HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewPirate Bloopers Review

Pirate Bloopers Review

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Moving from Skull and Bones to Pirate Bloopers has been an experience, not because of their differences, but because of their curious similarities. Both games have decided that the essence of piracy is in the seafaring, rather than stepping off the boat in any way. They’ve both determined that your aim should be gathering gold and exploring the reaches of the map. And they share real problems around longevity and giving you reasons to play for multiple hours. Hooray for comparisons!

Of course, Skull and Bones is about seven times the price, looks significantly more triple-A (AAAA, you could say), and probably took seven times as long to make. But we do wonder whether you will get better value from Pirate Bloopers. 

pirate bloopers review 1
Pirate action!

We’ll ditch the unhelpful comparisons for now. Because Pirate Bloopers is less a sim and more a roguelike score-chaser. Each game starts with you in your piddly little ship, lacking any upgrades that would make you a scourge of the seven seas. A timer ticks down, so you have to be quick: your task is to point your ship in the direction of the scattered treasure on your minimap, and glide towards it as fast as you can. Collecting treasure nets you gold, and gold nets you upgrades at the end of the level. 

In the opposite corner are enemy pirate ships. These start off small but soon become hulking galleons that can dispatch you with a couple of cannonballs. They effectively come in three flavours: there are those that will race you to the treasure, so you have to factor them in when choosing which treasure to pursue. Then there are those that are purely aggressive, their radar-circle visible on the game screen, so you know when you’ve triggered their attention or not (and they will hound you forevermore if they have your scent). And there are ships that carry treasure themselves: large floating chests that often have their own defensive capabilities. Sometimes ships are a mixture of the three. 

Once the timer ticks down and you are still alive (no mean feat), you get the joys of the Shop. Speed, Damage, Fire Rate, Health and additional lives can all be bought here, with the price going up with each purchase. There’s virtually no ceiling to the number of upgrades you can buy in each category (we never managed to reach the eighteen-tier cap), so you can upgrade in whatever category you want. Want to be a giant, floating tank with virtually no maneuverability at all? Hell yes you can. 

The breadth of the upgrade system opens up some cracking play styles. It’s entirely possible to focus on speed, avoiding combat and enemy radar while you clear the board of treasure. Equally, you can focus on skirmishing. Ignore the chests and you can get your booty from obliterating your opponents instead. The latter is more difficult but still viable, and it’s credit to Pirate Bloopers that you can effectively play it two different ways, or perhaps more. 

pirate bloopers review 2
Want to focus on skirmishing?

This is a procedural roguelike, so the maps are randomised, as well as the treasures and ships. The aim is to push as far as you can through the levels, earning enough upgrades that you can keep up with the enemies who are upgrading just as fast, if not faster. It’s very easy to fall behind: more than once we felt like we were solely surviving, and once we were in that mindset, we weren’t long for this pirating world. 

There was a bell-curve to our interest levels in Pirate Bloopers. The opening levels are a tad unwieldy, mostly because our ship moved through treacle. The turning circle is so desperately slow, and it can feel like a trudge to get the upgrades you need. We never got rid of the feeling that the opening levels were makework, and we wished there was a mechanic where we could speed them up or skip them in some way. 

We suspect the controls won’t be accessible to all, either. Pivoting and accelerating as a control scheme is unusual, and the addition of physics makes it a real challenge to master. You need to anticipate a turn before it happens, as your momentum will have you plowing into lighthouses or slingshotting round treasure that you want to collect. You need to ride that bell-curve wave if you want to reach the good stuff. 

pirate bloopers review 3
Pirate Bloopers can be much fun

But when you do, Pirate Bloopers is a great deal of fun. Swerving through rapids to evade more unwieldy boats never gets old, while mastering ship-to-ship combat, strafing your opponent as their every shot misses – well, that never gets old either. Forming a strategy and then sticking to it, making yourself a glass cannon or stoic galleon, also adds a layer of enjoyment. 

Because Pirate Bloopers is exceptionally polished. There are no control quirks (outside of having to learn them), the difficulty gradient is fair, and there’s plenty of new things to encounter as you beat your personal bests. And while it might not be lifelike or photorealistic, the visual style is crisp and bright as a button. 

But every bell-curve has a back-end, and Pirate Bloopers problem is longevity. We’ve already hinted at one factor: playing the opening levels becomes a ponderous exercise that isn’t wholly fun, and definitely isn’t varied. We would have loved to see variants of these opening levels, so there was at least something different to do. 

But what ties a concrete block to Pirate Bloopers’ longevity is the lack of any persistent rewards. The only motivation to keep playing, and to keep climbing the levels, is achievements. That and your personal drive to gain better scores. That’s fine, but feels like a missed opportunity. If there was something more game-changing, more attractive to gain, which would stick around for run after run, then we would have played for longer. As it stands, there’s a shelf-life for Pirate Bloopers. It doesn’t have a tasty enough carrot to dangle in front of your nose. 

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Pirate Bloopers is good, until the fun dies

Which was, of course, the major criticism of Skull & Bones. Who knew that these two pirate-themed games would share the same hole in its hull. Because Pirate Bloopers is more-ish fun, until the more-ish becomes less-ish. We found our interest waning, as the repeated levels and the lack of persistent rewards took their toll. For two hours, Pirate Bloopers burned brightly. After that, it sank. But we enjoyed it while it was there.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Loveable presentation
  • Varied strategies for succeeding
  • Simple, engaging game loop
Cons:
  • Perhaps too simple, as fatigue creeps in
  • Lacks persistent rewards
  • Can be initially unfriendly and slow
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One
  • Release date and price - 18 August 2023 | £8.39
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Loveable presentation</li> <li>Varied strategies for succeeding</li> <li>Simple, engaging game loop</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Perhaps too simple, as fatigue creeps in</li> <li>Lacks persistent rewards</li> <li>Can be initially unfriendly and slow</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One <li>Release date and price - 18 August 2023 | £8.39</li> </ul>Pirate Bloopers Review
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