After triumphantly making the rounds on the PC and the Xbox over the past couple of years, Sid Meier's Pirates! has finally arrived on the PlayStation Portable. It is quite possibly a perfect fit for the platform because the minigame nature of the gameplay is well suited for the PSP and because it is an addictive strategy game that captures all of the charm of being a pirate, but without any of the pesky downsides, such as scurvy.
The PSP version of Sid Meier's Pirates! captures much of the charm and addictive gameplay of the excellent PC game.
The PSP version is a fairly faithful translation of 2004's hit PC game (which itself was a remake of the classic 1987 original). In Sid Meier's Pirates!, you play as a pirate out for revenge against the evil Spanish nobleman who wronged your family. But the beauty of Sid Meier's Pirates! is that this open-ended strategy game lets you live the glorious life of a swashbuckler your own way. You can pursue the career of a privateer, a treasure hunter, an explorer, or a trader. More often than not, you'll dabble in all those fields at the same time. You'll sail the Spanish Main, trade broadsides with other ships, engage in dashing swordfights, search for buried treasure, sneak into hostile towns, and dance with many a governor's daughter along the way. Your character will age over time, so your ultimate goal is to amass as much fame and fortune as possible before you retire. At that point, your pirate will go into the hall of fame, and you can start all over again.
The game's prologue explains how your wealthy merchant family was imprisoned and how you escaped as a young boy. Now, years later, it's up to you to save your family, vanquish the evildoers, and get rich along the way. The first thing you'll do is choose a name for yourself, as well as a specialty, such as swordfighting (which is useful in duels), navigation (which makes you sail a bit faster), or wit and charm (which help your dancing skills). You also select a nation to align yourself with, which determines the ports that are friendly to you, as well as a time period, which affects the starting balance of power in the Caribbean. After that, you'll begin aboard your tiny ship in a great big sea that's alive with commerce and activity.
Your first stop will be in port, where you can pick up a letter of marquee from the local governor, which basically gives you the right to sink any ship not flying that nation's flag. You can also swing by the tavern to get the latest gossip (which can reveal useful info, such as the sailing of a treasure ship), purchase a useful item from the mysterious guy in the corner, or hire a bunch of scurvy knaves for your crew. After you check in with the shipwright, who patches up any damage and upgrades various components of your ship, you'll visit the local merchant, where you can provision your ship and purchase or sell trade goods.
What makes Sid Meier's Pirates! so compelling is its exquisite pace. There's just so much for you to do when you're sailing around the Caribbean. You're never too far from accomplishing some kind of goal, whether it's finding the final part of an important treasure map or chasing down some dastardly nobleman who wronged your family. This pacing makes it easy to get drawn into the game and even harder to stop playing it. At the heart of the game is the sense that it's essentially a series of enjoyable, fast-paced minigames stitched together. In the span of half an hour, you can easily wage several ship battles, dance with numerous governors' daughters, sneak into an enemy port, and dig up a stash of buried treasure.