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REVIEWED:
Dark Fear

PlunderNauts

Backflip Studios
Version: 1.4.1 | 9+
Action

PlunderNauts

Published by Backflip Studios (perhaps best known for DragonVale & Gizmonauts) PlunderNauts is an ambitious space-opera-slash-pirate-story developed by LightBox Interactive to settle the question “Can I be seduced by a game in which I play the captain of a spaceship turned pirate who is in search of an epic fabled treasure?”

It seems that the answer to that question is “Yes - Yes I can!”

The story begins with a poker game in which you win a great honking huge pile of money and a large metal parrot that also happens to be a self-aware navigation computer that constantly entertains you with stories of riches and plunder and infamous pirates!

Did I mention the legendary tale of Iron Beard's treasure? Wait, did I mention Iron Beard?!

Iron Beard is the focus of the story in PlunderNauts. A legendary pirate rumored to have a huge treasure horde - loot he accumulated via a lifetime of pirating the space lanes. And that metal parrot? Well it seems to know an awful lot about both Iron Beard AND his treasure - which makes me suspect that at some time in the past this very special bird might have once been a part of that treasure horde...

In terms of cost, the game is a freemium title - which means you download it for free and you play it for free - up to a point. And that point centers around your Battle Reactor. Seriously.

Each ship has a Battle Reactor - and when it goes into battle it uses the power that is stored in the Battle Reactor. Your Battle Reactor recharges over time - but you can charge it up instantly by using a special substance called Antimatter.

Antimatter is one of the primary methods that the game uses for generating revenue, as it is required to recharge your ship's reactor - and the reactor is required to move and do battle. If you are a fan of the freemium genre - and if you have played games on the Facebook platform - you are probably very familiar with this system type.

Antimatter is also used to skip timers - particularly crafting timers - which can go long. If you got the idea that hoarding any Antimatter you do manage to earn and only using it to recharge your reactor is the plan, then you got it!

The game features a shipyard for upgrading your vessels, as well as crafting new bits and ship kit from the loot items you collect.

The game play model is split between starship combat and plundering the wealth of planets they defend.

Space combat is made up of a combination of maneuvering and gunnery - and taking advantage of any special perks or abilities that your crew can offer you.

In addition to the plunder to be had from the starships you defeat - and the planets - there is also the matter of the Bounties that are available - which in addition to a daily reward also include other special rewards based on the bounty difficulty.

The usual reward - and most of your plunder - is in money and XP - but every now and then you get a special rare reward of Antimatter. and even rarer still is drops of high-end kit like Blaster and Missile Turrets.

The most startling - and attractive - aspect for PlunderNauts is the deeper that you go into the game, the more is revealed. While game play starts with ship-to-ship combat, it eventually expands to battles for planets and their wealth, and thanks to the Forge, the ability to customize in the extreme.

The Graphical Environment found in most mobile game apps is a relative matter - this game is no exception, as it initially follows the rather predictable fusion of still illustration with the melding of anime all the way to the graphic-novel type artwork, which is where we come to an abrupt and screeching halt!

You cannot examine the graphical side of the game without first remarking upon how it was integrated into the navigation system - which involves plopping a finger on your ship and then dragging it along the path that you want it to follow.

It is at this point - and during ship-to-ship combat where the old models and anticipated content breaks down.

PlunderNauts won't win any awards for cutting edge or challenging graphical tech, but it will win the solid approval of the gamers who play it - if only for being brave enough to embrace the warm pastel colors and clean comic-book like lines.

What PlunderNauts did for granting the feel and the excitement of being a spaceship captain in the theme of Firefly / Serenity it very nearly sabotages by falling back upon electronic music that is borrowed from the worst of the knock-off pirate films of the 1960s.

Realistically every film in that era cannot be Captain Blood... The decision by the music director for the game to go with pirate marches and flute-heavy riffs was over-the-top in a bad way.

Had they taken just the music from traditional sea shanty tunes like those used in the creation of the ship music in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag it would have been vastly different - instead they used a mixture of the sort of music that you expect from a 1980s vintage sea-pirates TV show, with what we can only describe as pirate porn soundtrack for some of the battle scenes.

Sigh.

Conclusions for this review will be a mixed bag - that is pretty obvious. The reason for it is that while there are a handful of relatively minor issues there is one major game-breaking issue to be considered - which will be the last item we cover here.

Even though the musical choices were regrettable for the most part, and the decision to use the sort of battery-charged movement limitations system is the least-liked and admired scheme for freemium games - in spite of those two glaring but minor annoyance issues, PlunderNauts still ends up being the game we want to play when given the choice.

What it comes down to in the end is constantly reminding yourself that no matter how cool that piece of kit or crew member might be, you don't spend Antimatter on anything OTHER than charging the Battle Reactor!

As far as actual sink-your-teeth-in challenge and enjoyment, well that is present in quantity.

Seriously! It is accessible, it is almost Firefly / Serenity, and it is a pirate game! Yeah!
4.0 / 5.0
 
review by CMBF | Aug 25th 2014

 
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