Ever get sick of society and decide that you wanted to turn into a pixelated hobo? Well, transforming into pixels is still in development, but you can take to the streets and become the best bum there ever was in BD Games’ Urban Pirate. This retro 8 bit jaunt is an interesting mix of RPG, Sandbox and a whole lot of RNG (random number generator) goodness. The goal is to essentially live your life as the titular urban pirate: shoplift what you need, squat in abandoned buildings, avoid the cops and keep your sanity and hunger from depleting to zero.
Time ticks by on a day-to-day basis. You have your sanity, hunger and general well-being to keep track of. With eleven levels to roam through as you progress, Urban Pirate lets the player pick their own adventure. It is all in their hands on the quest to become an urban legend with sizable street cred and both middle fingers raised to modern society.
Those expecting an 8 bit Grand Theft Auto aren’t going to get it with Urban Pirate. There is no senseless beating of pixelated hookers or calls from your cousin. Rather, you move about the game’s various levels at your own leisure. At first, the goal is merely to survive and keep your sanity. As the levels progress, you will be given more advanced things to do and street cred to earn. Players can expect to move up from being a small-time petty thief to someone who is running packages for “credible” business people, AKA other urban pirates.
There is something charming about the retro style of Urban Pirate. The simplicity and grittiness reflects the subject of the game quite nicely. Life is sure to become a lot simpler as an urban pirate. Pretentiousness aside, the retro art style adds to Urban Pirate. Its simple and colorful nature helps it stand out from similar games that might take on more drab and colorless textures. Players usually think of Vice City or Gotham when thinking of a cruel metropolis riddled with a corrupt society, so it is refreshing to see splashes of colors aside from the graffiti that you can paint, should you choose.
The sound design and soundtrack in general are surprisingly full of pep. It does a fantastic job of taking what should be a grim, tense situation and making it into something that is lively and childishly fun. Running from the cops in this game feels as though all parties are doing it to play tag rather than take you down.
Where Urban Pirate does fall a bit short, however, is the controls. They are not intuitive, and take some getting used to. One doesn’t just move to an area and press enter. Rather, you have to hold down the one or two keys until you enter the event / area / mini-game. It does the job, but when you are running from the cops (which you will be quite often come endgame), it can become nightmarish. If the cops catch you, you have to pay a $50 fine. That might sound like nothing, but when you’re an urban pirate fifty bucks can buy a whole lot of street cred. If you can’t pay the fine, you spend a day in prison, which lowers your sanity. You also can’t shoplift at the place you got caught at, which if it was at the grocery store, you can bet your stomach is going empty unless you can pay that fine quickly.
Urban Pirate’s challenge is certainly fun. It is only when you pair it with persnickety controls and a feedback loop of failure that it becomes intensely frustrating. Ultimately, that is the most pressing matter that holds the game back. Some tightening up on the controls in general, or at least more intuitive ones, would really put the polish on this retro adventure.
All in all, Urban Pirate is an experience that fans of RPG and Strategy games will no doubt enjoy. The free-roaming mechanics allow players to get right into the skin of their blossoming pirate and enjoy the journey from nothing to urban legend. While it might not be perfect, Urban Pirate is certainly an interesting idea and one that is incorporated in a fun, visually and audibly appealing manner. Get out there and rage against the machine as hard as you can!
The Pirate's Life For Me!
Urban Pirate is a retro style jaunt through the mean streets as you build your reputation, do shady stuff, and live the life of a true urban pirate in style.