Monday, April 29, 2013

Third Rate Game Play: Pirates Plund-Arrr!

Game: Pirates Plund-Arrr

System: Wii

Developer: BoomZap Entertainment

Publisher: Majesco

Players: Alex and Tony

Experience: Tony played briefly beforehand

Check out the article after the jump!

In 2008, independent developer The Behemoth released the highly-acclaimed action beat-em-up Castle Crashers onto Xbox Live Arcade.  In the game, up to four players play together as knights running through the land to save four princesses and stop the dark villain from taking over the world.  I am speaking of this game, because BoomZap Entertainment's Pirates Plund-Arrr is very much akin to Castle Crashers, except it stars a set of pirates on an adventure on Wii instead of knights on a quest on XBLA.

BoomZap Entertainment was founded in 2005 by Christopher Natsuume and Allan Simonsen.  Natsuume had worked under Crytek in development of Far Cry, while Simonsen worked at BackBone Entertainment on the N-Gage version of Spider-Man 2.  BoomZap is a virtual studio, spanning several countries and incorporated in the US and Singapore.  The company's major focus has been on hidden object and puzzle games aimed for the PC and casual gamer.  Among the first releases of the company's lineup are Jellyboom, Jewels of Cleopatra, and Frogs in Love.  In 2010, Pirates Plund-Arr would be the company's first release on a traditional gaming console.

Publisher Majesco Entertainment was formed in 1986, acting as a republisher of older titles for Nintendo and Sega systems.  Majesco was behind the rereleased Sega Genesis, dubbed the Genesis 3, while Sega worked on the Sega Saturn; the company also rereleased the Game Gear as the Game Gear Core System.  Years later, Majesco began game development under Pipe-Dream Interactive, producing such titles as a Dreamcast port of Q*bert and a number of Game Boy Advance titles.  It worked with Terminal Reality on BloodRayne and BloodRayne 2, both of which were met with relative success.  However, in 2003, the company was met with great financial difficulty; Double Fine Production’s Psychonauts had failed despite a big push by the company, while GlyphX Games’ Advent Rising was a critical and commercial failure.  Another unique IP in development, Taldren, Inc.’s Black9, was cancelled in the final stages of development.  Further large cancellations occurred in 2006: Terminal Reality’s Demonik and Taxi Driver (acting as a sequel to the movie).  The company was on the verge of pulling through the hard times, however, when it began publishing casual games, specifically the DS hit Cooking Mama (developed by Office Create, now titled Cooking Mama Limited).  Majesco’s focus remained on Nintendo DS and Wii, where it produced casual products such as Sandlot Games’ Cake Mania as well as smaller core titles such as WayForward Technologies’ remake of A Boy and His Blob.  It was not too long before Majesco and BoomZap worked to release Pirates Plund-Arrr for the Wii.

Ahoy Matey! In Pirates Plundarrr, plunder the land and the waters of the Caribbean as a pirate with up to 3 of yer’ best pirate mates in a swashbuckling fantasy-adventure! That scallywag Rudebelly has stolen yer’ treasure–an ancient artifact called the Sceptre of Power–and it’s yer’ job to get it back. The scepter will let a man call forth plenty o’ monsters, so be prepared to fight undead creatures, other monstrosities, and dangerous bosses that ye’ll find on yer’ journey to find Rudebelly and get your booty back!
-Official Description

Pirates Plund-Arrr is an action beat-em-up that allows up to four players to play cooperatively in order to defeat the evil Rudebelly who has stolen the Wand of Power to start taking over all of the seven seas and potentially the world!  Of course, him stealing the rest of your treasure is not nice, either, and being pirates, that is worthy of a butt-whooping.

Players run across the levels which lead them through an environment until enemies emerge to fight.  As in all beat-em-ups, enemies must be vanquished in order to proceed to the next area, but thankfully there are many ways to take them out.  Players are given standard weapons from a sword to a musket rifle, but over the course of the game, players can knock weapons off of enemies or find new ones hidden within the levels.  These weapons span double axes to cuttlefish (or at least a club that looks like one) to giant slabs of meat, each with their own close and long-range attack strength.  Weapons are not the only means to boost your stats; gaining levels by defeating enemies allows you to boost your health, defense, or proficiency in particular weapon types.

Outside of weapons, the pirates have the ability to mount a number of creatures over the course of the game, including giant boars.  Not only do they speed up your movement, but they can pack a wallop on your foes.  Be warned, the enemies come in large packs and sometimes on mounts, too, so you will need to cooperate together as much as possible if you hope to survive!

The game also provides a full encyclopedia of each item and enemy in the game so you can learn more about the world or figure out what weapon to equip.  In between levels, players can go to the Map and go to their ship to spar or gather weaponry for future missions, so there is a little more than just the main adventure, but only just a little.

Reception of the game was mixed-to-negative from critics, most noting that it seemed to take a lot of the gameplay elements from Castle Crashers and tried to bring them into a different mold.  Even so, the game did not get much attention, as even looking at websites for reviews did not turn up a lot of results, not to mention it released around E3, the annual megaconvention of video games.

BoomZap Entertainment remains in existence, releasing games not only for windows with the help of Big Fish Games but also on other platforms such as iPhone and iPad devices.  Some of the more recent games from BoomZap include Antique Road Trip, the Awakening franchise (including Awakening: The Goblin Kingdom and Awakening: The Skyward Castle), and the Otherworld franchise (including Otherworld: Omens of Summer and Otherworld: Spring of Shadows).  The newest franchise coming from BoomZap is ZapTales, a series of interactive games based on fairy tales.

Majesco Entertainment continues to release smaller games on a number of platforms, although its scope has changed somewhat toward iOS platforms.  In regards to the Mama franchise, the company published Crafting Mama, Babysitting Mama, Gardening Mama, Camping Mama: Outdoor Adventures, and Cooking Mama 4: Kitchen Magic.  The most recent string of major releases for Majesco is from the Zumba fitness craze: Zumba Fitness (developed by Pipeworks Software), Zumba Fitness 2 and Zumba Fitness Core (both developed by Zoe Mode).  Other significant retail titles published by Majesco since Pirates Plund-Arrr include Monster Tale (developed by DreamRift) and Nano Assault (developed by Shin’en Multimedia).  In the mobile front, Majesco has developed Legends of Loot, Sci-Fi Heroes, and Flea Symphony.  Most recently, Majesco published (or is just about to publish) the XBLA version of Pocketwatch Games' Monaco, and it is about to release Behavior Interactive's Phineas and Ferb: Quest for Cool Stuff.

At this time, no sequel to Pirates Plund-Arr has been announced and is not expected.

Alex rented the game on a whim, interested based on what he saw on the game's trailer and his experience with Castle Crashers.  Tony tried it but a few moments before the recording and immediately did not agree with his decision.

In this episode, we venture through the beginning levels of the game, ending at the Witch Doctor and checking out the other elements of the game to waste time before we fight each other to the death!  Not much else to say, really.

Pirates Plund-Arrr is one of those disappointing games that makes you think it could have ended up so much better but due to some problem or another, the game fails to reach its potential.  I mean, there are a lot of really good ideas that could turn into something great, but there are pivotal problems that hinder the whole experience.

For one, the enemies are constantly bombarding you with attacks that are nearly impossible to dodge and extremely harmful as well.  Upgrades are limited to single weapon types, making forward progress through the game a matter of upgrading one type of weapon and hoping you stick with a very strong weapon type going forward.  The music while good repeats more often than I certainly would like, only a few levels into the game.  There is little variety in the ways the enemies attack, and the bosses continued to move around and attack despite constant barrages of attacks.  It almost felt like everything was a sponge of attacks, which only led to further frustration against the game.

It is not a terrible game, mind, but it takes a lot of ideas from another game and does not follow-up with equally-effective difficulty curves, game-feel, and overall polish to mechanics.  At the game's current price, you could find some enjoyment out of it, especially if you are looking for a Castle Crashers experience on your Wii, but if you already have Castle Crashers, you are going to find yourself sorely disappointed.

3RM Says: Arr, I found the X, but now I wish I had me hands back.

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