Michael Cunningham of RPGamer threw a tweet up last week on Twitter to games reviewers. He simply asked a series of simple questions. “Do you play games for review differently than you would for one your not reviewing? How does your play style change? Why?” I thought about it for a minute and posted a response: “I sometimes try to break the game.”
As a rule of thumb, that is how I tackle all games. Running headfirst and never looking back. When I get review copies with prepared guides, I throw them in the trash. I don’t read game manuals nor do I search to try and find an answer. I do this because I grew up with Super Mario Bros. as the first game I’d ever played, and it was a borrowed copy. I never had a game manual to learn the game, I had to rely on figuring it out myself. I trial-and-error any game when I review it for this site because I have no idea what preparations people who pick things up will have when they purchase their entertainment. I try to test as many different options as I can and see what sticks.
That’s why I died so many times in Pixel Piracy, and it was hilarious.
Pixel Piracy is this cutesy Early Access game from these two guys I have never heard of calling themselves Quadro Delta. They wanted to make a pirate simulation, and that’s exactly what they did. It is full of pirate colloquialism, so expect plenty of “Yo Ho Ho” going on. Anyway, the game starts off by dropping you on an island with just enough money to let you get the supplies you need to get off. The rest of it is up to you.
I start off by doing what I usually do, trying to figure out how to play the darn thing. The game doesn’t have normal controls, at least not in the traditional sense. You control only the captain with a bunch of general commands to give your crew. Movement is controlled by clicking around the screen with the left mouse. Commands are given through multiple menus that pop up with a click of the mouse, and the space bar halts the game so you can build your ship or check out your crew. Weird controls for a 2D horizontal platformer, but they weren’t absolutely broken so we’re cool.
See, I started the game not realizing that the Pixel Piracy’s main screen has to be moved with the A and D keys. I built my boat on one screen, killed some monsters on one screen and went off to sea on one screen. I was completely unaware of that shop that was sitting right next to where I’d landed. Not that there weren’t signs, but the signs disappeared while I ran off killing crabs and my crew kinda obscured the big “movement left/right” notice.
It didn’t matter though because, when I finally faced my first enemy, they simply pushed me off their ship to drown in the ocean while my crew fought on valiantly. Clearly I was going to be dealing with permadeath, so it was time to be serious.
I start the game up again. I figured I’d mess around with the controls, and finally found the town which certainly made me feel silly. Since the interact button wasn’t working, I went past and found a group of oysters to crack open and eat. Seeing as it was taking forever to kill even one oyster, I asked my crew to “declare war” since there was no other option available to them other than grappling and reprimanding. Apparently, this isn’t how you get them to attack oysters. They began attacking the village and we were slaughtered by the local landlubbers.
Back to testing things through.
No more screwing around, let’s find out how to buy stuff and get to buccaneering. I walk to the village notice a small drop-down sign that seems to appear in the shops and start buying up extra crew and decking them out with appropriate weaponry. Not realizing how much time it had actually been, walking around and checking things out, I soon realized I had a mutiny on my hands. As it seems, if you don’t feed your crew, they get antsy and try to kill you. At least that’s what mine did.
All right, enough screwing around. For real this time. I get my supplies, arm my troops and go and defeat this small ship. Success! I’m now an official pirate. Now what to do with this thing. Plundering sounds good. I click the option, and the whole damn ship I was standing on blows up sky high. Apparently the term Plunder and Scuttle will cause your main ship to to destroy the one you have just recently liberated of crew. I can now add exploded to my résumé of deaths. I have found out that the life of a pixelated pirate is a short one.
This just continued over and over again to a hilarious extent. I land on my first island after pillaging a ship only to find myself being pinched to death by a horde of crustaceans. Pixel Piracy is an insane little rogue-like that seems to show a bit of promise with its merry collection of pirates that, for no reason, just poop on everything while spouting classic lines like “What would you do with a drunken sailor?”
I need to put some more time into the game to see what it really can become, but for right now I’m having a bit of fun dying like an idiot.