Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gamer's Diary: Puzzle Pirates

In my quest for a MMORPG that doesn't suck, I decided to try Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates. A quick googling told me that a Linux version of the client exists, so I would not have to reboot to Windows or mess with Wine in order to play. Off I went to the website.

It pleased me to discover that I could play directly in the browser; Java powers the client. But what delighted me was clicking on the download link, and finding myself on a page with a link for downloading the Linux installer and instructions on how to run it. The website had detected my PC's operating system, and sent me to a page containing the appropriate installer. Now that I call good customer service.

A few minutes later, after a trouble-free install process and some tweaking of Ubuntu's menus to put the client launcher icon where I liked it, I was online and playing.

My first impression is that one spends the bulk of one's time playing the puzzles. I like this; it means that grinding levels presents a diversion rather than a chore, that the lack of story - and therefore of plot and of world-saving roles - becomes irrelevant, and combat has the fun of puzzle solving rather than the boredom of auto-attack.

The game has elements that do not thrill me as much. Some of the puzzles have Tetris at their core, and I dont like the real-time pressure this puts on the player. Of the other two I played, carpentry had a time-pressure element, and bilge pumping appeared not to. So off to the bilges I go then. Yarrr!

I also did not like that when I chose melee training, the game put me on a ship manned by players rather than NPCs. Almost immediately another ship attacked and I had to play a Tetris variant for the boarding action, without any time to read the instructions for the puzzle.

Now that ship's captain has made me a full member of the crew. As a result, I do not seem to have access to the tutorials any more. The next time I log on, I intend to leave that crew and find the training ship once more.

So, I have mixed feelings about Puzzle Pirates, but I mean to finish the tutorials and give it a few hours after that to engage my interest. If it fails I can always resort to the single-player game Puzzle Quest for my RPG/puzzle fun.

A quick note on Puzzle Quest: It joins the ranks of a growing number of games that don't penalize the player for losing or dying. I like this. For me it does not reduce the fun factor at all. In Puzzle Quest, when the player loses a battle not only is it not a game-over-restore-from-save, not only does the player not lose any items, weapons, or skills, but instead gains a small number of experience points. Terrific!

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