Paul Rixon meets
Pirates ... Droids and Snooker Players!
Disk £9.95/ST Disk £12.95
1 player/ 1 joystick
"Whilst docked in Casablanca, your ship is attacked
and plundered by `Bloodthroat the Pirate', a blood-thirsty rogue who
terrorizes the seven seas. He has taken your daughter Katherine and
demands 50,000 gold pieces for her safe return."
And so the scene is set for PIRATES OF THE BARBARY
COAST, a new trading simulation from Cascade Games in which you have
just thirty days to raise the necessary ransom to secure the release
of your daughter, by dealing at the various ports along the African
Barbary coast, or better still, putting a stop to the evil
wrong-doings of the notorious Bloodthroat. Impressed by this
dramatic build-up I donned my skipper's cap, boarded the 'American
Star' and ventured forth into the great unknown.
Following the loading procedure and a title page with
apt musical accompaniment, I was invited to read the ship's log
(which served to reiterate the instructions) and was then presented
with a map of the Barbary coast and nearby islands. Underneath the
map, data relating to my available supplies and current location was
shown, and this was updated on subsequent access to the screen.
Having chosen my destination by positioning an arrow over the
required port, I confirmed my selection, and waited while the disk
revolved for what seemed like an eternity (Cascade obviously
recognise this problem as they suggest making notes in the
A seemingly useless picture of the ship's cannon
eventually appeared with the prompt 'To Port'. Selecting this
induced yet another lengthy disk access and finally a greeting from
Thoresen the master tradesman from Tangier, plus the option of
visiting the stores, having the ship repaired, trading at the port
or moving on to the next location. Well, as it is a trading
simulation I decided to 'do business' at the port and the display
switched to a cross-sectional view of the ship's hold. Positioning
an arrow cursor over an item in the hold, such as Medicine, Silk or
Cocoa, revealed a `window' and an offer for the goods in question.
It was then up to my skill and judgement (ha!) in deciding whether
to accept or refuse the offer, or to dicker for a better deal.
Naturally choosing the latter option, I was allowed a two gold piece
increase, but on pushing my luck too far the tradesman refused to
deal any longer. After offloading the remainder of my cargo and
undoubtedly getting ripped off in the process, I paid a visit to the
buying market which was much the same as the selling one, except of
course that I had to haggle for lower prices rather than higher
ones. A few gold pieces (gp) lighter in the pocket, I took my chosen
stock of Wool back to the ship and decided to check out the stores.
Here, there was food, news and cannonballs for sale,
as well as extra crew members for hire. I stocked up with Red
Herring sandwiches and attempted to obtain the news, upon which the
storekeeper demanded a 900gp bribe for the privilege! By now I was
bordering on skint and credit was strictly forbidden, so I set to
sail and arrived at the next 'exotic location' where I hoped that
someone would appreciate the Wool I had brought them. Good news!
Wool was in high demand and I netted nearly 22000gp for the kitty!
Investing all of this in Silk turned out to be a wise decision, as I
later managed to flog this for a cool 40000gp! What an easy life, I
thought, foolishly spending the whole caboodle on Tobacco and
discovering a potential loss in store at the next port. It was
better luck at the following location, where my financial assets
rose to just 500gp short of that magic ransom figure. This was soon
put right in a quick deal on Medicine.
Already I had raised sufficient funds to pay off
Bloodthroat, so having stockpiled plenty of nosh for the crew I made
for the islands, where it was rumoured Bloodthroat lie in waiting.
Sure enough, there he was and I was asked whether I wanted to
confront him in battle (in which case, what would happen to
Katherine I wonder?) or hand over the readies. Anything for a quiet
life I thought, and reluctantly parted with the cash only to live
happily ever after within the colourful confines of the highscore
table. That is, until the computer was switched off because although
the drive tried desperately to permanently record my achievement,
side B of the disk hadn't been notched!!
Okay, so that was the game, now where's all the
'Action, adventure and derring-do on the high seas' claimed in the
sales hype? Well, what I haven't mentioned is the battle which can
take place if you are lucky enough (!) to meet a Pirate on your
travels. It must have been the Pirates' day off when I played the
game, but I can reliably inform you that there is occasionally a
battle – although you can choose to flee from it – and if you manage
to sink the enemy you can either pick up the ship's accumulated
booty or read its log for clues.
A battle consists of firing rather feeble looking
cannonballs at the Pirate ship as it sails across the horizon. You
have to select the cannon elevation in a very similar fashion to the
battle scenario in 'Beachhead I', that's if you manage to load one
or all of the fifteen cannons in time. This sequence involves
selecting load, cannon, powder, cannon, push rod, cannon, brush,
cannon, elevation, cannon and fire in precisely the correct order
–realistic as it may or may not be, it certainly becomes extremely
tedious after a short while, especially as the cannons seem to
automatically unload themselves when you exit the screen. As I have
already discovered though, you can sail away from potential conflict
in the safe knowledge that it's just as easy to complete the game
without the bother. This can also be said for the 'treasure', that
is supposedly located on one of the islands. Searching for it can
expose the crew to disease, and since they are expensive to replace
it's not a good idea to make the effort.
So, having made it into the highscore table you can
either have another go or better still, turn off and try something a
little more exciting – like Yoga or Chess for instance! Giving
credit where it's due, I should mention that each of the locations
is nicely drawn in graphic adventure style (although they do tend to
get obliterated by the pop-up windows!) but I'm afraid the sound is
little more than adequate and, in contrast to the over-imaginative
blurb, the game plays somewhat sedately.
Whilst it is certainly an ethical improvement for
Cascade Games since the days of their ill-reputed 'Cassette 50',
PIRATES OF THE BARBARY COAST is unlikely to appeal to any but the
youngest of Atarians. Full marks for an original concept, but not
quite the action-packed strategy extravaganza I was expecting!
An ST version of the game is available but I have not
seen it. I suspect that the graphics may be better but that the game
is very similar in play.