You don't often see new games that borrow gameplay from the arcade classic Buster Bros. Pirate Pop Plus does so unashamedly yet it has a cool new spin on the formula that makes it feel like a fresh experience.
For those who don't know how Buster Bros. (AKA Pang) is played then let me explain. You basically move left and right while shooting up at bouncing bubbles. Once you bust a bubble, it splits into smaller bubbles then you keep blasting away until they're small enough that they disappear when shot. It's simple, addictive, and fun. In Pirate Pop Plus, the dastardly Bubble Pirate trapped the villagers in bubbles and it's your job to rescue them. The gameplay mechanic that makes all the difference is the fact that gravity shifts as you play. This forces you to change up your strategy and realign yourself frequently. Not only that, you can also land on bubbles as you transition between the walls, ceiling, and floor. If you can hop on multiple bubbles in a row, you get a huge score increase so it's definitely a required strategy if you want a worthy high score.
Pirate Pop Plus' visuals emulate Nintendo's original Game Boy with four shades used to comprise the onscreen graphics. It looks super-retro but somehow doesn't feel dated. The border around the gameplay is a rendering of a fictitious console that ironically adds to the authenticity. The sound consists of jaunty music and classic 8-bit sound effects that makes it almost as enjoyable to listen to as it is to play. Overall, Pirate Pop Plus presents itself in a genuine old-school way yet it doesn't fail to impress.
As I've already touched upon, the scoring system is quite interesting as bouncing on bubbles grants you loads of bonus points. However, there is much more at play. As you pop consecutive bubbles, your combo number increases which rewards you with extra coins. You can use these coins at the in-game store to unlock goodies. Unfortunately, these are all superficial such as new colours, stickers, and music, but it is cool to change these things once in a while so it doesn't get stale. Anyway, you can play on a tougher difficulty setting for an instant score multiplier although it's a lot harder and probably not worth the added challenge.
The temporary power-ups are mostly borrowed from previous Pang titles yet they each add an interesting dynamic with the new gravity-shifting mechanic. You'll acquire weapons that allow you to attach chains to the ceiling and shoot with a rapid-fire gun while other items let you freeze time or deploy a shield. These power-ups add a layer of enjoyment as they're very fun to experiment with.
My biggest complaint with Pirate Pop Plus is that it only consists of one mode that you play over and over again in order to get a high score. I wish there was an adventure mode because that would extend the replay value a great deal. There isn't even any multiplayer which was a huge part of the Pang series. Even if there were online leaderboards then that would at least add some replay value.
Pirate Pop Plus is an enjoyable little game that takes a proven formula and transforms it into something fresh and exciting. Pang fans and retro enthusiasts in general should definitely check it out.
- + Enjoyable classic arcade gameplay with an awesome new gravity mechanic
- + Authentic retro visuals and sound
- + Nifty scoring system and power-ups
- - Only one mode that you play over and over again to get high scores
- - Unlockables are superficial
- - No multiplayer or online rankings