Pirates' Den
| Pirates' Den

What with the massive revival poker has seen thanks to online gaming, it's no surprise that other media have looked to revive the gambling system in new and imaginative ways. Pirates' Den sets out to expand on the 'poker and dice' combination made most famous by Yahtzee, and does it with a reasonable amount of panache.

Also leaping onboard the huge swashbuckling revival the entertainment industry is currently enjoying, Pirates' Den makes itself immediately endearing to a substantial gaming demographic. Travelling around a variety of dingy, cartoon-like sea-dog taverns gambling away your hard earned doubloons is a pleasant way to spend an hour, although some of the games do seem like they drag on a little.

But let's set sail towards details, shall we? The Career mode is where the action really happens, as you tour the most iniquitous and vile coves of the New World, hustling old salty knaves with a pair of dice.

The first games consist of Blackjack played with two dice. The sum of the first roll is doubled, providing you with a starting figure on which to bet. The numbers on the dice of subsequent rolls can both be added to your initial figure, or you can discard one of the dice � whichever brings you closest to scoring the magical number of 21.

Taking it in turns as you go around the table, the gambling continues until one of the players lands on Blackjack, or the gambling becomes too rich for their sun-bleached blood.

Further levels take on a simplified dice-based poker game, requiring players to achieve the best hand in a set number of rolls � keeping some dice, and throwing the others again. The gambling aspect is what constitutes progression through the game, and depending on the severity of the competition and the fair hand of luck, your purse can go from bulging to empty in the space of a couple of rounds.

There are a couple of other modes of play, but the instructions for these serve only to confound the strange alternative games, and despite sincere determination, unless you already know the rules you've little hope of making sense of them. Here's a snippet, to demonstrate the problem:

"If the number of dice with the given number of pips equals or exceeds the number bidded on, the player who accused the other of lying loses."

Bidded? Well, regardless of confounding instructions and made up words, the simpler aspects of Pirates' Den are still very entertaining. Blackjack works incredibly well with dice, and is presented here in a very compelling manner. Occasionally the levels can feel interminable, as the fatness of your pulse fluctuates wildly, but that's an inevitable feature that really builds the tension when the big money's on the table.

Pirates' Den

With a bit more care taken over a tutorial, Pirates' Den could have been superb � it's still worth a bottle of your best rum, though