NEVER TRUST a man with a red bard, or so the saying goes. But unfortunately for the eponymous star of the latest Kixx game, Blackbeard (their first original game release), that's just what he did when he started a heavy night's boozing with his old mate Captain Redbeard. Old Reddy had the cheek to slip a slimey hand into Blackbeard's pocket and snatch a much-sought after map, detailing the whereabouts of charcoal whisker's treasure.
Filled with rage, and a fair amount of rum no doubt, our fat friend sets after Redbeard - who in the meantime has taken charge of HMS Victory. Travelling Gauntlet-style around the ship of four levels (deck, cabins and two storage levels) Blackbeard must pick up all the ammo he can find. Guns are the most sought after, as it is only with these that you can blow open each of the many chests containing potions, guiding lights and extra lives. Potions allow short-lived invincibility whereas torches can be used to fire the cannons which will destroy the passage through which the marauding pirates attack. Pick up all the extra energy bottles you can find, but beware of Redbeards special brew for the can send you reeling about the screen in a very incapable fashion.
Only when all of Reddy's accomplices have been shot or knifed to the great keg in the sky will you be able to open the final chest containing the mythical map.
Of all the Gauntlet games around at the moment - including the original - Blackbeard is probably the most enjoyable to initially play. The graphics, although not terribly varied, are colourful and detailed, creating a simple sort of addiction that coaxes the player to explore and uncover the accurately-drawn HMS Victory. As with most budget games, Blackbeard's addiction isn't particularly long-lasting but - unlike most cheap offerings - it does create a fun atmosphere that will last at least a few weeks. Great fun at only three quid.