Skull & Crossbones
In Skull & Crossbones, you play the role of a pirate off to recover your riches from the evil wizard. He can assume many forms and it will take all of your sword fighting skills to defeat him. But, before you reach him, you must battle his minions, enemy pirates, and even dreadful re-incarnated skeletons!
You start your adventure by attacking an enemy ship. You must fight the enemy pirates with your sword, find the wizard's map, and rescue the wench from the enemy captain! Once you have accomplished that task, you must track down the wizard, defeat his cronies, and finally defeat he end boss.
For a game designed in 1989, Skull & Crossbones is magnificent. The graphics are colorful and detailed and look precisely like a cartoon. From the details on the ship, to the boots on your feet, no detail was left on the cutting room floor. That's not to say the graphics are perfect: The animation of the main character is somehow lacking. It's almost as if the game runs at 10 frames per second because your onscreen pirate doesn't move smoothly across the playfield. Unfortunately, this does hurt the gameplay to a certain degree.
The sounds of the game are nice, but are completely overshadowed by the tinny sounding music. The music sounds like annoying "chip tunes" (a term many Atari ST fans use to describe non-digitized music) meant to draw you into the game. However, I would have been delighted to have the option to turn off these adventurous and annoying tunes. The sound effects are saved however, by your onscreen pal, Polly the parrot. He will make several parrot sounding comments to keep you moving in the game, telling you to "Let's go!" and "We're rich!" at the appropriate times.
Gameplay is a total blast! Although it is hurt slightly by the aforementioned animation problem. You move your pirate around a variety of levels slashing your enemies with your sword. There are a few special moves you can perform, but not really enough for my taste. Your sword moves include parry, thrust, attack low, and attack behind. It can be frustrating at times when fighting characters that seem to never die. But, it all depends on when you hit them. If they are parrying when you attack, you will not score a hit. And since so many baddies from the pirate world are excellent swordsmen, you wouldn't expect them to die so easily, would you?
There are many enemies for you to battle. Monsters that come out of the ground, skeletons, pirates, barrel pirates, weird flying creatures, ninjas, and the boss characters. Once you have reached the end of the level, you will face the boss. When he is defeated, you discover that the boss is really the wizard in disguise! He escapes and you must chase him down to the next level.
Another foe will be your own partner. Skull & Crossbones can be played two player with a partner teaming up to battle the enemies. However, once the wizard is "defeated" Red Dog and One Eye must pittheir sword fighting skills against one another to retain the wizard's prize.
What would a pirate game be without buried treasure and swinging on ropes and climbing the masts of enemy ships? Skull & Crossbones has lots of pirate fun such as this. I always look forward to swinging on a rope while my foes look on in amazement!
Lastly, no review of Skull & Crossbones would be complete without telling you about the real star of the game: Polly the parrot! He's got so much character and it's great fun to watch him fly around the screen sometimes even to perch on your shoulder as you battle the foes. Maybe it's just the bird-lover in me, but I think Polly is great!
Skull & Crossbones is the definitive pirate arcade game. It may have a few flaws in the animation department, but you will find yourself strangely fulfilled once you have hacked the enemy pirates, swung on the ropes, dug up the treasure, and defeated the evil wizard. If you are like me, you'll find yourself playing this game over and over again just for the unique experience of being a pirate! Ahoy!
We know who's really running the show!