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 Sid Meier's Pirates!
Sid Meier's Pirates! has seen many a port since its creation in 1987, finally making the leap to 3D in 2005 with newer and updated versions being released on the Xbox, PC and Gamecube. The game was brought to live with a lush new engine, FMVs and additional features, and as a big fan of the series it is my pleasure to say that the port to the PSP is a fantastic achievement.

Full Fat have done an excellent job of porting as much as possible from the console versions, including the FMV right off the bat to set the game up. Once you are into the game the similarities are still remarkable, the Pirates! world looks beautiful on the PSP's screen, and no matter how much detail there will be on the screen in terms of ports, ships and the labels the game employs to indicate what a particular ship actually is and who it belongs to, you will not experience a dip in framerate or any slowdown.

The basis of the game is that you are a young privateer, with a small crew and ship and it is up to you to track down your lost relatives one at a time while sailing around Caribbean and the northern tip of South America. By docking at ports and talking to the 'mysterious strangers' you will meet you will be given your next objective in the 15 mission long game. The beauty of this game, as it has always been, is that the game will not and does not rush you. Take it at a leisurely pace if you fancy, sinking galleons and hoarding loot for a few hours before you check your quest screen to see what it is you are supposed to be doing.

The game is hugely open ended, and can be played in 3 hour stints or 10 minute bursts depending on how much time you have. During the main quest of the game you will also be trying become the number 1 ranked pirate in the area by defeating the other 9, finding all their buried treasure by constant sailing and bargaining with strangers in taverns, finding and then suitably impressing a governor's daughter so you can ask for their hand in marriage and finding 4 lost cities which will contain huge amounts of gold for you to further upgrade your ship and bolster your inventory with strange items such as a shrunken head, and much more obviously useful items such as set of dueling pistols. Players will also be promoted by different countries dependent on if you are sinking their enemies ships. Playing for Spain and sinking Spanish galleons will hold back your promotion, and a keen eye on the log screen will inform you of the ever changing alliances and declarations of war that take part between the 4 nations involved (England, France, Spain and the Netherlands). The ballroom dancing mini stage has also been faithfully rendered for the PSP too and is as easy to understand as it always has been.

In your hands you hold the whole direction of the game, yet it will not be all plain sailing. The larger your crew and the more food stocks you will need and the remaining months of food you have will be shown in the lower left corner. Run out and don't stock up quickly, mutiny awaits resulting in you being dumped on a deserted island until a passing ship rescues you. Even if you do keep food stocks high constantly, the ravages of the sea will negatively affect your crews morale and you will be forced into sharing the loot and starting again with new men. Thanks to the bounty of ports housing unemployed sailors, it will not take long for you to rebuild and take on the pirate world again.

There is still much more to the game, and their are even features that were not part of the PSP's bigger brothers ports. On the Xbox et al, finding treasure was as simple as following a map and then pressing A until a loading screen appeared, and a small FMV of you opening a treasure chest was shown. On the PSP you will have to land and guide 4 of your crew around the island avoiding wild cats which will devour your mateys quick as a flash, as well as guiding them around the numerous booby traps placed in the area. Only then will you find the treasure. Its the same for finding your relatives, land and then scout out the area keeping at least 1 of your crew alive. Sneaking into towns is still here, though a little more linear than it could have been, as well as the occasional land battle you will encounter (and will have to overcome to beat the game). All this is dreadfully simple control-wise and adds even more depth to the experience. This all without mentioning that the numerous duels you will have to participate in have been incredibly faithfully recreated for the PSP and look brilliant.

Pirates! on the PSP is a winner. Sometimes you may see a ship cross land (I defeated William Kidd as he swam in circles aimlessly while stuck in the middle of an island) and sailing east can be a long journey because of the strong wind that blows west all game, yet these are the only two slight niggles I could find on the gameplay side. Also at times it can be a bit quiet as the audio in the game can be a bit few and far between as there is no music when you are just sailing. The generous PSP screen is the brilliant platform to show the expansive world on however, and fans of the original will be just as hooked on this version as they were almost 20 years ago.

9 out of 10

Buy Sid Meier's Pirates! now at Play.com
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