Avast ye landlubbers listen up, I know like me, you’ve just been waiting for a game with pirates, cannons, gold, ghosts, sea monsters, angry natives and even acrobatic sharks, and now’s your chance. Plunderland, the latest title from developer Johnny Two Shoes, is a creative adventure game unlike anything you’ve played before. You are Captain Peg Leg’s ghostly spirit, and you must help your ragtag band of wannabe pirates steal back your treasure. This is accomplished through a combination of sailing, cannon blasting and the occasional sailor tossing. The more damage you do to the enemies, the more gold that appears for you to collect.
Plunderland demands a good deal of coordination from its players, resulting in a control scheme combining both tilt and touch that can take a little getting used to. Basic ship navigation is easy, simply tilting your device left or right will send your craft crashing over the waves in your desired direction. Dragging your finger on the ship will adjust a trajectory line showing where your cannon(s) will fire, release your finger to set the cannon balls a-flying. Sounds easy enough right? Well not when your in the middle of a storm and your ship is being furiously rocked back and forth by rapidly coming waves. This is where the controls start to break down a bit. A sticking point with some players, arguing that this is a flaw in the game’s design. Instead, I see this as a courageous move by Johnny Two Shoes toward instilling a bit of realism, without the seasickness. Sure, it can be frustrating at times, but who ever said a pirate’s life on the high seas was easy!
The game offers players their choice of three Campaigns and a Survival mode, consisting of a three level tutorial, 2 seven-level campaigns and a survival mode with three increasing difficulties, each of which contain 10 waves of enemies. Each of these modes will require you to complete one level before the next is unlocked. As you progress through the game, you will also unlock a variety of upgrades which can be purchased using whatever of Peg Leg’s gold you have successfully recovered. These upgrades can be a better ship, cannon upgrade or a new bowspirit (with a special ability). Personally I felt the upgrades were a tad bit too easily obtainable. You could literally just keep on playing one of the more gold-filled levels over and over again until you had enough to buy whatever you wanted. Perhaps restricting them a little more until you’ve unlocked certain levels would make the game a little more challenging. Treasure hunters can also attempt to find the hidden “cod piece” (a cod’s head) hidden somewhere in each level as well. Always remember to check for buried treasure, after all, you ARE a pirate!
From cannonball trajectories, to the ragdoll reactions of the pirates and sailors, the game’s physics engine seems to handle whatever you throw at it. Plunderland’s visuals are absolute gold. The stunning cartoon-style vector graphics, take full advantage of the iPhone 4’s Retina display. Almost a little reminiscent of the inhabitants of God Finger, they add a bit of levity and give the game a fantastic overall look and character. An expert blend of seagulls, crashing waves, wind and cannon ball blasts create the perfect aural stimulation and set the scene, drawing you in.
In a time when the App Store is rapidly seeing title after title of the same re-skinned Doodle Jump or Bejewelled clone, it’s fantastic to see a game so fresh and original. Fun pickup and play gameplay, only slightly tainted by the amount of time it takes to master the controls and get your proper sea legs. The only things on my wishlist would obviously be even more campaigns and upgrades and a global leaderboard to be able to compare my treasure frecovery skills against my mateys. Arrr, what be you watiin’ for, grab your copy of Plunderland today! Aye, me parrot concurs.
NOTE: This review previously appeared on Games Uncovered.