When my father taught me to sail, I was an old 7; wise in ways no child should be. He showed me how to tie a jib, to hoist the main sail, to use a sextant, to scan the horizon, and, above all, how to pirate… wait just a second. As it turns out, that wasn’t us, it was Blackbeard the Pirate. You see, we’ve been playing Blackbeard’s Assault, and it seems to have taken over our lives. It’s that good. A frantic Match-3 puzzle game with bright graphics, interesting levels, and a charmingly silly story, Blackbeard’s Assault has become one of our favorites.
Blackbeard’s Assault is like Zuma or Puzzloop on steroids. You operate a cannon that swivels around and blasts brightly colored cannonballs. There can be up to four on a stage, and you switch from one to the other by touching them. The canon you currently control will have a colored beam shooting out from it; the color corresponding to the cannonball about to be fired. These canons are placed on levels that may well be called mazes, through which lines of cannonballs stream. The cannonballs roll towards a big X at the end of their path, and if they reach it, you lose. Your job is to stop them by shooting balls into the line to match up three or more of the same color, exploding them and freeing up valuable space. If you knock out a group of balls that separate other like-colored balls, they’ll snap together, earn you a combo, and set the line back a bit. When all the cannonballs disappear, you win.
The simple goal belies the complexity of the variations here; this is a game that stays interesting. The cannonballs’ mazes curve and loop around themselves, tunneling underneath the board and twisting imaginatively. So the level designs come heavily into play–you cannot shoot through a row of cannonballs, and the placement of the cannons will alter your approach. Some stages have two Xs, meaning that you have to defend double the territory with half the time. There are a few power-ups to help you clear out the creeping hordes of balls, including special super-weapons that dispatch large numbers at once, but for the most part, your quickness of mind and finger is the only thing keeping you alive.
There are 20 levels to beat in Blackbeard’s Assault, and the basic structure allows for a satisfyingly difficult progression through the game modes. For instance, the Expert level has two additional colors, and it moves at a faster pace to boot. We also liked the auto-save feature, which allowed us to continue where we last left off, and the unlimited retries we were afforded. Unfortunately, you can’t save your particularly great games and restart them later, only the most recent, which we admit is picking nits. Once beaten, however, the levels will unlock for easy access, though only for that particular difficulty setting.
We love all of the game’s little touches, too. As you advance, the cut scenes featuring Blackbeard, the Serpent, and Ninjas (yes, ninjas!) offer a lighthearted break from the levels. A piratical voice yells ‘Savvy?!’ (Johnny Depp style) and ‘Avast!’ when you clear a substantial number of balls. The menu screen selectors are little skulls, and the menus themselves are styled after pirate maps. We liked the rousing Lord of the Rings-style music, too, but eventually preferred to use our own soundtrack. The game offers you the option to play your own music while you avenge your father’s death. Well, Blackbeard’s father.
Simple, addicting, and massively fun, Blackbeard’s Assault is everything we want from an action puzzle game. We are looking forward to the next patch; as of yet we can’t upload our scores and compare them to the iPhone gaming community. In the meantime, we think you’ll have plenty to keep you busy here.