There are more and more indie developers popping up nearly every day with new games, which can make it very hard to stand out from the crowd. Providing players with a great game is a good start, which newcomer 13AM Games did with the incredibly fun Runbow. While the Runbow version for the New Nintendo 3DS is still to come, 13AM Games has also moved onto the publishing game, with Dadako Game’s Pirate Pop Plus as their first title.
The original Game Boy was a major pioneer in gaming, as it provided gamers with the first truly successful handheld system. While subsequent iterations of the Game Boy and later the DS and 3DS have improved on the original tenfold, Pirate Pop Plus looks to hone in on the nostalgia people have for the classic green and grey 8-bit system with its very old school design.
While many games out there are utilizing designs based on the NES or other similar systems, Pirate Pop Plus feels like an actual Game Boy game that can be purchased on the 3DS Virtual Console in both look and gameplay. This is not exactly a bad thing, but it also definitely is rather limited as a result.
Pirate Pop Plus is a score attack style game, feeling in some ways similar to how Tetris was back in the day. The game follows a very simple structure where your goal is to keep popping all of the bubbles until you lose all of your hearts. The pirate will keep spawning a giant bubble that you must break with your current weapon, which then breaks into smaller and smaller bubbles until they’re all destroyed. This might seem rather easy at first, but what gets really difficult is that a magnet will keep pulling you back and forth between each of the four walls, making you more vulnerable to be hit by bubbles. At the same time, you can also hit the bubbles you land on top of as well, so you can use this to your advantage as well.
While the falling on top of bubbles is one way to destroy bubbles, you will mostly be doing that with your variety of weapons. At the start, you have just a simple rope that shoots upward, but as you reach higher levels and the game gets much harder, you will also get more powerful weapons to help take down the bubbles. These will last for limited periods of time though, so you will eventually revert back to your basic weapon until you can get another by destroying more bubbles. This can be a pretty tedious process, but it is definitely rewarding when you are wrecking bubbles with ease with the stronger weapons. This gets even wilder in the Hyper version that requires you to pay coins to play for a more intense experience from the start.
The screen you are playing on is actually very small compared to the full 3DS, as you are only using a portion of the top screen. The bottom screen just shows a large of the character you’re using, while the top includes a square shaped screen like on the Game Boy, with an on-screen d-pad and button that are just there for show. This seems kind of like a waste of screen space, albeit kind of cool looking, but you do have an option to expand the size of the actual game screen to take up most of the upper screen as well thankfully.
Feels like an actual Game Boy game
The game also offers a number of different unlockables that can be bought using the in-game coins you earn, with characters being the most important of the bunch. You start the game with Pete Jr., but also have the ability to unlock three more. This includes Satura from Runbow, who received her own themed DLC for that game, so it came as no surprise to see her show up here. Unlike Runbow however, these characters actually do differ a bit in stats, such as ones having more health than others.
Beyond characters, there are quite a few other things you can unlock as well, including faceplates, backlights, borders, and music. The backlight differences are reminiscent of Downwell that was ported to PS4 and PS Vita earlier this year, where there were different color schemes to choose from. In Pirate Pop Plus, you have options like Red, Blue, and Neon, with similar style choices for the other areas of the game. The different music offerings available in the game are very enjoyable as well, which complement the overall game as a whole.
Nostalgia is a big thing these days and Pirate Pop Plus is definitely looking to build on that with its original Game Boy style visuals. While it can get somewhat tedious and repetitive at times, its simple gameplay style and bargain price make the overall experience pretty enjoyable on the go. It may not be anywhere near as memorable as 13AM’s first published game with their in-house developed Runbow, but Pirate Pop Plus can still provide a good bit of fun anyways.