Hands on with Capcom’s freemium swashbuckler Lil' Pirates

Out now, me hearties

Hands on with Capcom’s freemium swashbuckler Lil' Pirates
| Lil' Pirates

Japanese publisher Capcom is going freemium crazy at the moment.

The creator of Mega Man and Street Fighter has turned to the likes of Smurf’s Village and Capcom Arcade, with titles that cost nothing to download, but encourage you to turn over real world dosh for in-game items.

The latest is Lil’ Pirates, a swashbuckling style adventure, from Canadian studio IUGO, that’s all about pillaging towns, fighting other ships, burying treasure and upgrading your ship.

Westward ho!

Lil’ Pirates offers up a game structure that will be familiar to anyone who’s played a freemium title - like FarmVille or We Rule.

Your ultimate goal is to pimp out your ship and crew to impress your pals, but to earn the necessary funds for renovation you’ll need to compete a series of lengthy chores.

They’re mostly just about waiting. A typical job has you sending a pirate crew member off across the map, and waiting for them to make the round trip back. It can take anywhere from two minutes to a day, in realtime, for the job to be completed. The longer the wait, the better the loot.

If you want cash fast, you can perform slightly less time sensitive events. You can battle other ships in cannon duels or bury treasure and wait for your loot to level up while underground.

They’ll still require hours of waiting in between, though, leading us to the crux of Lil’ Pirates: spending cash.

Like all freemium games, Lil’ Pirates lets you play for nothing if you’re willing to wait around, but you can expedite lengthy processes and speed through the game by emptying your wallet into the Doubloon Store.

These shiny gold coins let you speed up missions and buy the more exciting upgrades, but are a tough currency to come by in game. If you don’t want to pour time into Lil’ Pirates, you can pay real cash - from a couple of pounds to an alarming 60 quid - and fill your virtual coffers with quick booty.

Places to sail, treasure to steal

The game could quite easily become addictive.

Every loading screen offers a tantalising prospect of what's to come: golden pirate ships and decks littered with doubloons. A giant crew ready to do your bidding, and epic ship battles. As you incrementally upgrade your ship, it’s easy to keep on playing as you chase that next mast or cool new cannon.

And it’s designed well enough too. The tutorials guide you through the game without nagging you to follow them, the menus are intuitive and, with retina graphics and bright colours, it looks nice.

The game seems to be big as well: there are already 12 areas of the sprawling sea map to explore, and the ranking system goes at least into the 40s.

The only issue was a frustrating bug where the game lost authentication with its servers, tried to boot me back to the title screen and repeatedly crashed until the game was deleted and reinstalled.

Sadly, between We Rule, FarmVille and Gun Bros, nuisance server issues have come to be expected from these sort of games in the first few weeks.

Still, if you’re looking for a new freemium game to pour your time, or cash, in to, Lil’ Pirates is cute and friendly enough to be a strong contender.

It’s out now on iPhone and iPod touch, for nowt.

In-app purchase prices range from £1.19, $1.99 or €1.59 to £59.99, €99.99 or €79.99.

Mark Brown
Mark Brown
Mark Brown spent several years slaving away at the Steel Media furnace, finally serving as editor at large of Pocket Gamer before moving on to doing some sort of youtube thing.