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March 2002



- The most accurate pirate simulation since Return to Monkey Island
- Easy to get into
- Naval combat can be quite enjoyable
- Easy to learn controls
- Lots to do across five different "islands"



- Melee combat is a little simplistic
- Camera can take some getting used to
- Some may find it too easy or repetitive
- A strange invisible wall that won't let you walk even in shallow water



AFR: Pirate Spawn (Spawn 21)

Review: Escape from Monkey Island (PC)

Review: Tropico 3 (PC)



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Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat

Score: 8.4 / 10


pirates-legend-of-black-kat-1.jpg (48530 bytes)  pirates-legend-of-black-kat-2.jpg (60252 bytes)  pirates-legend-of-black-kat-3.jpg (56487 bytes)


Considering the wealth of pirate lore and fiction, it’s amazing that more games haven’t used pirates as source material. Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat (LoBK) takes gamers back to the age of High Seas, when pirates ruled the water and giant crabs were plentiful!

LoBK is the most accurate pirate simulation since Return to Monkey Island, which is to say it’s not accurate or even realistic, but is a lot of fun. Players assume the role of Kat (age 22), buxom captain of the Wind Dancer and daughter to one of the most successful pirates of the previous generation. Besides the swashbuckling sword fighting there is also combat on the water, taking on various enemy boats and




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“liberating” forts. The action is fairly split between the two.

The Captain mode (taking direct control of Kat) plays like most action platform jumpers (such as Mario 64 or Obi-Wan). Kat’s main weapon is her sword, which she uses to attack enemies and defend herself. Besides the regular swings, she can also perform a power attack which is charged up as Kat makes


successful hits on enemies. There are three levels of power-up that allow Kat to perform different swing combos and more damage. (Plus, there are a few different swords to collect as well, each with different “charged” attacks.) Besides the melee weapon, she has access to some ranged attacks, not the least of which is the grenade-like powder keg. It goes without saying that Kat can jump – she can also double-jump and combine it with an attack. There are also Magic Tikis to use; turning Kat into somewhat of a spellcaster. Just don’t expect Kat to get her feet wet – she hits the water’s edge and will not go any further. All of the controls and inventory management are easy to pick up in a matter of minutes.

The Sailing mode requires more practice, but can actually be more fun. Basically, there are two water targets: forts and ships. (The forts, once "liberated", give you a place to quickly stock up on repair items and ship improvements.) LoBK is historically accurate in the manner in which the cannons are fired – port and starboard – so you have to position the ship accordingly to do any damage. The Wind Dancer shoots regular cannon balls and also has a power attack which charges over time. To complement that you have the chance to buy specialty items such as stink bombs (that temporarily render an enemy ship unable to fire their cannons properly) and the fireball. Being able to bend the laws of Nature, The Wind Dancer can utilize a wind boost – it also charges over time – that can get Kat out of overwhelming situations. It’s inevitable that Kat’s ship will get damaged – some forts have huge numbers of cannons – but repairing it on the fly is very easy. As long as you’ve got lumber to repair your hull and canvas to repair your sails, you should have no problems, otherwise you’ll be making full use of the wind boost.

The transitions between the two modes are seamless – no load times, just a brief cutscene of Kat running to the beach/ship.

Graphically, LoBK is no slouch but at times you’ll notice smeared textures. With all the processing horsepower of this generation of consoles (XBox, PS2, GameCube) it’s almost inexcusable to have anything less than razor sharp graphics. However, the animation is smooth and everything moves at good pace, so I’ll let it slide. Character design is varied and infused with a sense of fun and fantasy, although a few characters are “borrowed” from another great pirate series. (e.g. Kat gets attacked by skulls at one point and experienced gamers will not be able to help but think of Murray from Monkey Island.) All the “Worlds of the Five Seas” have their own unique look, layout, and challenges.

Sound is good – if Westwood released a looped CD of Kat saying, “Ahhhh, grog!” I’d buy it in a heartbeat. The clashing swords, the cannon fire, and the big gorillas – they all sound great. The ambient noises lend themselves well to what’s going on and the music is suited to the situation.

When it comes to overall challenge, LoBK is strictly middle-of-the-road -- dying doesn’t happen often (if you plan things right) and bosses are fairly straightforward to defeat. Ship-to-ship battles are more difficult, but as you upgrade your ship, add more guns, and find enchanted figureheads (which give you varying power attacks), the Wind Dancer becomes nearly unstoppable. Like any good platform game, LoBK has lots of stuff to do and areas to explore (and a save function in the form of a parrot which can be found on nearly every island). There are some quests to fulfill, chartstones to gather, booty to plunder, errands to run, keys to find, buried treasure to “dig up” (when you find some, you hit a button and the chest rises out of the ground), and bikinis to wear (if you enter the secret codes). Because the action is spread over five main island areas you might lose track of things on your way to the inevitable confrontation and revelation, the Captains Log keeps everything in check and it’s easy to consult.

There’s enough challenge on the single-player side of things to keep gamers occupied, but Westwood has included a few multiplayer ship duel/deathmatch modes, which can be fun if you’re in the right mood and have a big enough TV.

As much as there is to like about LoBK, the real distraction is the camera. Once you become acclimatized to it, getting the right angle is no problem. But getting to that point can take time. To take the edge off, read the manual for full details and an explanation as to why it sometimes seem to drift on its own.

It’s hard not to like Pirates: Legend of Black Kat. It’s got a sense of fun, a main character that can be outfitted in a bikini, lots of swordplay, a chance to bend the laws of Nature in really big ships, and playability that’s easy to pick-up. While not everyone is going to run out and buy LoBK, it’s should definitely be on their “must rent” list.

- Omni
(April 10, 2002)

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