Japanese powerhouse DeNA, creator of the iPhone social network MiniNation, has expanded it with a collection of social and casual applications. Pirate Nation, released at the end of last month, is a free-to-play title on the iPhone network that takes users out to the high seas as pirates.
It’s a simple game of battles and collection with several amusing, twitch-based mini-games. Players can also customize their ships — to a limited degree.
In Pirate Nation, you set sail to the seven seas and seek out treasure. Becoming the top pirate in the process isn’t a bad either. You start out with a torn-up bucket of a ship and are immediately off and sailing. Sailing the ocean is simple, as you are only given one direction to at a time. Each tap in this direction takes the you to a new patch of water and consumes 20 energy (once energy reaches zero, no further actions can be made).
At each stop, your ship might encounter an enemy pirate ship or sunken treasure. Approaching any enemy ship presents the opportunity to engage in battle. Thus far, all enemy ships appear to be non-player ships, but they do become more challenging as you level up. To fire, tap the enemy ship as it quickly moves about. You must destroy the enemy before they take down you, with successive hits doing more damage.
Once the enemy ship sinks, you receive the random treasures your enemies were hoarding. These treasures become part of a collection and are used in the completion of various quests. Quests provide a boost to income (Doubloons) and reward ship parts to customize and upgrade your ship.
Ship parts are also found in sunken treasure. Sunken treasure is represented by a glowing spot on the ocean. You can lower your crane and pull up cloth, ivory, driftwood, and so on by using the iPhone’s tilt sensor to steer the crane to the ocean bottom, then back up once you have the treasure. But be careful of the rocks, jellyfish, and sharks in the way — hitting them takes away from the crane’s health. The more you tilt the iPhone, the more the crane sways, exponentially decreasing control and making this mini-game challenging.
Once you have some ship parts, you can take your vessel back to port and begin customizing it. Unfortunately, only four parts to the ship can be customized: the mast, stern, bow and hull. Further, you can only build specific designs based on the parts you have. Adding new parts improves the appearance of your ship and increases battle stats.
You can also purchase new cannons and cranes to better augment your capabilities in the mini-games.
When it comes to social mechanics, you can visit the ships of any player on Pirate Nation and “scrub their deck.” This will build up a stat called “Matey Points” used to replenish energy. Scrubbing another player’s deck will also regenerate a small portion of their energy. After you’re done cleaning, you can post messages to their wall, or request to add them as a “Matey” (friend) to earn extra Matey Points to scrub their deck.
The game also has online leaderboards and the OpenFeint network, and can import Facebook, Twitter, or OpenFeint friends. Since this is an app from MiniNation, you have access to that social network as well, which comes complete with personal walls and customizable avatars.
Overall, Pirate Nation is a pretty simple, but fun application. It’s not overly complicated, and there is a strong sense of progression. Though we would like to see more personalization for the pirate ships, they already look great and it’s gratifying to upgrade them. The social elements are not complex, but they do enhance the title, and will do more once MiniNation further implements OpenFeint.