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The Basics:
Platform: PC
Developer: Atari
Price: $49.99
ESRB rating: E

Summary: A swashbuckling pirate adventure that is lots of fun and family-friendly.

Note: Parents need to know that although there is some violence, it is not bloody or gratuitous. Overall this game delivers great open-ended entertainment, and even contains some educational elements.

Families who play this game might want to talk about the real pirates that the game describes. How well do you think the game does in portraying a very violent and lawless lifestyle (that of a pirate) in a fairly benign way? Does a relative lack of blood and gore affect how entertaining the game is? Is it better, worse or the same?
Further Breakdown:

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Best for ages: 6+
Playability: Excellent. Easy to master control, but appropriately challenging gameplay
Graphics: Excellent. Scalable graphics makes sure the game will run on your PC
Entertainment value: Excellent. Lots of re-playability
Educational value: History, Economics, Politics, Geography, Seamanship
Reading Level: 6+ No voice-overs-reading is a required part of this game
KidScore Rating

Ages 3-7: Green
Ages 8-12: Green
Ages 13-17: Green
Violence Amount: Green
Fear: Green
Illegal/harmful: Green
Language: Green
Nudity: Green
Sex: Green

Yarrrr mateys, PIRATES! is brimming with adventure, action and good-natured fun. A remake of the original Pirates! game released in 1987 lets players traverse the Caribbean plundering enemy ships, rescuing governor's daughters and doing all things piratey. Overall, the game is excellent family fun, with minimal violence, no swearing or sexual content.

By its nature Pirates! appeals to the adventure in all of us with an open-ended plotline and lots of freedom to choose what to do. At a rudimentary level, the game starts the player off with a goal of rescuing his family from an evil duke. However, players quickly realize there are many other things to do while attempting to accomplish that task. There is buried treasure to be found, rival pirates to defeat and governor's daughters to be romanced, along with a host of other activities. All of this leads to a game that has a lot of re-playability.

The game is deceptively easy to start, but quickly becomes more and more challenging as play progresses. At the higher levels the crews become mutinous quicker, enemies are better swordsmen and the gold doesn't flow as freely as it once did. In addition, time becomes a factor. As time passes the player's character ages, making it more and more difficult to live the hardy life of a pirate.

Parents will be pleased to find that Pirates! is not only entertaining, but a safe game for their kids. Although players battle it out with ships and swords, there isn't any blood, guts or gore. In fact, the cut scenes at the end of a battle show enemies either surrendering peacefully or jumping into the sea to escape. There is no swearing either. In fact there are no voiceovers at all (just unintelligible talking sounds), which means players are going to have to do some reading to understand what is going on.

Pirates! is a nearly flawless example of good family-friendly entertainment. So hoist the main sail, and get out the sea legs-with plenty of fun to be had, Pirates! contains a load of loot!

Jeremy GieskeJeremy Gieske has been an avid game player since the days of the Apple II+ and Karateka. Recently, however, his interests have developed beyond simply playing the games, but also trying to understand the historical, social and cultural impacts of video games. He recently acquired his Masters degree with distinction from the University of Salford in Manchester, England, where he conducted research on videogames. Jeremy has a background in design and marketing, and has worked with several Internet and publishing companies. Recently, he has written articles for DIGA-the Digital Game Archive and has worked with the Computerspiele museum in Berlin, Germany.
©2005 National Institute on Media and the Family.