HAAR-HAAARRRR! Shiver timbers! Splice the mainbrace! Hoh-hoh, Wayne lad! And other predictable comments suitable for reviewing a pirate game - only with a Spanish accent! Because Black Beard is by Topsoft, that's why, and quite right too, because lots of 16th century pirates were Spanish.
Anywayup, this is a remarkably pretty game which bears not a little resemblance to Dandy and other Gauntlet clones of yore. The gameplay's a tiny bit repetitious, but then, so is a life on the ocean wave, so at least you can't say it isn't realistic.
You play the jolly savage cut-throat Captain Blackbeard, was SOOOOOOO annoyed to find that Captain Redbeard has stolen a valuable treasure map, that he's sworn to kill his entire crew, get the map back and probably eat his salt-biscuits.
The game takes place on Redbeard's ship, the Victory. The scenes are shown from the top and are admirably detailed, featuring cannon, hatchways, ship's boats, caskets, cannonballs, bulkheads and the like. The design's great, and the use of colour excellent. The screen scrolls smoothly as you move around, to reveal new sections such as the cabins, storage holds and gunnels (those are the gungy bits at the bottom of the ship). If you're interested, the layout of the screen is based on the design of the real HMS Victory, so there's a bit of free education for you.
Around the decks prowl pirates, armed to the underwear. You must kill the lot of them to achieve your goal; to do this you must pick up guns and knives which are scattered around the decks. Guns come with thirty bullets each, while knives stay sharp for ever; the problem is that you need a gun to open treasure chests which contain life restoring potions and lanterns. The lanterns also help fire the cannon, which will slow down the pirates' attacks, though I haven't yet managed to work out how this is done.
Also found scattered around are bottles of RUM! Haa-haaarrrr! Trouble is, while of you a power of good, others are spiked, and make you reel around uncontrollably for a few moments. In these it's pretty likely that you'll collide with a flying knife, bullet, or pirate, thus losing a life.
Another good way of losing a life is to plummet through the canvases cover the stow holds. While this is a quick way to get to the lower decks, the recommended method is to find a ladder, stand over it and press fire. That way you don't break your neck.
While the game area is fairly large, it's not big enough to require making a map, so you probably won't spend months of your life playing Black Beard. You will, though, enjoy the time you spend with it; nice graphics, decent music and FX, and an original setting make this an excellent example of the budget game. Buy it or walk the plank.
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
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