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Pirate's Mind - Review

Puzzle games are a great fit for mobile gaming. They’re playable in short bursts and appeal to a wide audience. They’re also very easy to create, as every seemingly Indie developer and his brother has at least a couple of the Marketplace. Developer M80 games’ Pirate’s Mind manages to stand out from the crowd thanks to its unique game play and high-quality presentation.

Pirates are a greedy sort, spending much of their time thinking about treasure. So a pirate themed puzzle game must naturally revolve around collecting money. In Pirate’s Mind, the playing field consists of 30 coins. Every coin’s back looks identical, but there are actually three kinds of coins to match: bronze, silver, and gold. Matching coins works kind of like the card game Memory in that after flipping two coins, if they aren’t a match, those two coins will still be in the same place. Then you can flip a new, random coin and try to match it with the ones you’ve already seen.

Learn more of Pirate’s Mind’s secrets after the jump.

Pirate's chains

In Pirate’s Mind, you’re not trying to just match pairs. You can continue matching more of the same coin until you flip one that doesn’t match. Thus it’s possible to make chains of 8 or more, earning huge score bonuses. After a chain ends, new coins fall in to replace the old ones. The game is even generous enough to give a quick peek at the new coins, steering the player in the right direction for the next move.

It’s Pirate Time

The challenge in Pirate’s Mind comes not just from noticing and remembering coin locations, but also from time. The timer starts counting down from three minutes. If the player flips two coins and fails make a match, two seconds vanish from the timer. A single green coin also rests on the playfield, not hidden like the others. Flipping this coin subtracts five seconds from the timer but briefly reveals the identities of every other coin in play. Clearly there are enough ways to lose time, but the reverse also holds true. Matching silver and gold coins not only adds points to the score, it also adds to the timer. Thus it’s possible (and extremely likely) to play for way longer than the initial three minutes you start with. You can go on pretty much forever if you’re good at finding precious silver and gold.

Ship-shape presentation

Pirate’s Mind looks almost as good as a PopCap puzzle game. The professional-looking logo and title screen instill confidence from the start. During game play, the coins in the foreground look sharp. Behind them, animated fish swim around in an ocean backdrop. Earning combos feels special thanks to well-chosen sound and visual effects. There are two different tunes - one for the title screen and another during game play - and both enhance the experience rather than detract from it.

Pirate’s curse

The only area where Pirate’s Mind really needs improvement is game modes. While the basic gameplay is both simple and fun, there really needs to be a separate mode with a short time limit and no way to earn more time. That would work better as a mobile experience, since currently games can run pretty long. It would also create a better sense of tension and add some variety. All the best pirates know that variety is almost as effective at warding off scurvy as Vitamin C. Thankfully, a new mode is coming in a future update.

Pirate versus pirate… It’s only a matter of time

Pirate’s Mind is a score-based game, so naturally it’s got a local leaderboard. Here’s the part where I wish for an online leaderboard. Wish! The good news is M80 Games plans to add online features when Scoreloop launches on Windows Phone 7 later this year. This will give the game online leaderboards and access to a friends list, which will really inspire competition.

Overall impression

Pirate’s Mind is a very promising puzzle game for Windows Phone 7. The cross between a Bejeweled-style puzzler and a memory card game works surprisingly well. The attractive presentation and pirate theme make the game stand out as well. The promise of OpenFeint support (and hopefully another game play mode or two) will give Pirate’s Mind some long sea legs.

Pirate’s Mind costs 99 cents on the Marketplace. There is no trial, arrrrr. Scoop it up here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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