simple once you get the hang of it (simple, but not necessarily easy.)

This battle we’re not very lucky and our intended victims teach us a lesson in sword-play. They then make off with some of our ship’s stores, and a good chunk of our gold. The captain’s upset that they took our Kraken’s Blood, which sells for a very high price and is used to make black clothing, and decides he wants it back. We brush ourselves off and dive into persuit of the very same merchant that just beat us – resolved to reclaim our property…

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Yohoho: Puzzle Pirates is a fantastic new game that’s heading our way. Being online role-playing, the goal isn’t to work through a single storyline but rather to work your way up the ladder however you see fit. Form an aliance with other pirates, join a crew, open a shop, or even head the colonization of an island. Because the other pirates are real people (not programs) the interaction with them can be both lively and intriguing.

Puzzle Pirates is in the final stages of beta testing. You can learn all about it at www.puzzlepirates.com. You can even download it for free and try it out. Once testing is complete they will switch to a subscription system.