Pirates of the Seven Seas

Pirates love booty. They'll pillage, plunder, kill and keelhaul without restraint as long as there's a chance of some doubloons at the end of it all. For a bag of gold and a rum-soaked giggle, they'll think nothing of abducting your daughter, setting your clipper ablaze in shark-infested waters, devising a scornful shanty, and belting it out as they sail merrily away.

In this respect, Gameloft resembles these scurvy seadogs. Having sighted a pirate-themed cash cow of a ship on summer's horizon, it has set the considerable resources of the good ship Gameloft in pursuit of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean 3, aiming to plunder as much of the popular swashbuckling market as it possibly can. And why not?

The initial resemblance between Pirates of the Seven Seas and Pirates 3 is striking. Squint and you'd struggle to distinguish them; open your eyes, however, and something unusual dawns: Pirates of The Seven Seas is, if not quite the better game, a very worthy second mate.

The game follows the escapades of a solitary pirate as he makes his way across a stretch of the Mediterranean in pursuit of treasure and good times. Commanding this incorrigible figure with numberpad or joystick, you get to visit six locations, as well departing from the platform genre twice to surf with sea monsters, exploding barrels, and sword-wielding villains.

Eight stages is a fairly miserly total, but the platform locations are unusually distinct. From the neoclassical grandeur of Port Royale to the sun-kissed flora of Lagoon Island, no two levels look alike – until, that is, the narrative sends you back where you've already been.

Visually, Pirates is a bold, bright, and extremely solid. The sound is less impressive, but not dramatically so. Aside from the jaunty and perfectly typical pirate tune that accompanies the menu, the sound is largely limited to a few cracks, swishes, and muffled splats, all of which sound fine, but punctuate a depressing overall silence.

The pirate you control is capable of some impressive gymnastics. Not only can you swing from poles onto high surfaces and somersault from ledges onto narrow masts, but you can lower yourself down curtains by sticking in your sword and using the resistance of the cleaving fabric to slow your descent (proving, once again, that it's one rule for game writers who live in a flat with their girlfriend, and another for pirates).

You can even run along stretches of wall to cross wide gaps, like that most of nimble of characters, the Prince of Persia. And, as if all that weren't enough, you're equipped with a grappling hook that you can use to swing from high poles and haul blocks of stone into trenches in the ground.

As a result of this accelerated mobility, Pirates of The Seven Seas achieves something that has so far largely eluded platform games on the mobile: movement is a pleasure in itself, rather than just a means of getting from villain to villain.

Befitting its status as the near-counterfeit of Pirates of The Caribbean, Pirates of The Seven Seas is a much darker game. The olive-skinned Lothario you control reveals himself in the talking-head cutscenes to be a scandalous self-server. Tellingly, the buxom women whom he rescues stay bound throughout these scenes, while your avatar delivers crass puns and even threatens to abduct one of the hostages himself.

The game's dark nature is also evident during the levels, whenever you attack a villain from behind. Rather than slash and hack, you bring your sword to his throat and draw it across his windpipe, struggling with the convulsive victim until he goes limp, dies, and disappears.

Female hostages are littered throughout the later levels and when you rescue them they fall in love with you. They don't mind that you're a brigand, because you wheel and clamber and parry with such mesmerizing agility, and you look so damn good, that it just doesn't matter. Which is pretty much how we feel about Pirates of the Seven Seas. It's a cocky, brief, shallow and dazzling affair.

Pirates of the Seven Seas

Pirates of the Seven Seas is a colourful and polished platform romp that falls short in longevity and variety, but excels in every other way
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