Max and the Pirates is the latest game in the Max series, where the lovable little bear goes on adventures around their world.
This time around Max and his famous inventor Uncle Pong find themselves on vacation along the Jivery Coast. The game starts out with Pong and Max relaxing on the beach. You can click around the screen to trigger different events, and to see some of the interesting things that Pong has invented. Just on a personal note, the foot irrigator seems downright heavenly.
Anyway, eventually when you click on a pirate ship off in the distance a character by the name of Captain Spinnakerears floats up and asks for help. Seems he was given a machine as a gift to prove that he is the most dreadful pirate on the high seas. Trouble is, he broke the machine and the pieces are all scattered throughout his ship.
Always willing to help a friend, or at least some nice-seeming pirate that they just met, Max offers to help him piece the machine together. I was a little bit concerned at this point. The machine itself looks pretty dangerous, and Max did after all just meet this pirate. (Not as a spoiler, but the machine does turn out to be harmless.) Max and Captain Spinnakerears are off on a new adventure.
Max finds himself aboard the pirate ship, searching for parts to the treasure machine. Along the way he learns a lot about pirates, and a few other things like how to prevent scurvy by eating fruit. The lessons are pretty far between, as most of the adventure part of the game seems to be centered on holding a child’s interest. The game says it is suitable for players between three and 10-years-old, and for the most part I think that is correct. For once, I think a game like this is playable by children on the lower end of that range.
The learning part of the game is mostly in the reading skills area. Whenever people talk, a scroll comes up and follows along with the voice using highlighted text. That way, the child learns to associate words, some of them complex, with what they mean. This is an excellent way to get children to learn.
As a side benefit, the game comes in four languages: English, French, German and Turkish. And, you can switch the languages on the fly. It was a lot of fun listening to the Captain give an order in English, and then switch to German and listen to it again. The follow-along text also changes, so you can see how the Turkish or French written language looks.
There is not enough text in the game to learn a foreign language, but at the very least children will be exposed to the fact that other languages exist, and savvy children will pick up phrases from the game.
The entire game is apparently written in Flash, which means that while the graphics are not going to be eye-popping – you need to set your monitor to 256 colors to play on the PC – the system requirements are low. You only need a 486 computer to play the game, and it also runs fine on high-end systems as well.
The game also smartly autosaves at different points in the game as you play. Basically, you choose your Jolly Roger (pirate flag) and if you choose to leave the game later, you can select the same flag to continue right where you left off. There are six flags to choose from, so families with multiple children can have players at different stages in the game at the same time.
The bottom line is that Max and the Pirates is a fun title, with a good deal of educational value added into the mix. It would get a perfect score if only the game lasted a bit longer. I was able to go through the game in about an hour, though with child focus groups it lasted considerably longer. For the $20 price, it’s a great deal in family entertainment. Max and the Pirates earn 4 and 1/2 GiN gems for their pirate chest.