Arrrrr Matey! It’s not often that I get to play the role of a pirate, but when I do, I’m usually having a grand time. “Pirates!” for the NES comes to mind, later to be modernized via “Sid Meier’s Pirates!” “Pirate Hell”, while keeping the player in the shoes of a pirate, does things a bit differently than the aforementioned games. It’s less of a simulation and more arcade-like, focusing more on shooting up ships as opposed to dancing with the governor’s daughter. Before we get started with the review, I’d like to thank the developer for providing me with a free review copy.
The main menu allows the player to start a new game, continue an existing one, and adjust game options. You can start a new game without erasing your existing saves, but I would have preferred a profile system for the benefit of the kids. Saving a game simply records the date and gold earned, which can be confusing if multiple players are sharing the same computer. The options menu lets you adjust screen resolution, mess with audio sliders, enable or disable bloom, switch input, configure keybinds, and view game help. In regards to inputs, there is both keyboard/mouse and controller support. You won’t be able to change many of your keybinds, in fact all you can change are the keys that move your ship forward and turn it left or right. The mouse buttons are fixed so that your primary fire is your left mouse button and your special/rage fire is your right mouse button.
At the start of the game, you’ll be approached by an older pirate that tells a sad tale of mutiny and his need for revenge. He’s offered to help guide you to his riches, so as long as he gets his revenge on the buccaneers that betrayed him so long ago. To that end, you’ll embark on a series of missions with varying objectives. Your time will be spent doing missions and upgrading your ship while docked at your home port. There are a total of five chapters, each with a handful of missions that increase in difficulty as you go. Missions can be replayed freely to earn some extra gold…in fact, I recommend you do so if you come across a mission that is a bit much for you to handle.
While docked, you’ll be able to spend your hard-earned gold on various ship and port upgrades. A player can improve their ship’s sails, damage, and armor under the harbor menu and construct buildings under the town menu. These buildings grant various bonuses and its generally a good idea to invest in them when possible. Increasing the size of the harbor allows the player to use a larger ship, for example. The tavern and brothel are more focused on helping you in filling your coffers, while the barracks and knives & guns buildings help with your primary and secondary attacks. As I mentioned above, you can replay missions to earn gold making leveling up stress-free, something I wholeheartedly applaud.
The in-game interface is easy to read. Red and orange globes represent your health and rage meters, respectively. Like “Diablo”, you’ll die if your red health globe runs dry. Rage fills as you perform attacks and destroy enemy ships. Once it fills, you can unleash a powerful attack by clicking the right mouse button. Your primary fire unleashes a barrage of cannon fire over a few seconds. Once the barrage is finished, your green reload bar will begin filling up and you’ll have to wait until it’s full before firing again. Not to worry, you won’t have to wait long at all unlike some of the other ship simulators I’ve played. Objectives are displayed along the left side of the screen.
Combat is simplistic and very fast-paced. It’s not very realistic, but I wouldn’t exactly call that a fault. Enemy ships spawn out of nowhere from offscreen no matter how many of them you kill, but this gameplay design certainly kept me on my toes from a mission’s beginning to its end. Health regenerates automatically, so keeping your distance for a while will help keep you in the game should you run into trouble. While there’s not a lot of emphasis on wind and the finer details of sailing, you’ll still need to outmaneuver enemy ships as they appear and keep yourself from being surrounded. You can aim with the mouse as you sail around, though your firing arcs are limited to the sides of your ship.
Overall, “Pirate Hell” is a fun, light-hearted pirate shoot-em-up. You won’t experience in-depth sailing and character building, but you’ll still be able to make yourself better and more formidable. I would have liked to have seen more character and skill development personally, but for the game’s price tag of $4.99, it offers enough to satisfy. Oh, and the menu music? Excellent! “Pirate Hell” is a great game to jump into for some mindless high-seas shooting fun. It’s easily recommendable to players of all ages, since its gameplay mechanics are relatively simple. If you’re still on the fence, there’s a playable demo via the Desura link below, should you wish to try before you buy.
Final Verdict: 8/10
You can learn more about and purchase “Pirate Hell” by visiting the following website:
You can help bring the game to Steam by voting for it on its Greenlight page, here:
You can check out gameplay videos here: