Over the years Namco has been prolific in developing light-gun titles including Ninja Assault, Point Blank and most prominently the Time Crisis series. Earlier this year it unleashed two-player on-rails shooter Deadstorm Pirates as a sit-down booth coin-op, so considering the possibility that your local arcade has not invested in a theatre cabinet, it is pleasing to know that the thrills of this arcade game are now available to experience using PlayStation Move.
However, this is not your first chance to play Deadstorm Pirates on PS3. Just last month it turned out to be a highlight of Time Crisis: Razing Storm's three game retail package and was received in our review as being "the one you'll probably play the most… Deadstorm Pirates is astonishingly good fun." The fact that it is fast, fun and addictive is its saving grace as its meagre content is set at a premium £15.99 PSN pricing, so many gamers will be tempted to experience it by purchasing Razing Storm instead.
Its lighthearted depiction of the setting is also a selling point: there are simply not enough pirate-themed video games available, and Namco Bandai capture the adventures of a ramshackle crew with gusto. As you follow the interactions of a raggedy old pirate called Joseph, shipmate Duncan, Porre-Porre the parrot and a captain who lacks patience for a doofus called Bruno, you realise that in a similar vein to SEGA's House of the Dead games, Deadstorm Pirates washes huge chunks of cheese down with its rum.
You control two heroes during a co-op playthrough called Eric and Leah, both of whom are armed with a mighty golden gun. They set out to find an undead swashbuckler called Vincent and to steal the valuable Poseidon's Breath treasure from his gold laden vessel, hidden in the mountains. Unsurprisingly, the journey to the treasure is loaded with danger as three massive monsters protect the route to Poseidon's Breath and Vincent will not hand over his most prized possession easily.
What this amounts to is a frantic dash through four stages, as the on-rails action catapults your characters through a stormy sea, a mine cart chase out of a cave, a mountain stream's rapid descent and the navigation of your ship around a ferocious whirlpool, before facing the fifth final boss battle level against Vincent. Each stage is fixed firmly to its rails and built around set-pieces, as well as quick time events, but the game does not offer any alternate routes and there is no opportunity to divert from your path. With the exception of the last level, each of the stages can be played in any order, but all must be completed to finish the game. Once the game is beaten you are able to select the final level, so that it can be played at any time.
Graphically this game will not blow you out of the water, but it conceals any technical limitations with a bold and vivid presentation style, that successfully showboats the speed and ferocity of the action. The music does a hearty job of capturing the seafaring atmosphere and it is likely that the flamboyant nature on the on-screen events will distract you from the cringeworthy dialogue. One minute you will be chased by a humongous snake through caverns, the next your row boat will be blasted 100ft into the air as it crashes down to be attacked by a huge crab, and before you know it you will be playing a game of tug of war with the tentacles of a Kraken.
As a light-gun game the controls are suitably fast and accurate, and it's a perfect fit for Move as a PSN title, if only it were available at a more reasonable price. As well as the Move controls, you can play the game with a GunCon 3 or set it up to play with DualShock 3, which is handy for any gamers that want to experience its co-op action but do not own two Move controllers. The controls are simple to master, because the gameplay is as basic as pointing the wand at the screen and holding the trigger to unleash a continuous stream of fire.
Sadly it's also shallow: it doesn't incorporate any basic light-gun additions such as a cover mechanism, or having to reload your weapon, but somehow its lack of sophistication results in a wonderful play experience. This is one title that can unite both casual and core gamers and set them off to play on an equal footing, as you take turns in snatching up the game's single 'special shot' power-up.
The gameplay is split into three sections, as you pick off enemies attacking en masse with your golden gun, bombard larger ships or structures with timed cannon shots and gesture circular motions to steer the wheel of your ship. The Move controller is responsive as the golden gun for quickly shooting down enemies which charge at you, or for waving it frantically to spread fire to dispose of smaller, more fiddly creatures like the swarming bugs or a school of piranhas. The cannon blasts involve more patience, as it takes time to charge a shot, but it is the 'Wheel Actions' that are the most difficult to adjust to for a casual player, as rotating the wheel to steer the ship to avoid obstacles and boss attacks takes some adjustment.
The co-op mode offers an addition called 'Focus Fire' in which both players hover their reticles over each other to make their crosshair expand, as the combined shot increases their firepower. Some enemies and bosses display weak points that can be demolished more quickly with this approach and it becomes addictive to chase each others' crosshairs and coordinate your fire. The action is so intense that it is not always easy to distinguish between the pink and blue reticles, or their fire streams, but a large part of the fun comes from working together in trying to line up, lock-on and hold on to the more powerful merged crosshair.
If you thought that the few hours that it takes to complete The Shoot's career mode was light on content, then Deadstorm Pirates is malnutritioned in comparison. You start the main arcade campaign with a few credits and five choices of difficulty level, but every time you lose a game you are rewarded with extra continues, so you quickly accumulate enough to finish the game in one sitting. Although co-op players have to share credits, this is balanced out as you double your shot range and firepower, so once you start flying through the game by skipping cutscenes you realise that there is a worryingly short half-hour of gameplay available here.
The only way to extend the lastability is to attempt an online high score in the 'Ranking Play' game mode, which limits you to three credits each time. However, this scoreboard does not make up for the lack of online co-op and by the time you start to chase for high scores you will have most likely already seen everything the game has to offer. At this point you'll likely search for other ways to extend the game's longevity, such as trophy hunting by clearing all stages without using a continue, or attempting to obtain an 'S' rank for all of the levels.
It's fair to say that you are essentially purchasing a new coin-op in the home for £15.99, but if SEGA is able to deliver a high quality arcade title like After Burner Climax on PSN for £7.99 then the pricing of Deadstorm Pirates still seems too steep. Ultimately, no matter how fun the game is to play, its paltry amount of content and short lifespan means that it does not represent good value for money as a PSN purchase.
Namco Bandai's commitment to releasing arcade light-gun shooters should be commended as they're perfect fits for Move. The developers of Deadstorm Pirates deserve a bottle of rum each for creating a frantically fun, set-piece heavy co-op title which is accessible enough to be enjoyed in equal measure by core and casual gamers. It is a shame that gamers will be deterred from buying this because of its £15.99 price tag, and whoever set its PSN pricing should be made to walk the plank. The action-packed visuals and atmospheric audio design are commendable, and there is undoubtedly a charm to its pirate-themed setting. However, with just over thirty minutes of gameplay throughout its four main levels, including a fifth stage based on a boss battle, the content is too shallow for the asking price.