Steam Pirates (Review) iPhone/iPod/iPad

Steam Pirates (Review) iPhone/iPod/iPad

Reviewing this game is a lot like discussing Nancy Pelosi or Sarah Palin. There’s a clear love/hate divide and those on the love side say the haters just don’t get it.

Color me ignorant.

Steam Pirates is an RPG staring Kat, whose introductory scenes – something about being a mercenary trying to rescue a rock band and encountering mermaids – are promising enough. What ensues is a hybrid 2D-platform, turn-based-combat quest through seven islands that’s rather slow and clumsy at everything not part of such cheeky interludes.

The plot and dialogue are comically novel, cartoonish graphics nicely detailed in bright hues, and background music fun enough. Moving and fighting are a repetitive drag, saves are poorly implemented, and the lack of mapping a throwback to the old days of keeping track of your movements on paper to avoid getting lost. Finally, for those that are fans of the game, it’s a bit short at a developer-estimated six to eight hours (then again, I’m still astounded by the value of iPhone apps compared to standard console games and $2.99 for Steam Pirates is less than a latte in my hometown).

Kat starts with only a few abilities like casting fire and ice bombs, but unlike some RPGs she’s got sufficient quantities to be a formidable combatant early. There’s not a lot of guidance to getting around in the island world, but unless you’re new to the genre it’s not really needed (as someone who loved reading the spells manual more than anything else in D&D, learning by trial and error here isn’t my first choice). The only struggle I had early was trying to get on or off moving platforms, a skill that becomes increasingly important to navigate tricky areas.

The biggest problem with this game is everything drags. You can’t skip texts and dialogues previously read. Movement is from screen to screen and, impressive as the graphics are, their rather large size means large areas take a long time to get through. Enemies you kill can respawn the moment you leave the screen, so doubling back becomes an annoying exercise in repetition dressed up as boosting the challenge.

Which brings us to the worst aspect of this sluggishness: combat. Turn-based is great, my battlefield of choice in fact.
But here every attack results in an animated sequence lasting several seconds. Multiply seeing those same things hundreds or thousands of times and you begin to understand most of your “gaming” time consists of short passive delays. When Kat gains companions and battle foes multiply, the feeling is dread rather than bloodlust.

Programmer Luc Bernard has made a number of visually appealing games for other platforms and I wanted to like this one. Plenty of gamers do, especially if they’re fans of his, so adding my voice to the equally vocal group on the opposite side shouldn’t necessarily drive the favorably imposed away. But the uninitiated scrolling through the RPGs in the App Store looking for a winner will find their money – and more importantly their time – better invested elsewhere.

By Mark Sabbatini
Steam Pirates by Fried Green Apps
Platform Reviewed: iPhone/iPod (Requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later)
Category: RPG/Platform
Languages Supported: English
Rating: 9+ (Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes and Infrequent/Mild Cartoon or Fantasy Violence)
File Size: 32.6 MB

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Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
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