I don't know if a game about pirates and warships can "fly" under the radar, but that's what happened when Crimson: Steam Pirates made its debut a few weeks back. And that's a shame, because it's one of the best iPad games I've played--and definitely worthy of a spot on Scott Stein's list. That's right: Steam Pirates is a freebie.
Well, partially free, and partially freemium. The game starts you off with Chapter 1 of the "Tales of Captain Blood" saga; Chapter 2 will run you $1.99, as will Chapter 3 (which is not yet available but coming soon). Each chapter contains eight levels, or "voyages" to use Steam Pirates parlance.
Each voyage consists of a turn-based mission. For example, you might be tasked with boarding and capturing a ship, then escaping with it. Or attacking a land-based fortress and making off with a certain kind of loot. Along the way you'll attack (and sometimes defend) other ships. Submarines and airships, too.
Most turns are about navigation; you choose a direction and distance for each ship under your command. Different crew members afford different abilities, like repairs, faster movement, longer-range cannon blasts, and so on--but all at a cost. So there's definitely some strategy that comes into play.
Steam Pirates looks gorgeous and sounds even better, with a rousing sea-adventure soundtrack that sounds like it came straight from a "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie. And I love the steampunk-influenced ship designs and Crimson Skies-style plotting. (Steam Pirates comes from Jordan Weisman, one of Crimson Skies' creators.)
The game is really fun to play. It takes a mission or two to really learn the gameplay mechanics, but from then on it's smooth (and even a little sexy) sailing. My only complaint is that the first eight missions go by too quickly--which is exactly the idea, I suppose, behind the $1.99 chapter installments. But I appreciate Bungie Aerospace giving you the full flavor and experience of the game for free, then collecting only from those who want to keep playing.
Plus, there's a pass-and-play multiplayer option that definitely extends the replay value--though even that gets you only so far: only two of these Duel scenarios are currently available. (Online multiplayer would be a blast. How about it, Bungie?)
Ultimately, there's no other iPad game quite like Crimson: Steam Pirates. (Not that I've played, anyway--if you know of another turn-based pirate adventure, by all means name it in the comments.) It's definitely one of the best iPad games you've never tried. So try it!
By the way, don't miss.