That’s not to imply that Zombieville U.S.A. was a bad game; it wasn’t, and it definitely has its followers. It was criticized for being repetitive, though, and while OMG Pirates! falls into the same pitfall, it falls more like a feather than a stone, and more than makes up for this in other ways.
Pirates vs. Ninjas is an Internet meme believed to have begun in 2003, and which has since risen to immense popularity. OMG Pirates! builds upon this cliché premise, but does so marvelously well. And while this is not the first time ninjas have battled pirates on the App Store, OMG Pirates! provides the best ninja-on-pirate action you’re likely to find.
The game plays similarly to classic 2D brawlers like Double Dragon or Golden Axe, but actually has more in common with the underrated NES classic River City Ransom, which first introduced RPG-like character development to the action punch-up. And it’s the RPG elements that really allow OMG Pirates! to shine. As you play, your ninja levels-up, and with each level earns new attack combos, increased attack power, health meter extensions, and other upgrades. Beginning with only a single sword-slash attack, your ninja gradually evolves into a pirate-pummeling machine. Your ninja level carries over from the campaign mode into level replays and unlocked gameplay modes, making your progress persistent throughout the game. This allows you to return to earlier levels with all of your moves and improvements intact to increase your level rating.
Controls are simple and well implemented. On your left, a shuriken-styled 360-degree d-pad and a special attack meter that gradually fills as you inflict pain upon your foes. When full, tap the meter to unleash a devastating dose of death upon your enemies. On the right, two buttons for Jump and Attack, which can be used in various patterns of tapping, holding and waiting to unleash powerful combination attacks and special moves when you’ve reached the appropriate character level.
Character Progression: Character leveling is put to great use in this game, and I love that levels are persistent in all game modes. It’s a lot of fun to return to previous levels with your character improvements, which allow you to mop up your opponents for a better level rating. Also, if you’re having trouble completing a level, you can go back to previous levels to train up your character, later returning to where you’re having difficulty with a more powerful character. This type of player-controlled difficulty ratio makes the game very accessible.
Attack Moves: The various moves and combination attacks work to keep combat interesting, and become essential techniques as your opponents become progressively more resilient to simple slashes. In addition to making you a more deadly assassin, your ever expanding arsenal of moves helps to counteract the repetitive onslaught of enemies and scenery.
Level Ratings: Level ratings range from Terribad to Master, and offer an incentive to return to previous levels for an encore performance. By collecting Master ratings, you can also unlock various cheat modes.
Nonstop Action: The pirates don’t let up, ever. More action = more fun.
Difficulty: OMG Pirates! is not an easy game. Stages consist of several areas, with each area acting as a checkpoint from which you will begin again with full health when killed. Taking advantage of these checkpoints, you can muscle your way through the game’s stages, but will usually walk away with a Terribad rating for the stage. Gaining Master rating really is difficult and demands a flawless performance. This careful balance allows new players to enjoy the game while working through the levels without being discouraged by their difficulty, while simultaneously providing advanced players with lofty goals demanding skillful play.
Rewards: Completing the campaign mode unlocks a Hard difficulty and a Survival mode, while gaining stage mastery unlocks various cheat modes.
Bosses: Boss pirates appear every several levels, and comprise a colorful cast of adversaries. They’re humorous and challenging, and I only wish there were more of them.
Art Style: OMG Pirates! looks fantastic, with whimsical, comic book like character designs and scenery. Character movements and attacks are smoothly animated, and very effective. This is a top-quality visual presentation.
Repetitive: A few standard enemy types get recycled throughout the game, appearing with slight visual variations to represent more difficult versions of the same foe. There are two types of brutes: one with a cutlass and one with a rapier, a ranged attacker wielding a blunderbus, and a pirate that tosses bombs. Also, the background scenery is constantly reused throughout the game, sometimes with a simple palette swap to represent a new location. When the scenery finally changes for real, it’s quite a nice reward; I just wish the scenery changed more often.
No Achievements: Though the game keeps track of stats such as time played, pirates killed and highest combo count, there are no in-game achievements or integrated achievement system. Plus+ or Open Feint support would be welcome.
No Multiplayer: OMG Pirates! would be a fantastic multiplayer game, and represents a genre of gaming that has long embraced multiplayer action. The original Double Dragon allowed for two-player coop player, and I could see that working easily in this game. An online matching system could go far here, and an update offering two-player coop missions, player-vs-player dueling, and team arena matches could makes this game incredible.
No Zombie Cameo?!: How awesome would it be to get a Ninja vs. Zombies bonus level, featuring zombies from Zombieville U.S.A.? Could even be fun having the redneck as a bonus character.
Insofar as I’m concerned, OMG Pirates! currently owns several lofty titles including Best iPhone Brawler, Best iPhone Action Game, Best iPhone Ninja Game and Ultimate Ninja Vs. Pirates Game. While I see a lot of missed potential for greatness — the game could use more diversity in enemies and online achievements, and I would love to see multiplayer modes and cameos from Zombieville U.S.A. — there is no denying that this is one of the iPhone’s best new releases. For their second outing, Mika Mobile has crafted a wonderful game full of charming characters, humorous animations, gratuitous violence and unnecessary gore. I’ve loved every moment of this game, and it’s extremely satisfying slicing pirates in half and watching bosses’ heads pop. The game controls well, combat is loads of fun and the action never stops. OMG Pirates! should not be missed.