Pirates of the Enchiridion is the type of game that I like to refer to as RPG-lite. An RPG-lite is a game that is an RPG at its core, but lacks a lot of the usual RPG conventions and is shorter in length than the average roleplaying game; often clocking in around the 10-hour mark. Pirates easily lands itself in this category. While it features turn-based battles, side quests, and an experience point-based leveling system, it lacks the more common features, such as; inns; save points; equipment and gear; and even talking to random NPCs to gather information. You can always find NPCs dawdling around spouting random sound bites, but you can't interact with them in any way. I dislike when a roleplaying game does this: it gives a feeling of lifelessness to a game's supposedly populated areas. You garner all your information and story from cutscenes and the special “interrogation” minigame. Sometimes Finn and Jake come across a character that needs a little extra persuasion so they put on their good cop/bad cop routine. What this amounts to gameplay-wise is following the clues and prompts gleaned from the conversation and stopping the arrow of the roulette wheel on the appropriate approach. It's a fun diversion from the rest of the typical gameplay and it isn't very difficult. If for some reason you fail, you have the option of retrying.
You initially start off with the dynamic bro duo of Finn and Jake and as the game progresses Marceline and Beemo round out your crew. Each character has their own special skills that can be used outside of battle. Beemo can open special doors; Marceline can open locked chests; Jake can turn into a scooter and the party can zip around on him. At context-sensitive places, he can also enlarge and carry the party to a higher ledge or across small gaps. Finn can use pirate lookouts placed around Ooo to find and note any points of interest. You'll be backtracking often during the course of the story, so if you see something that you can't currently access, don't worry about it. Just make a mental note to return there in the near future once you get your new party members. Once you get to a certain point in the game you unlock the This is Gunter Take a While sidequest. The Ice King’s penguins have gone missing and it's up to you to find and return them. They're scattered around the land of Ooo so you'll have to scour the land to find them. If that wasn't bad enough, there is another quest that involves doing the exact same thing, just replace finding penguins with finding candy people to return to the Candy Kingdom. These type of generic boring fetch-quests make up the brunt of Pirates side quests. If you aren't fetching, you're smashing a designated amount of objects. It's one of many repetitive game design choices that make playing much more of a chore than it should be.
Battles are pretty straightforward. Getting near an enemy avatar starts a fight. Using an item doesn't end your turn, so a character is still able to take an action after using one. Each character has a set of unique special abilities, but they share an energy pool. You start off with 10 energy points max, although by doing quests and opening certain chests you can increase the max value. Using abilities depletes the bar, but it refills by one point at the start of each party member's turn. If you want to fill it faster you can always use a certain consumable to refill it or you can opt to use Beemo’s special, which is really useful for keeping the bar filled so you can hammer enemies with abilities over and over til they run home and cry to their mommas. In addition to abilities and basic attacks, each character has a special action. I've already mentioned Bemmo’s energy charge. Jake and Finn share the same blocking-type special. Marceline can't block, but she can use her special to recover a percentage of her health. The heroes also have an ultimate bar, which fills up under certain conditions. In Jake's case, the bar fills up every time he takes damage. Once full, he can unleash his unique ultimate: a bulldozer attack that hits all enemies. The fights aren't all that challenging, but what annoys me is the health recovery system. You don't recover health after a fight and there are no other ways to recover aside from using items. What makes it annoying to do so is that every time you use an item it puts you back to the character menu. So instead of using items until that character is healed, you get pushed back to the menu and then you have to select the item and character again. It doesn't sound like a big deal but when you have to use multiple items on more than one character after every fight, it gets extremely tedious.
Now easily the best part of the game is the graphical style and battle soundtrack. Most of the tracks outside of battle aren't memorable in the slightest and are very by-the-numbers, but when it comes to the awesome chiptune tracks that play during most fights, I can't get enough. I'd say the overall sound design is good. All the lines are voiced by the original actors, and enemies make funny little quips and goofy noises during battle. My main issue is that at certain points in my game the end of some sentences glitch and cut off. It didn't happen often but was damn annoying when it did. The visuals are also a bit of a mixed bag. While the Evil Forest and the Fire Kingdom look a bit bland, the rest of the game is a bright, vibrant cornucopia of eye-candy that I would gladly stare at all day. The animations are fairly smooth for the most part, but you still get the occasional frame drop. For me, it usually happens while sailing, but it doesn't do much to mar the overall charm and visuals.
So my feelings about Adventure Time: Pirates of the Enchiridion are mixed. I like the show but in no way am I obsessed over it like some fans are. When I first started playing it I felt like it had a lot going for it, but as time went on my enthusiasm started to peter out due to a number of factors. The drudgery of going back and forth between the game's few islands, the humor that wore off after a few hours, the repetitive nature of the side quests (and main quests, really) coupled with an unreliable autosave system whittled what could have been a great RPG down to the level of borderline average. I spent around 10-12 hours to complete the game, which includes me doing literally everything in the game and getting all the achievements, except for the achievement that should have popped for getting all the other ones. That's a glitch I never want to see again.
Your level of enjoyment of Pirates really comes down to how much you enjoy roleplaying games and Adventure Time. Honestly, if it weren't for the fact that I had to review it I probably would have stopped playing it about halfway through. Approach with caution.
Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 6.5/10
+Great chiptune battle soundtracks
+Interesting take on leveling up
-Humor gets old fast
-Poor menu design
-Wonky autosave system