Review: Playfish's new treasure game Pirates Ahoy

Today, Playfish gave us all a pleasant surprise by releasing their new treasure plundering game, Pirates Ahoy. We got the early scoop on this game last week but at the time, knew only the brief game description that was given to us. Now, we've had the chance to play Pirates Ahoy for ourselves and have a game preview to tell you why you should be playing.

Going in to Pirates Ahoy, you should probably know what to expect. At its core, Pirates Ahoy is a treasure game - similar in vein to Zynga's Treasure Isle and ZSlide's Treasure Madness. This means that you are given a specific amount of energy, and with that energy you can discover islands and dig tiles for treasure collections and XP. Pirates Ahoy isn't a straight clone, however, as it builds upon a theme that is proving to work by adding unique elements that give it a more piratey feel. Every player has their own boat (which can be customized to give some personal branding to the game) and they can sail around the seas, fighting creatures to discover maps. The ship combat is something we haven't seen executed well, and Pirates Ahoy does it in style.In addition to discovering new islands and digging upon them for treasure, Pirates Ahoy has given players their own island that they can customize as they see fit. As players complete maps and collections, they earn trophies in the form of statues that they can proudly display on their island. Your ship is of course always parked nearby, and as you level up you earn ship badges that give you permanent bonuses to things like your maximum energy. Your boat can be changed in color and style to make it truly your own.

Combat is rather primitive, as players can discover enemies and monsters out in the sea. Fighting them simply involves just clicking on them, and as long as you have the required amount of energy you will always defeat them. Monsters can drop coins/XP or give you maps that can be given to your friends or opened yourself. Missions are unlocked at certain levels that require you to defeat monsters or complete maps, and coins are given as rewards.

Socially, Pirates Ahoy is going to excel because it brings viral growth right into the core gameplay. Having a larger "crew" means that you have more energy. This means that inviting friends and playing with them will directly benefit progression within the game and adds a layer of fun to the game. The game also has a mission system that actually allows you to request missions from your friends and send missions as gifts. This is yet another way that interacting with your friends brings depth to Pirates Ahoy. Finally, when you are out at sea you can actually see your friend's ships sailing around the ocean blue and go directly to their islands by clicking on their ships.

So what is missing from Pirates Ahoy? The only real obvious feature that is missing is the idea of an avatar. Everything is focused on your boat, you can customize it, upgrade it, and earn bonuses through the boat badges. When you're digging on islands, you only see your shovel or tool interacting with the ground with no one actually holding it. I'm not actually sure this detracts from the gameplay because the ships play a really important part in establishing personal identity and by seeing your friends actually sailing out in the ocean it adds an immersiveness beyond the standard neighbor bar below the game.

Pirates Ahoy is a very solid game from Playfish. It has a cute and familiar art style, high amounts of polish, depth of gameplay and a lot of unique social features, and room to grow. The main issue that we can see with the game is that it might be just a bit too complicated to be immediately graspable. That might not be a bad thing, as there are millions of game players on Facebook who might be looking for the next big thing with a bit more involved learning curve in exchange for a more meaningful experience.

What do you think about Pirates Ahoy? Tell us in the comments!

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