Piracy On The High Seas logo

ICE * £29.99 * 1 meg * Joystick/mouse * Out now

This, the second release from International Computer Entertainment, has a hard act to follow if it is to continue to build their reputation as developers of quality games, since the still popular Fireforce made for an excellent debut.

It's a bit of a mish mash actually - essentially an adventure of sorts, not only does it sport a hefty trading element, but also leans in places towards arcade style combat, and even has the odd maze thrown in!

Evil forces have the world in their grasp - they stole the Golden Chalice from the ancient Hall of Balance, and until it is restored darkness will prevail, more than likely.

With your crew of three bizarre outcasts you will have to sail around the old West Indies in your trusty boat in search of the fabled holy drinking vessel. At the beginning you are presented with a map of dozens of islands, featuring your boat as a small dot. Decide where you would like to go first, and with the icon-driven system raise your anchor and set sail If it's possible to land on the island an icon will appear, and you can leave the ship.

Throughout the game you are looking for clues as to the whereabouts of the chalice. The island natives are a suspicious bunch though, and unlikely to divulge much information unless you first gain their trust by trading with them - building up your cargo as you go. Additional crew members can be hired, and as your wealth grows more boats can be purchased.

While on the seas you will from time to time encounter pirates (a-ha, so that's where the name came from) who demand money or who will come aboard to fight one of your three original crew members. Land bandits are also in abundance, so beware.

Piracy attempts to combine elements of all types of games - a task that were it successful would present us with an absolute stonker, but it's virtually impossible and ultimately Piracy tries too hard to please everyone. It's a real shame actually because an excellent game lurks somewhere beneath the programmers' over-ambitiousness,

Piracy On The High Seas logo

ICE * £29.99

Piracy, as Robert Maxwell would have told you, is a tricky profession. Admittedly, its image has been improved by the pursuits of Guybrush Threepwood and co, but it is still a bloodthirsty way of life for aspiring crusty sea dogs. Except the whole concept has been gloriously sanitised in this strategy cum beat-em-up game.

Anyway, you have got a ship, 150 duckets, a couple of ship mates and a lot of sea to explore. By trading and robbing for treasure you can increase your personal wealth and thus purchase larger, quicker ships and more salty shipmates to man them.

With a bit more though this could have been a promising trading game in much the same way as Elite was. In effect, it is inordinately tedious. The fighting sections are shoddily executed with sluggish controls, the sea journeys are boring, the adventuring content is minimal and the trading is duff.

I can find little to recommend this game except that one of the islands is called Mellon.

Ein Fall für den Klabautermann?

Piracy On The High Seas logo

Ein abenteuerlich-strategischen Handelspiraten hatten wir schon lange nicht mehr - der letzte hieß "Swords & Galleons" und schipperte vor fast zwei Jahren unter Ideas Flagge über die Screens. Jetzt hat ICE die Segel gesetzt...

Da stellt sich natürlich die Frage, ob den Electronic Zoo-Nachfolgern gelang, woran die Italiener seinerzeit scheiterten: ein Spiel auf die Planken zu heben, das es mit Microprose' Ober-Freibeuter "Pirates!" aufnehmen kann. Vielleicht müßte die Frage aber auch ganz anders lauten, denn hier mimt man in der Praxis gar keinen Seeräuber, sondern einen kreuzbraven handelsherren, der seine Fantasy-Welt retten will.

Dort ist nämlich der "Golden Chalice of Balance" abhanden gekommen, und wenn die Schüssel nicht bald wieder da ist, sind Friede, Freude und Fliedersaft auf ewig dahin. Um diesem grausamen Schicksal zu entrinnen, muß man jetzt von Eiland zu Eiland segeln - um den Titel nicht Lügen zu strafen, werden unterwegs auch mal Piraten bekämpft...

Über viele kleine Sonderquests vom Banditen verjagen bis zum Seemonster killen tastet man sich an den "heiligen Gral" heran, doch bevor einem diese Mini-Aufgaben von den Bewohnern der diversen Inseln überhaupt zugeteilt werden, muß man erst mal einen Haufen Kohle vorweisen können. Da hier also nur Reichtum Vertrauen schafft, wird zunächst mit allerlei Gütern geschachert, was sich jedoch schnell als eher langweilig und wenig überzeugend (z.B. ändern sich die Preise niemals!) erweist.

Und irgendwie gilt das für das ganze Game, denn die eingestreuten Actionsequenzen wie etwa Fechtkämpfe gegen Piraten, Räuber oder Riesenkraken mögen zwar rein technisch gar keine üble Figur machen (Parallax-Scrolling, saubere Animationen), doch die ungenaue und hakelige Sticksteuerung frißt viel vom Spaß an der Freud.

Da helfen auch gelegentliche Mager-Dungeons in Iso-3D recht wenig, verbreiten sie doch neben mangelhafter Übersicht im wesentlichen nur das Gefühl, daß die Programmierer gern bei "Cadaver" abgeguckt hätten, doch leider nicht die Klasse der Bitmap Brothers haben.

In erster Linie sitzt man aber ohnehin vor einer sauber mitscrollenden Seekarte, bei deren eingestreuten Inseln der maus- oder stickgesteuerte Segler vor Anker gehen kann.

An Land kommen dann allerlei optisch aufgepeppte Menüblätter zum Einsatz, die sich Händler, Kneipe, Heiler usw. nennen - hier ist ausschließlich das Nagetier gefragt. Überhaupt hält sich die Optik qualitativ in Grenzen, wenngleich sie quantitativ reichlich vorhanden ist, auch die Begleitmusik klängt nicht übel. Ein Lob, das man den oft recht schrägen Kampfscreen-FX nicht unbedingt zollen kann.

Einmal mehr bestätigt sich somit, daß es keineswegs genügt, möglichst viele Spielelemente in einen Topf zu werfen - man muß sie auch gekonnt präsentieren und geschickt miteinander verknüpfen. Wie die Dinge hier liegen, bleibt jedoch nur ein mäßiger Genremix ohne besondere Ausstrahlungskraft übrig. Dutzendware halt... (jn)

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Ha-har, Jim lad, take this black spot to Blind Pugh, etc, etc.

By taking piracy as its theme, Monkey Island created an exciting, atmospheric and hugely enjoyable game. Which just goes to show what great potential piracy has for a game. But when you have got this game loaded and ten minutes later you are dragging a pathetic picture of a ship around a blue background trying to find the best price for cloth and cotton you begin to wonder what is so special about this piracy lark anyway.

It is basically a strategy-cum-adventure game with a few sub-games thrown in. Your task is to recover the Golden Chalice and return it to the Hall of Balance, the loss of which has caused evil, and particularly piracy, to flourish all over the world. So you start the game with a ship, three men and 200 credits. You have to move around between all the islands buying from one and selling at a better price to another.

The idea is that when you have got enough money, everyone starts talking to you and dropping hints about where you might find the chalice. You do not have to pay for this information, it seems that people are willing to tell you anything, presumably content with the knowledge that they have helped a rich person. I bet the unemployed have a terrible time round here.

The strategy element is too limited

You are, of course, not a pirate. You are a trader. The pirates are the nasty ones who try to mug you on your travels. This appears to happen at random - you will be chugging along quite nicely with a ship full of baked beans and suddenly you are faced with the message "They want your gold".

You can decide to either pay them or fight them - if you do not have enough money you have no choice but to fight. Then comes an outrageously amusing sub game where you choose one of your crew (who all look like they belong in Spinal tap) to go out on to the ship and fight the pirates. One at a time. Not too smart, but it gives you a beat-'em-up section of the naffest quality. Have hysterics as you watch your character shuffle ridiculously around with about three moves in your repertoire. It is embarrassing.

You can avoid this absurd combat by buying a cannon and cannon balls, which then gives you the option to have a cannon fight with the enemy ship. Another peril awaits in the form of a giant octopus. There is also a dungeon to explore, in which you have to find 20 treasure chests by wandering around this dungeon maze. You come across various dungeon inhabitants and zap them with your magic. It is tedious as well, I am afraid.

So there you have it. The graphics are disappointing, going nowhere near the Amiga can offer. The strategy element is too limited to offer any real challenge, and the adventure itself generates no interest. If you fancy a pirate adventure, go back to Monkey Island - it is far more rewarding...