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Plundered Hearts

by Amy Briggs

Romance / Pirates
1987

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Number of Reviews: 2
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful:
A favorite, February 20, 2008
Plundered Hearts is an almost pitch-perfect interactive romance novel, complete with pirates, swordfights, disguises, dances, swinging from ropes, and more. There are moments when it seems to tip over into the realm of parody; some of the lyrical descriptions of the player's feelings for her romantic interest are, well, a bit silly, and perhaps more conscious of their silliness than the equivalent passages of a romance novel. Perhaps this is an attempt to solve one of the fundamental challenges of IF romance: how do you make the player have romantic feelings for a character? Plundered Hearts doesn't entirely try; instead, it provides slightly distancing, slightly self-aware cut scenes, sketching the hero as a romantic figure without forcing the player to act out too many steps of a romantic attachment she might not really be feeling. It's in the adventure portions -- the plotting and sneaking around, the dressing up and the blowing things to bits -- that the game comes into its own.

Even setting aside my guilty fondness for the pirates-and-ballrooms setting, Plundered Hearts has plenty else to make it a real favorite. A few of the puzzles are difficult or unfair by modern standards; especially at the beginning, it can be hard to beat the timing of the game. But many of the rest are not only fair and intuitive but dramatically powerful: the moments where your character uses her pluck and ingenuity to overcome the villain are especially gratifying.

Plundered Hearts also has a lot more plot than most other Infocom games, and often feels surprisingly modern, more like the product of late 90s design than of the late 80s. The landscape is not mysteriously empty, but crowded with characters, many of whom have lively personalities. And some flexibility about the ending is available, as well.

PH is a remarkable bit of interactive storytelling for its time, and there are still some techniques worth our reviewing and learning from now. And if, like me, you read a lot of Georgette Heyer, Baroness Orczy, and Rafael Sabatini at an impressionable age, you'll probably love it.