Zadzooks: Pirate Legends review (iPad)

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Batten done the hatches and load up the six-pounders matey to sink a variety of enemy vessels in the tower defense epic Pirate Legends (Superhippo, rated: 9+, reviewed with iPad 2, $3.99).

A player taps on his water-logged iPad and strategically positions cannons, oil rigs, witch doctors and sharp-shooters around a maze of inlets that are soon to fill up with hostiles looking to board and steal doubloons from a player’s main ship.

The amateur pirate engages in a dozen battles against almost 30 types of enemies and a quartet of bosses as he fights off factions of the British Navy, cannibal tribes, sea creatures and, mandatory these days, undead hordes.

Those towers automatically fire and must destroy the enemies before a set number of them reach the main ship, or the battle is lost.

As enemies sink, a player’s coin purse grows to buy more towers or upgrades such as oil rigs that spew toxic sludge or a sharp-shooter turning into a Rambo-sized, harpoon-chucking brute. That brute delivers one of the more memorable actions of the game as he can also summon a hungry shark to jump up and munch on a nearby foe.

Fights against submarines, jolly seamen spinning around on barrels, sail-boarding swabees with butts jiggling, steel-enforced paddle boats, zombie dolphins and even a massive prehistoric angler fish (spewing offspring as it attacks) are fairly simple.

However, contending with dirigibles and solo-manned flying machines make life challenging.

Those airborne foes are the most dangerous. A player needs to make sure he has the right balance of sharp-shooters in key positions, or he will fail every time.

The locations, viewed from an over-the-top perspective, are a cartoony colorful lot with combat taking place among the watchful stone heads of Easter Island on a jade river hiding coves of helpful Asian pirates, or the tropical island of Tortuga with natives eager to assist in taking on the Imperials.

A crusty captain barks out commands during the skirmishes and encourages the player while a soothing selection of Caribbean music plays in the background over the cannon fire.

Nice touches to the traditional tower-defense game include directing cannon fire from the main ship with the swipe of a finger, tossing a turtle with a cannon strapped on it back to push back and attack vessels, and having a rebel pilot aboard a flying contraption equipped with a machine gun randomly strafe the enemy.

A collection of limited powerful attacks help survive the more overwhelming engagements. For example, a player can summon a Kraken to consume a tough foe, or call out a hurricane (cleverly control it to move about by tilting the iPad) to disrupt an advancing fleet.

Attacks are bought by collecting a reward of toes (yeah, that’s pretty bizarre) replenished for winning the rounds of battles or procured with real cash as an additional app purchase.

Most importantly to the action, Superhippo makes it a visual delight to play throughout with details down to the main load screen’s pieces of art swaying as a player moves his iPad. It’s almost enough to make me seasick.

I am a sucker for any good tower device game and, although not quite as robust as the recent Kingdom Rush Frontiers, Pirate Legends will still enthrall swashbuckling strategists looking for a mobile adventure.

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