Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a platform game developed by WayForward Technologies. It is the third game in the well-received Shantae series, however it’s only the first of the series to so far to arrive on the Xbox platform with a second titled Shantae: Half-Genie Hero expected later this year.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse continues on from the events of the second game, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge in which Shantae lost her genie powers and became human. Despite now being a simple being, the formula of the game is mostly unchanged, and the one ability not taken from the previous outings is the character defining ‘hair whip’ that Shantae uses to attack enemies – after all it doesn’t take a genie to ‘whip her hair back and forward’… I will stop now.

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The story this time out sees Shantae out on a quest to shut down the evil curse of a new foe, the Pirate Master, and once more save the beloved Sequin Land. None of this will be conquered alone however as this time Captain Risky Boots, Shantae’s nemesis from the previous games, agrees to team up for an unlikely alliance to ensure the safety of the greater good, taking down the Evil Pirate and saving Sequin Land together!

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a classic platformer with a slight change over previous entries. This is mostly down to the removal of Shantae’s genie powers at the end of the Risky’s Revenge and instead the player gains new abilities through the items collected throughout the story. These items include things such as a pistol used to shoot enemies from afar, a hat which is used to glide through the air over gusts of wind and a scimitar amongst other items. The game also contains upgrades for Shantae that along with the items can be purchased using gems obtained from downing enemies or smashing breakable objects. These include upgrades to Shantae’s hair attack and different pirate themed items. In previous titles, Shantae had used her genie powers for her transformative dances however with her powers removed, the player instead gains a trusty genie lamp that can be used to hoover up nearby gems. It can also be used to carry the dark magic and other gaseous forms strewn throughout the land with her, which although not quite as epic as the beloved transformations, still proves very useful and gives the gameplay that little change and variation to the series without taking away the progressive feel to the game.

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There are lots of platformers out there, how good is it you may ask?

In terms of both gameplay and quality, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse meets all the criteria of a classic puzzle-platform title. The story progresses at a rate that feels just right, is not too rushed but not too enduring either and the game has a nice challenge to it. The enemies will not make mistakes and sloppy gameplay can lead to ‘game over’ time with the player returning to the last save point to continue, but with this in mind, playing still feels rewarding as mistakes are quickly learnt. In fact, once a strategy is built you will rapidly find yourself on the way to your next destination – provided you have saved sensibly, something which was the first mistake I had to learn from! This provides a good level of immersive gameplay and gives a sense of satisfaction as you work your way through the game.

However, with no difficulty setting the games challenge is increased each time you progress to a new area; this is usually met with a puzzle of some sort in order to gain access to a new dungeon, some of which are simple enough. Delve further into the game though and the puzzles can be quite challenging as the solutions become less obvious, and I found I was backtracking throughout the game world, searching every island inside out as I looked for the answer needed in order to progress through the story. This is where the slightly different design layout from WayForward comes into question this time around. The giant island design, such as the one in Risky’s Revenge, has been altered and segmented in to a collection of islands in which the player progresses after collecting a certain item from each. With the removal of the fast travel hub that previous games had implemented now being removed, getting from one island to another can become slightly irritating as the player is required to go all the way back to the starting area in order to traverse the different islands.

This can become tiresome when trying to find the answer to a puzzle and with enemies respawning upon every screen refresh, navigating can quickly turn into a monotonous task if the player isn’t careful enough. But even these partially irritating moments are not enough to stop the general quality of the game from shining through. The gameplay is fluid and engaging, with the vibrant look and clever level design being more than enough to overlook the few issues that are in there without tainting the overall experience.

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Okay so it’s now pretty nailed on that we have the quality but what about quantity?

Content in a game is a very important factor. Sure it can look nice but looks aren’t everything and for a game to truly shine it needs to have been a lasting endeavour or at least make a sizeable impression. Once more, WayForward have delivered as Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse will set you back roughly 8 to 10 hours; dependent on how skillful (or lucky depending on how you look at it) you are at defeating the various boss characters and how clever you are at maneuvering through the levels. It’ll also make a difference regarding whether or not you want to filter in the collectibles on your playthrough and if that is your kind of thing then you’ll be looking more towards the 10 and half hour mark. This is something you may well decide to do as the 32 Heart Squids which you can collect throughoutt the game can be traded in for a more favourable permanent health boost. There are also 20 Cacklebats for you to track down and defeat in order to help make that nice perfect playthrough feel complete. If that isn’t quite enough for you, clearing the game also unlocks Pirate Mode, which gives Shantae all of her pirate items from the very start of the game to allow the speed freaks out there to complete the perfect speedrun to go along with your shiny 100%.

So should you be buying the latest Shantae game? Most definitely for Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse is a great platforming adventure, utilizing the right gameplay mechanics and colourful scenery all whilst providing a memorable retro experience throughout. And coming in at £15.99, it’s not a massive price considering the quality and content included.

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