Developer: Backflip Studios
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.3.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Playtime Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

PlunderNauts is a ship combat game that combines the swashbuckling antics of pirates on the high seas with futuristic, neon-shaded space exploration. The game certainly looks very slick, but it ultimately feels a little too thin on content to be worth putting up with.

The setup for PlunderNauts places players in control of a ship captain that has stumbled upon a robotic parrot who happens to know where the legendary Ironbeard’s treasure is hidden in the universe. Of course it’s not as easy as simply going and finding it, though. Along the way, players will face off against fearsome foes that wish to take the treasure for themselves.

031These story conceits set up the main action of PlunderNauts – which involves navigating to a planet, fighting a starship battle, receiving loot, upgrading, and repeating. Along the way players can encounter fights involving boss characters, multiple starships, asteroid fields, unmanned turrets, and more, and it is the player’s job to strategically position their ship by drawing a navigation path so they can properly aim their arsenal at their enemy while keeping themselves alive.

It is this combat that is the main “meat” of the game, and although it sounds a looks amazing it manages to grow a bit stale within a relatively short amount of time. With the ships steering like boats, and having to worry mainly about approaching ships from the front, left side, and right side to fire all available weapons (much like old navy ships), the game turns into a battle of who has the better guns and who can fire faster. There are alternate strategies (kiting) of course, but most of those are about the same amount of fun (not much) and take a lot longer.

013None of this would really hamper my enjoyment too much if PlunderNauts didn’t make itself pretty difficult to play in the first place. As a free-to-play game there are all of the familiar trappings, including multiple currencies and an energy system, both of which work to prevent you from progressing at a fun pace without shelling out. On top of this the game requires a data connection at all times despite being single-player, and the draw-to-move controls make a certain amount of sense but don’t seem to work quite the way they should all the time. Finally, it’s kind of hard to tell when PlunderNauts is actually saving game progress, so it is possible to lose progress after exiting the game simply because it didn’t save.

What we’re left with is a game that looks pretty awesome, but doesn’t live up to its visual style. PlunderNauts may be enjoyable enough to pick up and play a few rounds of from time to time, but the way it seems to fight players who want to play and enjoy it make it a largely frustrating experience.


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