Pirates Of The Barbary Coast

Reviewed by Paul Rixon


Issue 31

Jan/Feb 88

Next Article >>

<< Prev Article



Paul Rixon meets Pirates ... Droids and Snooker Players!


Cascade Games
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 interval!).

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.