Yarr, Pirate Pop Plus is an odd little game. You play as young salty dog, Pete Jr., who discovers his mates have been abducted by the notorious Bubble Pirate. Not that you go on a quest or anything, there be no treasure to claim, no wench to swoon. Pirate Pop Plus doesn’t give One-eyed Bill’s bollocks about being an epic tale, it just wants to be arcade-y and cute.
Yer primary means of defense is hefting that there giant anchor into the air, which pops the bubbles spawned by Bubble Pirate. Have the misfortune of bouncing into the bubbles enough times, and you walk the plank. Pop ’em, and you may earn enough points to unlock extras, as well as a handful of power-ups. Plus with his scientific sorcery of “magnets”, the Bubble Pirate changes the gravity on you every so often. This honestly works more to your benefit though, because you can goombastomp any bubbles into sea water.
Gameplay itself is slow enough at first to get a handle on, but is devilishly quick to turn the tables on you like that lying cheat Captain Kidd when playing cards! Game Over comes upon you fast as a demon if you aren’t careful, but it’s a satisfying chase to play in quick bursts. Chaining a high combo with your anchor requires genuine restraint and skill. Tis’ worthy of note, this little scallywag of a game.
In a rare show of a developer actually understanding what the term means, your power-ups give you a genuine edge rather just making you mildly more competent than a bilge rat. One anchor creates permanent lines that only vanish after a bubble collides, letting you box them in. Another power-up gives you a semi-automatic pair of cannons that can fire off shots rapidly. It all works rather nicely, and is very pleasant to pop out when you’re waiting like a landlubber at a cafe or sailing in the passenger seat of a car. (Editor’s Note: Bear with me here, it’s so rare I get to make pirate jokes AND puns in one review.)
Ye’ see, the main issue with Pirate Pop Plus is not that it’s bad, just that it’s not really the sort of game you play at home on a console or at your PC. It’s something you’re going to play when you’re waiting on your latest video to upload on YouTube or when a bigger game is installing. I can totally see this working on a handheld, but even with a number of extras, it’s a hard sell for bigger platforms.
If you do dig into it, Pirate Pop Plus has four playable characters with different stats for health, fire rate, etc. in addition to the ability to fully customize your visual and auditory experience. Taking a note from nightmarish descent simulator Downwell, you can change the backlight color of the virtual handheld you play the game on. Going a step further, you can also customize the music, the buttons, the front plate, and even stickers to display proudly on the fictional handheld. It’s interesting, and a nice reward for people who dig it, but won’t do much for those who aren’t.
Pirate Pop Plus is the sort of title you’d typically expect available for free on the app store. It’s got simple yet deep gameplay, a cute pixel art aesthetic, and a strong emphasis on quick play sessions. It’s definitely an odd game to release at a premium price point, but it does offer a unique argument.
There are critics of mobile apps who insist they’d rather pay a few bucks for an experience like this rather than have their game nickle and dime them to unlock things quickly. Well, here you go! Pirate Pop Plus is happy to oblige you on three platforms. Not only does it offer a satisfying core experience, it has a lot of cute little extras for those who really get hooked. Just know these are shallow waters if you’re hoping for a truly deep experience.
Pirate Pop Plus was developed by dadako
$4.99; Your mileage will vary heavily based on your feelings on repetition.
A commercial copy of Pirate Pop Plus was received by Elijah via a Twitter giveaway that he used for this review.
Elijah has awarded Pirate Pop Plus the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.
Elijah would like to note he got through this review without making a parrot joke, matey.