Pirate Pop Plus is an incredibly addictive arcade game that proves there is still a place for games that exist for the sake of gameplay.
Pirate Pop Plus
Developers: Dadako, 13AM Games
Platforms: New 3DS, Wii U (Reviewed)
MonsterVine was provided with a Wii U code for review
After visiting 13AM Games last month, I got to have a go at their newest game, Pirate Pop Plus. After my short game session, I found myself wanting to play it even more, almost immediately. Pirate Pop Plus is not only a fantastic arcade game, but a wonderful homage to the era of the NES, and the Gameboy particularly.
The story of Pirate Pop Plus is one of the game’s many throwbacks. A villainous pirate, appropriately named Bubble Pirate, has taken the nearby townspeople and treasures, and put them in bubbles. As the plucky pirate Pete Jr., it’s up to you to pop the villain’s bubbles to collect as much treasure as possible. The simplicity of the plot only adds to the arcade feeling that Pirate Pop Plus is all about, as it gives you all the context you’ll need for your countless play sessions.
Pirate Pop Plus is as fun as almost any arcade classic. The premise of the game is simple: while trapped in a Mega Man-esque boss room, you’ll shoot your anchor upwards to pop the numerous bubbles that Bubble Pirate, nicknamed Bubble Butt, creates. You’ll need to dodge these bubbles to avoid damage, as getting hit too many times will kill you, and end your round. As you pop larger bubbles, they split into smaller ones, making it more difficult to avoid the increasingly frequent bouncing bubbles. Alongside the regular game mode, there’s the harder “Hyper Mode”. This mode gives you one heart, costs 25 coins to play, and doubles your earned coins. This is the ideal way to play Pirate Pop Plus, as it makes the stakes, and rewards, feel much more gratifying.
Gravity will constantly shift as rounds go on, meaning you’ll have to adapt to popping these bubbles as you run on walls, and the roof. The mid-air transition periods between shifts give you the chance to stomp on bubbles, giving you extra points. This makes gravity shifts enjoyable, as it provides a chance to rack up your score in a way that deviates from the main gameplay mechanics.
There are also power-ups to be obtained from bubble-popping, which changes your default thrown-anchor to a number of different weapons. There’s a chain link that locks onto the wall, allowing you to make traps for the bubbles to hit, and even a machine gun that sprays bullets everywhere, splattering bubbles in the most satisfying way. These make increasing your score easier, and is especially handy in Hyper mode.
Improving your score is the main focus of Pirate Pop Plus, as higher scores means more coins, and more unlockables. The variation between these unlockables is exceptional, as there are a ton of worthwhile things you’ll want to grab. There are numerous playable characters and musical tracks, but there are also some particularly unique customization to unlock.
The entirety of Pirate Pop Plus takes place on a Gameboy-based screen, with a border where the D-Pad and buttons are seen. Different colors and patterns for the “Gameboy”, buttons, and screen-borders are all obtainable, as well as different backlight colors, and even sticker decals that are placed outside of the screen’s border. These small things all evoke a strong sense of nostalgia for anyone who played games in the Gameboy era, and keeps you playing for coins to unlock them. There are even “achievements” in-game. These achievements are represented by a plethora of “pirate” items, like a hook hand and an eyepatch. They’re all blacked-out, as you have to either discover them through unlocking them in-game, or by using coins to see the unlock conditions. As a Playstation Trophy addict, the inclusion of an achievement system is a welcome addition, and had me still trying to unlock those last few hidden “pirate trophies”.
And while the unlockables enhance the game, Pirate Pop Plus is just fun. Flying between walls, and using the numerous power-ups to get a high-score is genuinely enjoyable. The exciting pursuit of a high score in an era of sprawling narratives and enormous multiplayer experiences is rare, so it’s incredibly refreshing to chase a higher score with very little other motive. Long play sessions will, however, grow tiresome due to the straight-forward gameplay. This is really all there is to Pirate Pop Plus, so once in awhile you’ll need to take a break to change things up. Short spurts are recommended as they are an absolute delight, and will have you returning to the game on numerous occasions.
The visuals of Pirate Pop Plus feel as though they were taken straight from a particularly sharp-looking Gameboy game. The singular colors, pixel-based characters and environment, and the background of the game all look great, and successfully emulates the Gameboy dynamic. The “console” border and backgrounds are a nice mix of cartoony and realistic, which keeps it from taking away from the basic appearance of the main screen. The unlockable visual changes only enhance the graphics, letting you make the game look as gorgeous as you want it to.
Pirate Pop Plus has a fantastic soundtrack, which is reminiscent of Super Mario Land. The chiptune composition is outstanding, and the numerous unlockable tracks are all different, but equally fun. The tunes are all light and upbeat, which suits the lighter arcade game perfectly.
The Final Word
Pirate Pop Plus is a refreshingly addictive arcade game that focuses entirely on fun. The visuals and music are stellar, the gameplay is outstanding, and the unlockables are unique. While there isn’t much to the game, and it can grow tiresome after long sessions, Pirate Pop Plus is still a joy to play, and a necessity for any fan of arcade games.
MonsterVine Rating: 4 out of 5 – Good