Lil' Pirates

PLEASE NOTE: Lil' Pirates is free to play, but charges real money for additional in-app content. You may lock out the ability to purchase in-app content by adjusting your device’s settings.
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Lil’ Pirates Review

So, you’re a jaded citizen of Planet Internet, right? You are totally done with pirates as memes, cultural icons, and efficient ninja assassins. No more pirates, ever. Not even fat lil’ big-eyed pirates who grumble “Arr!” and slosh around tiny mugs of root beer–

Admit it, your resolve just crumbled like cheese under the fangs of a bilge rat.

Lil’ Pirates is a social networking game distributed by Capcom. As a pirate captain, you must assemble a crew and walk them through the tasks that make up a pirate’s life– that is, the G-rated tasks. You can send your crew members to do jobs like repel enemy pirates, adopt a monkey, loot market stalls and fisheries, or, best of all, brawl rabid dolphins.

You wouldn’t hit a girl boat, would you?

When you send your mateys out to do their jobs (your crew size depends on your level, plus the size of your ship), you don’t actually get to interact with them when they perform the task at hand. Rather, they sail away for a marked amount of time that can vary between 15 seconds and a number of days. The game plays in real-time, so if you send a crew member out on a long stint, he or she will be unavailable for a while. Long missions yield more rewards, which include Fame (experience points), silver, items, and treasure that can be buried or sold for dosh.

The burying and harvesting of treasure is a particularly interesting gameplay task that fits well with Lil’ Pirates’ high seas theme. Most of the treasure your crew finds on missions is trashy, but you can visit “Treasure Island” at any time and bury your loot. The longer you let your treasure sit– again, in real time– the more valuable it becomes. But if you invite friends to play with you, they can visit Treasure Island themselves and lift the prizes you’ve been incubating in the sand.

Like many popular social games, Lil’ Pirates lets you recruit buddies to hang out with your crew. So far, you round up friends through Facebook and email. Their in-game activities are a little limited: For instance, though you can challenge in-game pirates to ship battles, you can’t do the same with your friends.

Pirate with butterfly wings.

Though friend interaction feels limited, Lil’ Pirates is refreshingly laid-back as far as microtransactions go. The game is free to download, and unlike most social games that find ways to fleece you for nickles and dimes, Lil’ Pirates lets you enjoy the vast majority of the game for no cost. Silver, the currency that’s earned in-game by completing missions, can be used to pay for outfits, ship accessories, bigger vessels, new crew, weapons, and almost everything else that you need. Dubloons are purchased with real money through in-game transactions, and a couple are thrown your way once in a while for completing certain tasks.

Certain accessories can only be purchased with dubloons, but they can also be used to speed your way through the game. For example, if a pirate is on a two-day mission, paying a certain number of dubloons will bring him or her back home instantly. Upgrading your ship size can cost about 26,000 silver coins, or else a handful of dubloons. Playing through the game without using dubloons is a slower experience, but even having the choice is appreciated.

Between adorable aesthetics, a sense of humor, and fun missions, Lil’ Pirates casts a sunny light on sacking, plundering, and looting. It might even re-kindle your cold love affair with pirates.

Lil’ Pirates Hands-On Preview and Video

In an intriguing partnership, Capcom and IUGO are teaming up to deliver their first-ever online social game. Similar in style to games like Farmville and We Farm, Lil’ Pirates is a pirate-themed game where you can import your Facebook friends, send them on missions, and then deck out your ship and outfit with their bounty. At GDC Online in Austin, we had a chance to try it for ourselves.

Lil’ Pirates is free to play, but there will be opportunities abound to part with some money. Like Ngmoco’s free farming games, you can earn coins easily through missions, and there is also a premium currency called dubloons which are rarer. You can customize your ship and avatar using both currencies, and IUGO told us they were hoping to make these virtual items so compelling that people would be willing to pay real money for them. Some examples we saw included flame-graphic ship sails and rubber ducky crow’s nests.

Your lil’ pirate starts out with a basic ship only, but you’ll be able to invite your friends from Facebook to join your crew. Then, you can send them on a mission, which have timers ranging from a few minutes to several hours. When they’re done, you’ll collect some loot, plus a bonus if you send them on a mission that they specialize in, like fighting or robbing.

One other interesting aspect of Lil’ Pirates is Treasure Island, which introduces an element of gambling into the mix (as if online social games were not addictive enough). On Treasure Island, you can bury any item in the ground to make it more valuable over time. However, your friends can dig up your treasure and steal it for themselves. Since this would normally lead to you making them walk the plank, there is a potential upside: Your item will randomly be replaced with an item that could be of greater or lesser value.

The combination of these different factors, including simple minigames for restoring your crew’s energy that can be skipped with special currency called root beer, make Lil’ Pirates a little more complex than other social games we’ve seen lately. In any case, we think that the pirates theme is a winner, since everyone knows that pirates are irresistibly fun, more so than farmers. Look for Lil’ Pirates in the App Store in November.

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