Review: Pirates: Key of Dreams

WiiWare Review

"What sets out as an initially fun run-and-gun game soon becomes a simple 'get from A to B, destroying everything in your path'..."

Early adaptors to Nintendo's WiiWare service will be under no illusion as to what the service is capable of offering with such a small game size. Gamers who have been waiting for a slice of sea-faring naval warfare to appear on the WiiWare service can now finally breathe a sigh of relief as their prayers have been answered. Right? Or is the game destined to walk the plank?

Pirates: The Key of Dreams is the first WiiWare title from Oxygen Studios, and has you take control of a British American vessel under the guise of a pirate ship in the hope of recovering the fabled Key of Dreams from its last known possessors: the Spanish. The reason for the disguise is given at the beginning of the initial level with story laid out through the medium of static artwork and wording along the bottom of the screen. Or if you want, you can skip the whole story playing and just get on with the gaming. In order not to start a full on war between the British and the Spanish, your ship is disguised as a pirate ship so that it may go undetected. To make it more convincing, the game has the other British ships attack you as well as the Spanish ships that later appear in the game.

Locations range from the icy tundra...

The game's single player spans over thirty-five levels as you search out the illusive Key of Dreams across eight different locations, such as the Arctic, Persia, the China Sea and even the Bermuda Triangle. Thirty-five levels might sound a lot but the games is relatively simple and over pretty quickly. What sets out as an initially fun run-and-gun game soon becomes a simple 'get from A to B, destroying everything in your path' in the majority of the levels with only a few different challenges included, such as collecting a certain amount of crates.

The gameplay lacks any form of variation as the same skills employed in the earlier levels are essentially the same ones you will be using the entire way through. Through-out the levels, you'll find treasure lying either in the water, after destroying certain ships, or on shore and this is used for repairing your ship or for getting new crew members which float around in the water waiting for you to pick them up. While it's a nice inclusion, the extra crew members don't really bring anything to the game other than helping with the detection of enemy ships earlier on the map, which is something of a missed opportunity. Other power ups include an Aztec skull coin which helps in the repair of your ship when damaged.

... to the spooky Bermuda Triangle.

Controlling your ship is achieved by either the Wiimote or by Classic Controller (there is no GameCube pad option). The control types are virtually the same with the d-pad/analogue stick used to move the ship around. On the classic controller, you can use the L and R shoulder buttons to move forwards and backwards leaving the d-pad/analogue stick for turning. Your b/1 button is used to fire your primary weapon, which in this case, are your cannons. The a/2 button is used for your secondary weapons, such as mines, rockets, etc., which are picked up from crates found floating in the water. For the most part the controls are fine and take no time getting used to. Problems only crop up when in the heat of battle and it becomes a tad frustrating trying to line your ship up alongside enemies to fire off your cannons.

Graphically, the game is neither great nor overly bad. The menus are your staple fare but lack any real detail to make them stand out. They are functional and that is all. In game, it's a bit of a mixed bag. The ships look nice and detailed with their animation fluid. With the scenery, however, the developers have tried to make it detailed but still haven't added any polish. Animation of on-shore weapons such as cannon towers, and other items such as fluttering flags are shoddily done as they jerk their way around to follow your ship. A few extra frames of animation couldn't have been that hard to add to smooth things out. The game is played out from a birds eye perspective with a nice but simple cloud effect that crosses the screen every now and again. On the whole the graphics run smoothly with only the occasional slow down coming when loads of enemy ships are on the screen at once.

Take on your mates for some solid multiplayer fun.

In some games, music plays a big part. This is one game where the exact opposite can be said. The music is horrendous and will have you reaching for the mute button immediately or a set of headphones to cleanse what has just passed through your ear drums. It's typical of the style of game but you'll become irritated with its looping tinny melodies within a couple of seconds.

Where the single player fails, the multiplayer adds some length to the gameplay. There's only one mode to be played, which is basically a Deathmatch and can take place on a huge selection of maps against either three friends via local multiplayer (but not Wi-Fi) or, if you are Billy No Mates, then you can play against bots. The game crowns the winner who reaches the set amount of points needed to win. There is fun to be had here, and it makes the 1000 Wii Point price point slightly easier to swallow.

Read on for our final review scores:

N-Europe Final Verdict

For a first shot at a WiiWare title, it's not a horrendous effort from Oxygen, though it is overpriced. It can be good fun, but that feeling just doesn't last long enough.

  • Gameplay2
  • Playability3
  • Visuals3
  • Audio1
  • Lifespan2
Final Score



Ships look good
Plenty of maps available for multiplayer


Unpolished graphics
Annoying music
Relatively short

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