APP OF THE DAY: Crimson: Steam Pirates review (iPad)

There are few around today who remember The Violet Blade, Sky One's dashing videator who sailed away into the sunset after the final series of the first run of Games World. And there are even fewer that know what happened to the "salty old dog of the seven seas".

Some say he perished when The Flaming Queen went down on him during a particularly nasty storm. Some say he's found a small hole to comfort himself within as the world of videogames TV evaporated. And some say he became a tech journalist, waiting for the day to sail onto a flaky set once more and cry his immortal catchphrase (before Alan Partridge stole it), "Aha!"

Who knows? We'd bet that if he was with us here and now, however, this would surely be his game of choice...

Crimson: Steam Pirates

Format
iPad
Price
Free (£1.69 for further in-app episodes)
Where
iTunes

It's a brave move leaving your comfort zone. And an even braver one attacking a completely new format, but after Bungie's much publicised divorce from Microsoft and the Halo franchise, the company really doesn't have much to lose.

It'll be a while before the developer's new agreement with Activision, and the promise of a new intellectual property, bears fruit, so Crimson: Steam Pirates, its first foray into the world of iOS applications is a much welcomed distraction.

Built with the iPad solely in mind, the game is top down strategy fare, published by Bungie Aerospace and developed by Harebrained Schemes, and combines pirates and steampunk, Jules Verne-style science fiction in a beautiful mesh that offers as much in back story as it does in game. You are apprentice pirate Thomas Blood, and you must complete turn-based goals in order to become the most feared of all the seven seas... Well, the Caribbean anyway.

The difference between general Pirate-themed games, however, is that all of the boats in the game are steam driven rather than wind. And it features Zeppelin balloons and aircraft and all manner of neat mechanical inventions that become more complex as the missions and story unfolds. In many respects, it reminds us of former Microsoft Xbox game Crimson Skies, but surely Bungie wouldn't be having a dig, would it?

The action is vastly different though, with Crimson: Steam Pirates being a turn-based strategy game. You must give your ship(s) orders through a simple to use and intuitive interface attached to each, and then set them loose to view the outcome.

Each ship has set crew members, which can change throughout a mission depending on circumstances, and they can offer different actions of properties. Some, for example, offer up a speed up option that can be used on alternate turns, and some allow you to repair your ships.

The crew will also come in handy when you want to board another craft, as it then becomes almost Risk-esque as you must judge how many of them to use against each wave of enemy, before you know that enemy's statistics.

But the biggest and most impressive feature of Crimson is in its variation of missions and tasks. One will send you to capture a Zeppelin balloon, another to attack forts in order to steal a fancy dress for your female boss.

And there's a great sense of humour throughout, with plot twists and in-jokes along the way.

If there's any complaint to be had with the game is that you only get eight missions with the free download. But as it's completely free, whoever does air that particular gripe should be made to walk the plank.

There's also two multiplayer maps to play with friends and Facebook support. Plus, from within the app, you can post stats and scores to Bungie.net.

And then there are new chapters coming, with the first update pack already available. Admittedly, it's at this point that you'll have to start paying, but you can be rest assured that once you've finished the first eight levels, you'll be baying for more considering its utterly addictive nature, and £1.69 is a small is a small price to pay... It'd cost you more to feed a drug habit.

Have you played Crimson: Steam Pirates? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...



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