Pirate’s Treasure Review

At a glance they may not seem like a natural fit for a touch screen device, but twin stick shooters have found a surprisingly welcome home on the iPhone in recent years. Games like Minigore and iDracula have quickly become staples of the portable action gamer diet. But for all of their frantic shooting and endless spinning, twin stick shooters have always lacked any real depth or sense of purpose. That’s where Pirate’s Treasure comes in.

Unlike the majority of twin stick shooters in the App Store, Pirate’s Treasure is an action experience that’s focussed on completing missions. While its contemporaries worry about little more than survival, Pirate’s Treasure will task the players to complete tasks like kill x number of bad guys, or collect x number of coins. Rather than being endless, Pirate’s Treasure offers a finite experience with a clear end to each task – it’s a refreshing change from the non-stop shooting that’s come before.

Pirate's Treasure

For those of you not familiar with twin-stick shooters, the idea is fairly simple. Two virtual joysticks will appear on your screen. The one on the left will control you movement. The one of the right will control where you fire. Using them together will keep you moving and firing (and if all goes well, alive). If you’re old enough to remember the arcade classics Smash TV or Robotron 2084, you’ll feel right at home with their modern equivalent.

Between missions you’ll have the opportunity to visit a shop to improve the stats of your character. Spending coins you’ve collected from defeated enemies, players can boost their rate of fire, speed, luck, and demon powers. Demon sounds the most appealing, but it’s also the least useful. After defeating enough creatures it will let you turn into an indestructable sea monster, but the effect only lasts a few seconds. Asides from that, though, this RPG-style tweaking in another welcome addition to the genre.

You have to take the good with the bad, however, and adding in RPG-style upgrades means that your pirate is going to feel a little underpowered at the start of the game. Your initial speed will make you think you’re walking on two peg legs, and your rate of fire isn’t much faster than a real world musket. This slow start makes the upgrades feel all the more rewarding, but it’s also a bit of a turn off for tried-and-true fans of the genre. We’re used to fast action from the word go, and that’s something Pirate’s Treasure simply doesn’t offer.

Considering the mission-based structure of the game, it would have also been nice to see a greater variety of enemies spread out across the various missions. Instead we simply saw the same half dozen enemies recycled, sometimes rendered in different sizes to give the illusion of variety. We also found it odd that your pirate was primarily killing bugs and not other pirates. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Blackbeard had to deal with a mosquito or two in his day – I just don’t think battling malaria was a pirate’s primary concern. Some thematically appropriate enemies would have been a delight. Why not cannons or treasure chests that come alive? Or the Royal Navy? The variety picks up in the second half of the game, but with such a sizable offering it can take quite a while to get there.

Pirate's Treasure

It would also have been nice if the game offered an Endless mode from the start for those looking for a more traditional experience. You can unlock this for each map by earning a certain number of keys, but if you pick this up and find the mission-based gameplay isn’t for you it’s not likely that you’ll want to stick around long enough to make that happen.

The introduction of challenges is the refreshing new twist that twin stick shooters have been waiting for. It’s just a shame that these didn’t offer as much variety as we would have liked. Pirate’s Treasure isn’t a bad game by any stretch, but when you’re published by Chillingo you’re standing on the shoulders of giants. In terms of the nuts and bolts twin stick shooting, the gameplay just doesn’t feel as satisfying as it does in games like Minigore or Guerilla Bob.

Pirate’s Treasure is a good game that brings some great new twists to the genre. The actual gameplay may feel a little sluggish for some twin stick veterans, but so long as you can look past that you’re going to find a release that can offer up a treasure chest filled with enjoyment. With more than 50 stages, some of them endless, Pirate’s Treasure is a welcome addition (albeit, less than perfect) to the pantheon of twin-stick shooters on the iPhone.