Pirate Maidens (iOS) review

Pirate Maidens is a new iOS game from Aeria Mobile. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, with additional in-app purchases of hard currency for acquiring various premium items.

Pirate Maidens is a card battle game that is, at its core, almost completely identical to the many other examples of this stagnant genre that currently populate the App Store. There is one notable difference with Pirate Maidens, however — while other similar games such as Mobage/Cygames’ Rage of Bahamut and Gameloft’s Gang Domination sometimes feature somewhat titillating, provocative anime-style artwork, Pirate Maidens positively revels in its love of the female form, with every one of the game’s 300 collectible “pirate cards” depicting a young-looking anime-style female character with huge breasts in varying states of undress. Similarly, the game’s “helper” character, who is constantly present as the player works through the game’s “story” mode, is clad in little more than a tight-fitting wet T-shirt and a pair of string bikini bottoms. There is no sexually explicit content in the game, and nothing more titillating than cleavage and bare midriffs, but the overemphasis on heavily sexualized female characters may make some players uncomfortable.

In terms of gameplay, Pirate Maidens follows the card battle template to the letter. Players may work their way through a “story” mode, in which they exchange energy points for progress points, occasionally level up and acquire treasures. Like more recent examples in the genre such as Zynga’s Ayakashi: Ghost Guild, Pirate Maidens makes a bit of an effort with its story, featuring “cutscenes” with character dialog rather than easily-ignored, badly-written tracts of prose such as those seen in earlier games. This at least gives the game a feeling of narrative progression as it goes on, but in terms of gameplay the player is still simply tapping a button over and over until bars fill up, with occasional breaks for completely non-interactive “boss battles.” There are also separate factional storylines for the player to follow through, which may be switched between at any time if desired.

When not competing against the story mode’s opponents, players may battle others  in the Brawl mode. Here, players may challenge other pirate bands in an attempt to steal various “message in a bottle” items, which in turn unlock new pirate cards. This is an identical game structure to that seen in other card battle titles — the collection of these items gives players incentives to battle one another, and it is quite difficult to hold on to them once they are in your possession. Assembling a band for battle is mostly handled automatically, or alternatively players may choose to do it manually. Each card is worth a certain number of attack and defense points, and as the player levels up, they increase the maximum amount of each they are able to have in their decks.

Further continuing the checklist of conventional features, players may strengthen their pirate cards by fusing them together. Certain cards are “too weak” to fight for the player and thus are solely used for fusing with others, though there is nothing to stop players from fusing together their warrior cards if one isn’t proving particularly useful. Players may also “rescue” new cards each day for free, or alternatively spend hard currency — only available via in-app purchase — to guarantee the acquisition of rare cards.

Ultimately, Pirate Maidens doesn’t fix any of the problems endemic to the card battle genre and is a rather stale, boring game as a result. Presentation-wise, leaving the sexist nature of the artwork aside, the graphics are very well drawn and look great on a Retina display device, but once again we have a game in this genre that appears to have no sound whatsoever — with the curious exception of the pirate cards, who each have an optional Japanese voice sample that the player can trigger when they have acquired them. Other than this, however, there is no sound or music in the game whatsoever, leaving the whole production feeling rather slapdash and at odds with its high visual production values.

In the end, then, Pirate Maidens’ only real distinguishing feature is that it has scantily-clad, large-breasted women in it — and while this may give it a certain degree of appeal to a specific demographic and ensure some success in the short term, it’s not particularly something worth celebrating. As such, this is one to skip past.

Pirate Maidens is not yet listed on the App Store leaderboards at the time of writing, as it is a new release. Check back shortly to follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.

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Sexist, boring and unfinished, Pirate Maidens is a bad game in almost every way it is possible to be bad.

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