Game Reviews

Raft Pirates

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| Raft Pirates
Raft Pirates
| Raft Pirates

This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about.

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, you get the impression that rafts allow you to lazily drift down rivers without a care in the world.

These preconception is smashed to smithereens by Raft Pirates, a freemium builder stroke (stroke! stroke!) battler for your iPhone or iPad.

In this fictional universe, streams and lakes are filled with villainous scoundrels. I've taken it upon myself to find out whether that's an improvement over Mark Twain's imaginary waterways by playing it for a week and reporting back.

First impressions

Raft Pirates has a wickedly playful sense of humour. All of your sailors are stylised skeletal scallywags, super-sweet and snarling. The characters are all colourful renditions of '90s bros with bandanas and bouffants, piratical takes on the policeman from the Village People, and so on.

Their actions are also mild but menacing. For instance, firing the Bilge Rat-Tat-Tat weapon results in one of yer mates performing a simplistic Dance Dance Revolution routine on a stripped down playmat. It's odd stuff, but totally endearing.

Everything's laid out well, too, with highly navigable menu design and a clear user interface. If you want to see how powerful each section of your ship is, you need only tap a single option, and the same can be said of venturing into dangerous seas, fishing for treasure, and more.

The creaking of the boards upon which you float, the lapping of the waves, the cutesy crew's ragged look - this is a distinctive, personality-filled game.

Day 3: Salty seadogs

The game's starting to choke a little, and that's a real pity.

Occasionally after a battle the game will appear to forget what it needs to be doing next, hanging on the same screen for minutes at a time. It's a technical disappointment in what's otherwise a very competently made freemium strategy game.

You go fishing for resources at the bottom of the ocean, yank them up to the surface, and begin expanding your vessel of rafts. It's not enough to just have the biggest ship on the open seas, you'll need to defend it, too, as whenever you venture into the resource-rich pirate waters you're susceptible to attack.

Or you can attack others yourself: it's your call and it's worth the risk for the booty on offer after you've sunk a section of ship.

I can't wait to see more of what I can add to my ship, and I doubt I'll have to, as I'm steaming ahead. It's a perfect game to have on in the background while doing other, more taxing things - the hypnotic sound of rope on wood is oddly calming as I sit here writing these words down.

Day 7: Fighting against the current

A week into my voyage and I've got a pretty beefy vessel, taking on rival pirates with relative ease.

A big part of the enjoyment in Raft Pirates is in constructing a layout for your craft that can defend and attack equally well, and testing its strength against a multitude of pirates.

The battles you enter are largely dictated by how many BP you have on a raft. You line up the section of craft you'd like to use to attack an enemy, then roll dice to determine who is successful in attacking. If you catch a lucky break, you can sometimes beat a craft with higher BP than you, but that doesn't happen too often.

I'm never really a fan of 'might makes right' gameplay, but the personality of Raft Pirates lets it get away with this to a large extent. You just want to be in the world - you're not too bothered about what you do in it.

Even the optional mini-game that accompanies diving for treasure is well-made and filled with personality - a simple collectathon featuring a pirate wearing a rubber ring sinking into the depths for loot.

Raft Pirates is an entertaining but shallow freemium builder/battler. Its sense of humour and great visual design help put it above the crowd, though, making for a game that's not quite as fun to play as it is to simply look at.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below.

Raft Pirates

Perhaps a little more style over substance, Raft Pirates is a building, battling and boating game with a big chunk of style
Peter Willington
Peter Willington
Die hard Suda 51 fan and professed Cherry Coke addict, freelancer Peter Willington was initially set for a career in showbiz, training for half a decade to walk the boards. Realising that there's no money in acting, he decided instead to make his fortune in writing about video games. Peter never learns from his mistakes.