Pirate Ship Battles
| Pirate Ship Battles

The game battleships is a pretty basic one. So basic, in fact, that you don't need a board to play it, let alone a games console - simply scrawling a grid on a couple of scraps of paper suffices.

It's a good thing, then, that Digital Chocolate has expanded the concept a bit for Pirate Ship Battles, so you're getting more than a tarted up pen and paper game. It's done this by creating a Campaign mode which adds a sort of strategic sub game to the battleships-a-like battles.

This part of the game is played on a large scale grid scattered with lighthouses, storms, islands and rival pirate ships. Here you take turns moving each ship in your fleet, guiding them into battles, dodging ship-sinking hazards and trying to find parts of a lost map.

It doesn't exactly involve resource management, but there's a certain amount of collecting gold to use to buy new ships for your fleets.

Gold is accumulated by defeating towns and robbing other ships, and the ships you can in turn buy make you stronger in battles.

Each ship type comes with a special weapon attached - like the Fat Lady, which lets you fire at five squares simultaneously, and the Fire Ship, which fires in a straight line right across the grid. Also, the more ships you have standing, the more times you can fire on your turn - between one and three times.

The Campaign map screen isn't the most exciting of places to be, involving as it does moving each of your fleet a set number of squares then waiting for your AI opponents to do the same. The game really kicks off when you decide to engage in a battle.

Sail into a square with an opponent and you're given the low-down on that enemy's capabilities, and can decide whether to battle or flee. Or auto-battle, which means you don't actually have to play the game if you don't want to, a bit like in a football management game that lets you decide whether to watch the matches or not.

Decide to take on the enemy and you're taken into a smaller grid, where you then place your assorted sized ships either horizontally or vertically and hopefully in places your opponent won't easily find. Then, both of you take turns firing into the water and hoping to hit one another's ships.

Every five turns your special weapons bar fills and you have the chance to use one of those weapons, which makes striking ships much more likely, and also breaks up the relative monotony of firing one shot at a time into a 10x10 squared grid.

There aren't any complaints about how this part of the game plays. It's basically exactly like battleships and, if you just want to play that without all the strategy stuff, you can jump straight into Quick Game or play Hot Seat with a friend using one phone.

It's not the most cerebral of games and there are times tougher AI opponents feel like they might have a bit of a sixth sense about where your ships are, but still it's perfect for killing time on a phone.

The strategy part of the Campaign game is what makes it into an all-round gaming experience, and that bit is nicely done. Above all, building up a killer fleet and conquering towns gives purpose to the battles, meaning you'll play for far longer than you would if there was just the Quick Game.

Pirate Ship Battles breathes life into a classic game and builds a whole story around it that works well on a phone. If you want a battleships game for your phone, make it this one.

Pirate Ship Battles

It's basic battleships with a strategy game built around it which breathes life into the idea. It's well presented and easy to play, even if firing shots into empty squares of water can get a bit dull