Tag Archives: Bandana Games (Developer)

REVIEW: Pirates! Quest for Booty

Despite what the double entendre title and some of the screenshots may say, Pirates! Quest for Booty ($1.00) is a mostly serious attempt at an adventure game. And a legitimate one at that. Although the occasional skin and the entirely-text-based exploration aspect of it may bring to mind Team Shuriken, Bandana Games‘ newest take is a far more worthy (and far more lengthy1) idea.

Pirates! Quest for Booty - Screen

Seems like a trap… Is a trap.

If you can get used to that idea. Though I’m old enough to remember the days when these games were the highlight of digital adventure, the thought of rummaging through lines of text placed over stock photographs isn’t exactly appealing to the modern palate. It’s no surprise then, that ‘playing’ Pirates! requires lots of reading, lots of staring at same-y, reused images, and even more ‘Go North / East / South / West’ directional commands. Oh, and a healthy imagination to fill in what the words on-screen can’t completely describe.

As Pirates!‘s anti-hero / scurvy… well, pirate, you’re saved from execution and given a task to recover the missing fragments of a magical mirror, one that supposedly holds the secret to eternal youth. This requires you to purchase a ship and crew, then explore several islands / locations, gathering up the pieces and completing several side quests. Even with the limitations of text, the game manages to create an ‘open world’ of sorts, allowing you to freely explore most islands in the order you choose, coming back to them later once you’ve acquired certain items or advanced the plot.

These places vary in size, ranging from large ports and smaller settlements, to zombie ships, or an island inhabited solely by women. The game does a good job of making each area feel different from the last, despite the similar theme that ties them together. To break up the monotony of the text, there are side activities, such as gambling, and even combat …in a way. Random encounters pit your crew against an enemy, with you winning out by having a numbers advantage and / or by choosing the correct attack (melee, ranged, sneak attack, etc.). It’s not a particularly deep system, but it does toss a light dose of RPG tactics into the mix.

Pirates! Quest for Booty - Screen2

As with any adventure game, though, there’s a fair amount of backtracking and wandering around, either looking for the next story ‘trigger’ or randomly stumbling into a quest you can now complete. A handy map fills in as you explore and marks important locations, but it’s still largely up to you to figure out what comes next, or where to go. That’s both a vital part of games like this, and a shortcoming. Not all clues and / or directions are straightforward, meaning you’ll need patience for some segments or puzzles.

With all that considered, Pirates! Quest for Booty is still better than most games of this type that I’ve tried. The emphasis on exploration— and your choices regarding that exploration— gives it more playability and weight, with some very capable voice-acting adding personality to the environments and characters. It’s a decent-sized adventure that’s totally worth a look …if you don’t mind all the text …and don’t shy away from cheesy pirate jokes2.


  1. I guarantee you won’t finish this game in fifteen minutes. Team Shuriken should take notes. 
  2. What is a pirate’s favorite letter? RRRRRRRRRRRRRR

REVIEW: Dead War

The protagonist of Bandana GamesDead War ($1.00) is hard to get a read on. She’s on Death Row for murder at the start of the story, saved (ironically) by the onset of a zombie apocalypse. As you venture forth, you learn more about her and her background, shaping the character in subtle ways. Some of those decisions on her personality can be made by you throughout the storyline, choosing when and who to help. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but then again, it’s not often that XBLIG presents semi-complex characters in its games (let alone a zombie title). This was an unexpected surprise.

It could be said that those same ‘lowered expectations’ might apply to the genre itself. Zombies are old hat; mindless fodder led to the slaughter against whatever vast array of weaponry you find and whatever trumped-up reasons you’re given to do so. Thankfully, Dead War trounces some of your preconceived notions about what the game may or may not offer. It is a zombie shooter, but like Survivalist, any comparisons to other games like it on XBLIG end after that.

The game plays from an overhead perspective and controls like a twin-stick shooter, presented across seven fairly-large and varied levels / chapters. These environments take you from the prison you call home to an abandoned hospital, to darkened subway tunnels and a university full of stranded survivors, as well as a few more places in-between. Given its undead denizens and arcade-ish control scheme, you’d expect it to play more action-oriented. To my delight, Dead War focuses more on exploration, driven by bits of story and real objectives, rather than just waves and waves of zombies1.

And though it borrows a bit from RPGs and squad-based shooters2 in the process, I kept coming back to the sense that Dead War felt more like a roguelike in places. You need patience and a steady hand. Little things like a simple map are a luxury you need to earn / find. Rooms and corridors are deliberately kept hidden from view until you open the door / turn the corner, essentially leaving you blind— and on-guard— for most of the game. This cleverly forces you to explore your surroundings carefully, and interact with other characters to advance and fill in the story gaps (and your map).

Even gathering extra ammunition (corpses only yield so much) requires some tact, with boxes locked behind amusing, reflex-heavy minigames. Need money for supplies or a better gun? Civilian entrepreneurs would love to sell them to you, but you’ll have to gamble. You can bet and win money at various kiosks in the world, allowing you to try your hand at Blackjack, play the Slots, or damn the odds and lay down money on horse races3 (see below).

Granted, it’s hardly realistic, but it all makes for a nice change of pace from the standard zombie killing that other titles serve up on repeat. And while nothing here is graphically-intensive, the game works with what it has, making effective use of lighting and claustrophobic rooms to create tension when needed. Dead War‘s locales also contain plenty of optional storyline should you desire it, stored on computers and TV broadcasts scattered around the world, including a few humorous anecdotes about other games and media (there’s riffs on Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, Metal Gear, even Destiny4).

Side activities considered, it’s tempting to dismiss the game as ‘easy’, when really it can be quite difficult at times. The game strikes a nice balance between you being well-armed for any situation and encouraging you to conserve ammo5. Either way, you’ll want to play smart. In another nod to roguelikes, should you die or fail an objective at any point in the chapter, you’ll have to start the level from scratch. This could potentially wipe out the last half-hour or so of your progress. It’s maddening (Chapter 4 can be an annoying ‘escort’ mission), but it’s also fair. Nothing comes easy. Try to rush through this apocalypse, and Dead War will make you pay for it.

Dead War - Screen

Part of the charm is in that challenge, of course, and it’s that challenge (as well as its well-done ancillary bits and minigames / side missions) that allows the game to rise above its crowded genre. All told, you’ll probably need 5+ hours to see it all the way through. And you totally should. It takes a good amount of convincing— and quality game design— to get me excited about another zombie game. Dead War manages that and then some.


  1. Although you do get plenty of those, rest assured. Aside from the standard ‘vanilla’ type, you get the ‘green’ acid spitters and ‘red’ exploding zombies, which can put an end to you (and your squadmates) really quick. Tread lightly, and carry a big shotgun. 
  2. There’s only one chapter that uses ‘squad control’ to any great extent, and it’s actually more of a hassle than fun. The commands are spotty, and the AI loves to throw itself at danger (and refuse to retreat), so really, you’re better off just lone-wolfing it. 
  3. ‘Big Thanks’ to Bandana Games for naming a horse after the site! I didn’t expect that either, so I’m honored. 
  4. Admittedly, it’s become an addiction. Even though it’s not what I’d consider a ‘great’ game, I can’t stop playing the damn thing. 
  5. On a ‘Normal’ playthrough, anyway. I can’t speak for things on ‘Hard’ mode, because… well, I’m not cut out for real trouble. 

REVIEW: Halloween Scream 2

A long time ago, in a galaxy… uh, exactly like this one, actually, text-based adventure games were the extent of the world’s interactive entertainment possibilities. There were no such things as high-definition graphics, procedurally-generated everything, or decent animation, really. If you wanted to experience a story, you had to click through screens of semi-descriptive text and essentially create that story yourself, imagining the environments and the characters that occupied them. Halloween Scream 21 ($1.00) is a throwback to that bygone era.

Halloween Scream 2 - Screen

Nothing ‘screams’ excitement like a visit to a stuffy museum.

And it probably should have stayed there. Halloween Scream 2 is all-text on repeating stock photo backgrounds, a ‘choose your own adventure’ game without the ‘choose your adventure’ part. The story— a continuing yarn about a girl vampire seeking to end the curse on her family’s bloodline— is a mostly linear one. Her travels to find an ancient amulet and avoid a mysterious foe take her through the heart of Europe, with stops in England, France, and Germany.

Breaks for puzzles typically ask you to find a certain item or tool, or click through an old-school, North / East / South / West-type exploration segment (you may even need to draw your own map on notebook paper to keep track of things; how older-school is that?). Those same bits may be the cause of some frustration. While the route you need to take to progress the story isn’t exactly hard to see, the clues and conditions that need to be met may not be as obvious. If you’re not the patient sort, this’ll likely devolve into clicking on every available option until you hear the requisite ‘chime’ of an important detail being discovered.

Halloween Scream 2 - Screen 2

You’ll notice ‘A bit of enjoyment’ isn’t part of this inventory.

That linear format and the ‘only one solution’ gameplay don’t help matters, as the only branching paths lead to some sort of end, with you returning you to the last checkpoint (and possibly having to run through a puzzle or item sequence again). And while the story in Halloween Scream 2 isn’t half-bad in summation, a handful of spelling errors and story inconsistencies (a French-speaking desk clerk in a German hotel, for instance) may take you out of the narrative.

Even that’s less likely to bother you, if you have any interest in what Halloween Scream 2 is selling. It’s clearly a niche game for a niche audience, meant for those strange connoisseurs of text-heavy passages and trial-and-error puzzle-solving. For the majority of us, however, this trip down Gaming’s memory lane to ‘the simpler times’ would be better off left in the past.


  1. Yeah, little early for the holiday, I know. Hey, not my fault. I didn’t release the game in July! Take it up with management! 

‘Dead War’ Features Zombies, Guns, Tactics

Two out of those three features guarantees a certain amount of success on XBLIG, so adding some actual ‘thinking’ to the mix is a welcome bonus! Above is a playthrough from the first chapter of Dead War, developer Bandana Games’ upcoming squad shooter.

Due to be executed that day, a death row inmate instead finds herself in the middle of a zombie… incident. How convenient! The good news is (well, aside from being ‘not dead’), you’ll get to mow down plenty of undead as you search for answers and try to curb the outbreak. You’ll do this on your own during some stretches, while at other times, you can recruit others— and their firepower— to help you.

Thankfully, the game looks to break up some of the ‘shooter monotony’ by giving you plenty of objectives (both optional and story-based) to tackle. Between that and the potential for some tactical firefights, Dead War just might convince the world it needs another game about zombies.

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Dead War is simply ‘coming soon’ to Xbox Live Indie Games. You can follow the developer on Twitter here, or keep an eye on the development blog here.