BD Games’s Urban Pirate is a retro game with an impressive sense of style. Urban Pirate challenges players to personalize their experiences. Though it is primarily a game of strategy, Urban Pirate blends genres with arcade and RPG elements. There are multiple activities and bonus missions to explore and master in Urban Pirate’s crime simulation. However, these are not diverse enough to stay exciting for long. Nonetheless, Urban Pirate is worthwhile for its unique qualities.
Urban Pirate has many retro-arcade checklist appeals. 2D towers and neighborhoods clutter Urban Pirate’s Sheep and Shark Islands. Its pixelated character sprites thrust robotically as they dance and move. Urban Pirate features an 8-bit soundtrack that fits all of its themes and situations. Urban Pirate’s subtle design features are its most charming aspects. Dilapidated buildings are expressively grungy in contrast to their polished neighbors. Clouds of smoke and gas disappear in a consistent haze. The urban pirate even fluidly revolves his head when running. Details like these impress because they go beyond the retro age. Urban Pirate is a game with classic inspirations, yet it carves its own stylized image.
Surviving in Urban Pirate means finding the most effective way to be resourceful. Most of Urban Pirate is played as a turn-based strategy game. Players move around a city deciding the best way to gather food and sanity points during each turn. This system is diverse because there is no single, correct way of succeeding. A daring player can burglarize the grocery store as their primary food source instead of spending money on falafels. They can also avoid socializing completely by smoking marijuana as their sole source of sanity.
There’s always a consequence to every tactic. Frequent drug use increases hunger and the likelihood of going to jail. Shoplifting players must escape a chase sequence. Some activities can even disappear until the player earns them back. Players must often fight off a police raid or throw massive parties just to keep their favorite options available. Urban Pirate values strategy, but the game gives players ample creative freedom.
In a game where a character often burglarizes and fights against police, merely having enough energy or luck to succeed isn’t sufficient. Implementing mini-games in these activities is how Urban Pirate becomes more than a strategy game. Having to escape from the store detective, throw objects at attacking police forces, or control the DJ’s mixing immerses players into the role of an urban pirate. These mini-games are satisfying challenges, though they are frustratingly difficult at first. An in-game guide explains how the activities function, but players must discover their details through trial and error. Eventually, one gains the skill to zoom confidently through these games with a set of reliable strategies.
However, these become too repetitive as Urban Pirate progresses. There are only a handful of mini-games, most of which offer little incentive over others. The only viable food-related option is the grocery store escape mini-game. It is likely that anyone will play this game every few turns in a single playthrough. Urban Pirate increases the difficulty of this mini-game, but that does not remove its monotony. Players will excel at this mini-game, but only because there is no genuine alternative. The only other options available require spending in-game funds or relying on luck. Though these games are fun to master, there are not enough opportunities to consistently excite players.
The greatest rewards in Urban Pirate come from completing bonus missions. These side quests require players to complete each level with an additional objective or constraint. Successful completion means adding a helpful tool or ability to the urban pirate’s kit, like a gas mask that comes in handy during police raids. Bonus missions are also worthwhile because they increase players’ skills, as they often require more strategy than regular objectives. Unfortunately, the meaning of these milestones is lost, since Urban Pirate blocks access into its second act until players complete its first set of bonus missions.
There is definite merit to tackling these missions, but making them mandatory is a redundancy. These are not true bonus missions if players must complete them to gain progress. It is equally frustrating that some of the early bonus missions rely on luck. These missions quickly skew from interesting challenges to speed humps that everyone must overcome. Completing Urban Pirate’s bonus missions is a valuable effort, but their mandatory status removes the achievement of doing so.
Despite its frustrating progression system and a repetitive lot of mini-games, Urban Pirate is still enjoyable. Finding the right strategy will require multiple fresh and exciting attempts. Urban Pirate’s design and mechanics are also likely to spark discussion among players. Though it lacks the longevity and consistency of an actual simulator or strategy game, Urban Pirate has enough charm to impress those who invest in its crime-filled world.
Urban Pirate was reviewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.
Urban Pirate's blend of strategy, arcade mini-game, and RPG elements provides a fun, comical experience. Unfortunately, it suffers from repetitive gameplay and a discouraging progression system.