PUZZLE PIRATES / Three Rings / PC
 
 
Puzzle Pirates is a lot more "puzzle" than "pirates" ... no grog-fueled escapades and rapage of ports here, the trappings are more like cutesy Lego or Playmobil pirates, and the gameplay is basically a series of puzzles comparable to the stuff Yahoo Portal or Popcap put out. It's all extremely "family friendly", Disney sort of pirates.

I first played this way back in 2005 when it was on a monthly subscription fee ... a couple of years ago it moved to Steam and became F2P, but there are of course shit tons of micropayments to get stuff to boost yourself with. The overriding goal of the game is basically just to make money in various ways, each of which is represented by a unique mini-game. For example, you can join the Navy for a brief stint at any time, and do jobs on their computer-controlled vessels just to grind up funds. The boats have a few different functions that are manned by either players or CPU AI, such as bilging and sailing, each of which is a different mini-game. There's also land-based mini-games to produce salable goods, such as distilling and crafting. And then there's combat with other players, combat between ships, and card games in the various Inns and whatnot. The mini-games are largely variants of stuff like Columns and Puyo Puyo, particularly the combat-oriented ones. The overarching point of all this is I guess to just grind up a nice manor and a nice fleet of boats for yourself, apparently you can make islands eventually as well.

I think the neatest bit is how the mini-games all work together on a boat that's at sea, both to determine sailing speed, and effectiveness in combat. When you board or get boarded, players can choose who to dump their attacks on from the opposition, so you can strategize and all try to dump on a really good player, or spread out more. It's fun if you find a few buddies to regularly crew up with, but flying solo is much more of a tedious grind, particularly if you stick to F2P content without paying actual cash monies for "dubloons" needed to buy the neatest stuff. Technically, the whole game is still open to the exclusively F2P player, but there's a lot of restrictions. For example, the card games and the various crafts require you to purchase "passes" with dubloons to be allowed to play; each day only one of each is available for free. Likewise, only 3 days a week can you swordfight with other people without a special pass that you have to pay for. The "peices of eight" that you earn for working can be exchanged for dubloons, but of course the exchange rate is atrocious and you have to Grindan Forever if you actually want to buy anything fun that way. If you do decide to get out your wallet, the game can get quite pricey; dubloons actually aren't that cheap, and nearly everything from passes to clothes to house furniture will "expire" after a period of some weeks, even if you paid hard currency for it.

Unless you're a huge fan of the Bejeweled-type games, I just found this got too tedious and repetitious too fast, particularly with the confines put on you if you don't shell out real dollars for fake dubloons. The game also tries a little too hard to live in your wallet for my tastes, with the outrageous dubloon prices for so many things, and the fact that nearly every ownable item in the game is impermanent and has to be re-purchased after a few weeks. The game also apparently nukes your characters if you're inactive for only one month.
 
 
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