Ahoy there, me hearties! Today, I be reviewin’ Plunder! HD, the latest in a string o’ apps developed by Big Fish Games, Inc. Sail the seven seas wi’ Cap’n Light Leg John an’ company on their search fer booty. Sink thy enemy, pillage treasure, an’ escape the clutches o’ the Royal Navy, but beware the tentacled beast from below. Arrr!
OK, enough of the pirate talk. Let’s get down to business.
School of Piracy
Plunder! HD launches with an interactive training session to help us master basic gameplay. Hosted by Captain Mac Macaw, a peg-legged parrot, we soon discover that the aim of the game is to plunder gold and treasure from nearby merchant ships whilst simultaneously clearing a path for your own fleet to sail from left to right through a mine-littered sea.
There are three different types of mine to be found throughout Plunder! HD, two of which require a specific amount of shrapnel from surrounding mines to detonate. With the ability to shoot in one to all four directions, strategic planning is needed to complete each level as detonating a single mine will cause a chain reaction, affecting many of those around it, with the possibility of trapping one or more of your fleet.
If you are unable to clear a path within a reasonable time frame, or your ship is stuck behind an obstacle and cannot be freed, the Royal Navy will appear on-screen and capture your crew. Should this happen, you will be given the option to surrender, which will result in all remaining on-screen ships being seized. However, this can be avoided by quickly completing the level before the authorities close in.
Pimp Your Ride
There are a number of upgrades available for your fleet, ranging from a cannon and fireproof sails to a rubber hull that deflects incoming cannonballs and a breaker to help sail through islands, ice sheets and sunken ships with ease. Unfortunately, since each upgrade applies to only one vessel at a time, it will take a significant amount of plundered gold to completely enhance each ship, leaving the majority of your fleet vulnerable to enemy attacks in the meantime.
Once you’ve fully upgraded a single ship, further upgrades become available, and for 15,000 pieces of gold you’re able to buy a cannon that fires a double-dose of cannonballs, a reinforced breaker that will smash through icebergs and lava spouts, plus a double rubber hull that will deflect twice the distance.
Powerups can be purchased with the gold collected throughout the game, or aquired by plundering merchant ships and these can be used to help free your vessel when trapped. North, East, South and West Wind will move your selected ship up, down, right or left a square, effectively dodging the obstacle in its path, providing that the square you intend to move to is unoccupied.
There are also powerups that will affect mines, such as Mine Sweeper, which will instantly detonate any mine; Changing Winds, which will swap any two mines; and Turning Tides, a powerup that will rotate any mine to face a different direction.
Gold, or Lack Thereof
If there’s one thing we’ve figured out by now, it’s that gold is essential to getting anywhere in the game. Annoyingly, gold itself is aquired at a very slow rate indeed, and I often found myself a few coins short from the items I needed to purchase in order to escape from the Royal Navy.
Plunder! HD remedies this with the ability to buy gold through an in-app purchase, starting from $0.99 for a pile of 10,000 to a staggering $49.99 for a motherlode of 1,000,000.
Gold is awarded for completely clearing a level of mines.
Under the Sea
The overwhelming majority of Plunder! HD is set upon a 6×9 grid with a birdseye view. Each level is randomly generated, and this, for me, is where the game falters slightly. Sure, you’ll never play the same level twice, but with 13 treasures to collect in each of the seven seas, progress is slow, and I’d occasionally find myself close to 20 levels in before finding a single one.
Scattered across various levels, you will discover whirlpools that lead to the bottom of the sea when sailed across. Here you will find eight unopened clams containing booty, such as various powerups, gold and treasure. You may tap three clams to reveal their prize, which will then be added to your inventory.
A Little Something Extra
In addition to the main gameplay, Plunder! HD also includes a Pong-style multiplayer option, which is basically the same Pong game that we’re all familiar with, except for a few minor changes. There are six surfaces to choose from, and the ball is an explosive set to a timer which can be configured before playing. Ships take the place of paddles, and a seagull fulfills the role of umpire.
There are achievements to be earned through playing Plunder! HD, like X Marks The Spot (collect all of the treasure chests in the game) and Walk The Plank (all yer ships be sunk, ye lousy landlubber), which add a little something extra to the game.
Plunder! HD is a charming, well-designed strategic puzzle game which boasts an excellent nautical-themed soundtrack, authentic graphics, and a style of play which can be easily picked up, but features respectable longevity.
The multiplayer option adds value for money, as does the ability to download and trial the game for free, with a $2.99 in-app purchase required to unlock the full version.