Plundered Hearts has an interesting concept. Not only does it feature a female protagonist, but it's also a romance story. Taken individually, each of these elements can make a game stand out, but combined they make the game one of a kind.
The fact you're playing as a female is made very clear through the way the characters interact with you as well as the word choices used in describing your actions. You swoon, notice that certain clothes make you look fat, and perform other actions normally thought of as feminine in nature. The prose imparts a distinctive personality to your character when describing actions and events surrounding you.
Even the prose related to non-personal actions seems feminine -- waves kiss the stern of a ship and actual kisses are described as butterflies touching lips. This isn't negative when viewed in the context of the game, and the writing is generally effective in setting the game's atmosphere. But gamers more used to a gender neutral feel to writing may be a bit nonplussed or feel slightly uncomfortable with the style.
While the writing quality succeeds in creating atmosphere, its portrayal of realistic and believable characters is lacking. With the exception of the main character, all others are one-dimensional cardboard cutout figures. Your pirate paramour is an all around good guy of boy scout-like quality, while the main bad guy is a stereotypical, suave but dastardly, villain. All other characters are perfectly stereotyped based on their roles; thus characters seem more like objects than people with no real social interaction.
Plundered Hearts' puzzles aren't innovative or varied, and the lack of social interaction exacerbates the problem. Most of the puzzles revolve around using objects in some way, usually by combining one with another and using it in the puzzle. None of the puzzles are particularly memorable. The lack of complexity in the puzzles makes the game quite easy. Gamers experienced with text adventures won't find much here in the way of a challenge, and even novices may find the game to be only mildly difficult.
The object-based nature of the puzzles, when combined with the relatively few number (28) of objects found in the game creates another problem. With 57 rooms, the game is already smaller and shorter than many text adventure games, but the lack of a substantial number of objects makes the situation worse. Along with the ease of solving the puzzles, these elements nearly assure a full playing of Plundered Hearts in one sitting.
As a character study, Plundered Hearts is quite successful, portraying a strong yet very feminine female protagonist with a distinct personality. As a whole, though, the game is quite average considering its decent but somewhat cliché storyline in conjunction with above average writing and weak puzzle designs. If romance novels are a staple in your life, then Plundered Hearts will likely hold your interest. Gamers who aren't romance novel fans, though, can find better text adventure experiences elsewhere.
Graphics: It's a text adventure.
Sound: It's a text adventure.
Enjoyment: The game has an average storyline, good writing, but weak puzzle designs that are too easy.
Replay Value: Plundered Hearts has four different endings, as well as a variety of interesting and humorous responses you discover by trying different things during the story.
Plundered Hearts is set in the late 1600s, where you are living the genteel life of a beautiful young Englishwoman. You have received news that your dear father is ailing, and so you are travelling to the West Indies to care for him. As the story opens, the ship you are aboard is attacked by pirates, and you are carried off by the dashing pirate captain! But this does not dissuade you from your determination to find your father. Along the way, you shall encounter danger, adventure ... and more than a touch of romance.
Plundered Hearts is one of the most underrated Infocom classics ever. Aside from the fact that it's set in an unusual (and very intriguing) setting (17th century Caribbean seas), the game is most notable for being the only Infocom game in the romance genre, and is therefore arguably the first computer game designed with women gamers in mind. Graeme Cree's excellent review for SPAG magazine provides an excellent synopsis of this overlooked gem:
"Plundered Hearts is a romance novel set in the 1600's. You must rescue your father from the clutches of an evil island governor with the aid of a pirate captain who lights your fire. [The game] takes a rather standard plotline and uses it to very good effect. The writing feels very much like a Harlequin novel, with enough amusing puzzles and clever responses to keep me, a non-romance-novel-reader interested to the end.
The puzzles are a little easier than the standard Infocom fare, but generally interesting ones that can be reasoned or inferred. There are few "guess what the author is thinking puzzles". The game's strongest point though is in its characterization. Not in the other characters; Crulley, Jamison, Lafonde and the others are rather standard, thus my character rating of 1.2. Rather, this game characterizes you, the player, more than any other of Infocom's offerings. In most Infocom games, who YOU are is either unimportant or doesn't affect the plot much... Plundered Hearts more than any other [Infocom] game gave me the feeling of really being inside someone ELSE'S head. Throughout the game, who you are plays an important part. Disguising your identity and altering your appearance is important in several places to elicit a desired reaction from other characters (not to mention avoiding some undesired reactions).
Plundered Hearts is one of Infocom's more underrated games. A very good blend of puzzle solving and story." Be prepared for a few romantic cliches ;)
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