You would be forgiven for not knowing Shantae the star of this latest WiiU platformer, but The Pirate's Curse is actually the third part of a series featuring the purple haired half-genie. The first was released on the Gameboy Colour back in 2002 with the sequel turning up on Dsi Ware eight years later. If the first two are anywhere near as good as this one, I will certainly be seeking them out!
Developer WayForward have perfectly captured the look and feel of an early 90's SNES game – not surprising given their long-standing relationship with Capcom (they made the excellent Duck Tales Remastered). The pixel art graphics are excellent, with some fantastic animation that give the cast real character, and the music will bury itself into your subconscious just like the best chiptunes.
The story involves trying to fight off the mysterious Pirate Master and save your home, Sequin Land, from the clutches of a land developer who wants to turn the retirement home and nursery into luxury apartments! The game does assume prior knowledge of the characters and setting but not so much as to ruin the enjoyment of anyone who doesn't. It also helps that the script is excellent too, it even breaks the fourth wall at times with characters aware that they are in a game of some kind.
None of this would count for anything, of course, if the gameplay wasn't up to scratch. Despite a little too much backtracking, this is thankfully not the case. The controls are simple and precise and only get more complicated as you obtain the additional skills throughout the game. The various islands that you visit all have new enemies and puzzles which stops the game from getting repetitive.
On the downside, some of the boss battles are too easy and too long-winded, making them feel like a chore and its sometimes not obvious what you have to do next or where you have to go. I spent a good 30 minutes trying to navigate a section of the third island before I realised the last jump was impossible and I should be heading back to a completely different area! It also started to get annoying that you had to travel back to the first island in order to visit the item shop.
Thankfully, none of these irritations are enough to ruin the game. It's an easy game to recommend to fans of retro gaming as you get a much longer game for your £15 than a number of full price releases. I am now eagerly awaiting the recently announced fourth game in the series!
8 / 10
Reviewed By Zoidberg on Thursday 19th February 2015
About the Review
Played for around 6 hours so far and completed 4 of the 7 islands