Arrrgh, 'tis better than scurvy!
"This ain't a journey for the lily livered, powdered an' perfumed boys that you see a loiterin' down the harbor inns. No, you filthy swabs, this indeed be a journey for a real man (or woman of course)." Shipwreckers!, Psygnosis's newest action/puzzle game, turns you into a pirate captain out to plunder the treasures of the seven seas.
Shipwreckers! is definitely one of the most original titles out as of late. In order to achieve your swashbuckling goals, you control a pirate ship from overhead perspective and solve puzzles, fight other pirates, capture ports, and evade deadly hazards. These anti-pirate hazards include giant, revolving, serrated discs, flame thrower towers, parakeets dropping bombs, exploding blowfish, space ships, and much more. There are five different areas, each consisting of 4 stages. The fourth stage of every area has a boss that you have to defeat in order to advance.
Much of the emphasis of the game is on fighting. Thankfully you have several weapons at your disposal: cannons, rockets, broadsides, mines, depth charges, oil slicks, lightning, and flame throwers. There is a great battle mode that pits up to five players in ten different (but mysteriously similar) arenas. What makes the battle mode original is the way that the screen will zoom in when all the players are relatively close, and then zoom out when they are far apart (and this happens a lot because the arenas are huge).
As with most Psygnosis games, the graphics are excellent. Much of the scenery is cartoon-like, but at the same time it's very detailed and beautifully done. The water is probably the best visual effect because it is transparent and you can see all your defeated enemies on the ocean floor. This also allows you to see the various submerged enemies. Another great-looking effect is the transparent clouds of smoke that fume when you destroy towers or catch fire. All of the enemies and bosses are also highly detailed and animated.
The music is also well done. Each area has its own theme music which varies from stage to stage. Much of the music is upbeat, light-hearted, and perfectly suits the theme of the stage. For example, in the first area the songs are exactly what you would expect of a pirate game: some calypso and Pirates of the Caribbean music.
Shipwreckers! also excels in the control department. You sail your ship much like you drive a car, with an accelerator and left and right steering. My only complaint about the control is that you can't go in reverse. Everything else is responsive and easy to learn.
And now for the complaints... My biggest gripe is that the game is very repetitive. You basically do the same thing every level and this gets boring after a while. I think that you'll get most of your fun out of the multi-player mode, which offers a plethora of options. Another problem is the horrible loading time. You have wait a ridiculously long time just to reach the start menu and to save your game. This is always irritating.
I was impressed with Shipwreckers!, but as mentioned earlier, the flame of innovation burns out pretty quickly. Psygnosis definitely deserves kudos though for putting together another solid game. I recommend this game to players with multi-taps (and friends) or to players with long attention spans. But everyone should rent this first before investing the bucks.