There's a reason why children see pirating as a great career choice: those swarthy swashbucklers lead great lives. Sure, they might lack the altruistic qualities of other childhood favorites, such as superheroes or firemen, but there is no denying that exclaiming "shiver me timbers" and making people walk the plank holds a certain appeal. In fact, when I was just a wee wireless gamer, I knew that I either wanted to be a pirate or the owner of a kosher delicatessen. Heck, I should have done both. "Ahoy there, land lubbers! Come to Avery's Pirate Deli, where everything is pARRRReve."
So, naturally, I'm one stoked bloke, now that Pirates of the Caribbean is bringing buccaneers back in fashion faster than wing-tipped shoes. Although the rigors of reviewing keep me from sailing the seven seas myself, I'm able to experience the glory vicariously by playing one of the better-licensed games around on my Sprint Vision phone. It may be partially crippled by control issues, but Pirates' great presentation and cool stat system allow me to overlook this flaw.
In Pirates of the Caribbean, you play Jack Sparrow, a hardened seafarer who has learned that his old ship, the Black Pearl, has been overrun by the undead. On the same ship, it turns out, is a load of Aztec treasure. To find your lost galleon, you need to collect six pieces of a map, evenly distributed through an equal number of levels. In each stage, you must defeat a series of enemy vessels using your ship's cannons. Success means that you receive a portion of the map, as well as a quantity of gold corresponding to the difficulty of the completed stage. You can repeat stages as often as you want to uncover more caches of cash. This gold allows you to buy artillery upgrades in your local naval supply depot. Frankly, I don't understand why men who make their money looting ships are incapable of shoplifting. One would think that a salty chap like Jack Sparrow (played by Johnny Depp in the movie) would have picked up some tricks back when he was trading "booty" with Ms. "Wino Forever."
Anyhow, when the map is finally whole, you can challenge your old ship, the Black Pearl. You won't want to come underprepared, though. Its stats are just about maxed out, so you'll want yours to be, too. Also, the Pearl has the unfair advantage of being able to heal during battle. You'll have to constantly damage the ship if you hope to send it 10 leagues under.
As I mentioned, the game's greatest weakness is its control. The directional keys turn you in different ways depending on which way your vessel is pointing. This is difficult to get a handle on, especially because the somewhat simplistic graphics make it hard to tell which part of your boat is the bow. It would have made far more sense to lock the keys to specific turning directions (for example, clockwise or counterclockwise). It's already hard enough playing video games with my pirate-hook hands.
A good pirate is irrepressible, though, and it'll take more than a few control problems to keep Jack Sparrow down. Pirates of the Caribbean will suck you in with its cool storyline, and its RPG-esque stat building will keep you playing. Yesterday, after going home to put my feet up after a hard day's reviewing, I ended up forgoing playing with my GameCube or the Xbox or the PS2 in favor of some more quality time with Pirates of the Caribbean. So go ahead--indulge your inner, pirate-loving child, and send some fools to Davy Jones' locker. You know, it's the one with the Keira Knightly pinup on it.
As a little postscript, it must be noted that I played Pirates on Sprint Vision's Sanyo 8100. The BREW version of the game reportedly features melee combat in addition to the cannonball trading of the Sprint version.