Buccaneer: The Pursuit of Infamy, from Stickman Studios, is a decent little arcade-style shoot-em-up with a pirate-y flair. There’s really not all that much depth, and very little realism, but there is a certain charm to this title. Taken in small doses, Buccaneer works well as a casual game. Just don’t expect to spend countless hours glued to the keyboard for this one.
Buccaneer is, quite simply, all about blowing stuff up. This is in no way a wooden ship simulator, other than the fact that players control various pirate vessels from the Age of Sail. Using a standard WASD layout, players can be up and running quickly with little attention paid to nautical truisms such as tacking, currents, or, (unfortunately) even physics. These ships can go full-throttle with little regard to wind, they can almost stop on a dime, and, perhaps most shockingly, they can pull into reverse without a second thought. Firing cannons is just as simple—the left mouse button lets loose all port cannons, while the right triggers the starboard barrage. And that’s about it.
Regrettably, targeting of the cannons, probably the most important aspect of the game, is surprisingly nebulous. I really never had a solid feel for where the cannonballs were going to go, since they never seem to simply launch at a perpendicular to the side of the ship. This makes hitting enemy vessels and, to a much greater extent, land-based targets frustratingly difficult. After a while I got a bit of a feel for this, but it never seemed to be as solid as I would like.
Players take the role of a captain of a shoddy little vessel with some pretty crabby crew and strive to make their mark on the seas. There are two resources in Buccaneer, Gold and Infamy. Gold is earned for carrying out various missions and plundering sunken vessels. With all this ill-gotten booty, players can upgrade their ships, buy newer and better vessels, make much needed repairs, or increase the morale of the crew. Crew morale is quite important in Buccaneer, as it’s tied directly into the other resource, Infamy. Infamy is a measure of just how dastardly the players have been, rising when they complete missions, sink ships, destroy farms and churches, and generally misbehave. Unfortunately, Infamy trickles steadily away any time players are in real-time combat. This rate of Infamy loss is tied to crew morale—the lower the morale, the more quickly Infamy drops. Once Infamy gets too low, a quick mutiny sends players to visit Davy Jones.
The missions themselves are a decent mix, usually involving blowing up a certain number of enemy ships or land targets. Most missions can be completed in around 10 minutes, making Buccaneer feel much more like a casual game title than an epic pirate ordeal. And that is really the best way to play the game. I had fun as I was going, but when playing more than a few missions in one sitting, I soon grew disinterested. I had no problem coming back later for a few more, but Buccaneer just isn’t a game for marathon play. Still, there is some allure to building up a Pirate Vessel of Doom and striking terror in the denizens of the Caribbean.
Buccaneer looks very good for an indie title, with some impressive water effects. The ships and islands aren’t quite as impressive, but they manage to get the point across quite well. Audio didn’t fare quite so well, and I soon tired of the pirate-y chatter from my crew. As I mentioned before, the controls left something to be desired. Because this is essentially an arcade title, I really wanted a tighter feel to the fighting.
Despite the control issues, once I realized Buccaneer: The Pursuit of Infamy was a causal-style game, I had a decent time sailing the High Seas. With over 50 missions and a few dozen different ship types to unlock and upgrade, there is plenty to keep players occupied. While I can’t recommend this for everyone, those looking for something a little different in their casual play can find some pirate-y goodness in Buccaneer.
A diverting pirate-themed ship-based shooter, Buccaneer: The Pursuit of Infamy is palatable in small bites. Just don’t plan to make an entire gaming meal out of this one.
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