Okay, I’ve finished the DLC and have a few thoughts. Mostly positive (like “I’m glad there was only the one sliding section in the game”), but there’s also some criticism mixed in there, mostly centered around how Pirate Queen’s Quest occasionally comes across like it was made more out of begrudging Kickstarter obligation than an actual desire to create something unique and interesting. I think the way Risky’s story ends highlights that, though it might be even more apparent when it comes to chests, which seem to be in the same places as in Half-Genie Hero for the most part. Doors that used to lead to little mini-challenges are often missing, too, replaced with the chests that you’d normally expect to have to work a little harder to obtain. Don’t get me wrong—I’m a fan of the overall end result, but I definitely like it a little less than Half-Genie Hero, which I liked a little less than Pirate’s Curse.
Let’s talk about upgrading
In the last progress log, I upgraded my health and sword damage a bit, but hadn’t really gotten into upgrades beyond that. Since then, I went out of my way to obtain all of the Dark Magic required to 100% the game, which happens to be enough to upgrade all of Risky’s abilities to max. There are definitely more abilities than I expected, with everything from her pistol speed to pirate hat being available to improve. Something I don’t like is that the game rarely tells you what upgrading abilities actually accomplishes, though. It’s pure guesswork for some of them.
For example, upgrading the cannon jump. Does it make your jumps higher? No—it gives you an extra jump for every bit of Dark Magic you put into it. That leads to the same end result, of course, but a higher jump and an extra jump lend themselves to different gameplay approaches, and not differentiating the two isn’t ideal.
And then there’s the pirate hat. Outside of experimentation, I would have never thought that upgrading it slowed the speed at which you float down when using it. That just seems like one of those things that would remain a constant. It was also kind of unexpected that its upgraded versions give you a bigger upward boost.
These aren’t bad things, of course. The combination of the cannon jump and pirate hat (especially when both are fully upgraded) can absolutely break the game’s platforming in an entertaining way. What upgrading certain things accomplishes just isn’t communicated as well as possible. I mean, I’ve finished the game and I still can’t tell what upgrading the grappling hook actually did. Upgrading the thing that lets Risky move underwater seems to have moderately increased the height she can jump while underwater, but it’s not a necessary or especially noticeable change. Upgrades for the spread shot and some other items spell out the benefits of upgrading, which only makes the vagueness of others all the more strange.
Things get a bit crazy toward the end
Since Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, it seems to have become tradition to include a more difficult platforming section with lots of instant-death spikes at the very end of the game. I remember that being one of the things that I really didn’t care for in that game, but it’s designed in such a way here that I couldn’t coast through (entirely, at least) using the pirate hat and cannon jump. When I realized that I was having trouble because the point was to use the grappling hook instead, I couldn’t help but appreciate being knocked out of my comfort zone and forced to rely on other skills.
It’s also easier to appreciate this part because it’s downright friendly compared to the end of Pirate’s Curse; it’s fairly short, and a sizable portion of it can be floated past with the pirate hat. I think this is one of those tightrope balancing acts: it feels limiting when there are long, challenging sections that can only be approached in a small number of ways, but not having them at all makes much of the game a cakewalk and causes the more powerful skills to render others superfluous. Personally, I think the series could go a little closer toward the former (ideally while avoiding the types of shenanigans at the end of Pirate’s Curse), but the more player-friendly approach that Half-Genie Hero and Pirate Queen’s Quest take is still a decent balance.
Finally, a new boss fight!
Obviously Risky can’t fight herself at the end of the game, so the single unique boss fight in the game is one that pits you against Shantae. Like, Shantae on steroids.
Yeah, I remember being able to turn into an elephant, but that’s a tiny little thing. Boss Shantae’s elephant form is the size of her house, and the rest of her transformations have received similar enhancements to make her a formidable foe. It’s a pretty enjoyable fight, all things considered, though you can minimize the danger to yourself by relying on summoned Tinkerbats and your pistol to do damage from a distance. Also, you can use the pirate hat and cannon jump to float at the top of the stage during her crab form, which is more helpful than you’d expect. It’s kind of fitting that she can take as much damage as she does, really, because I took a ton of damage and used healing items to stay in the fight, which is strongly reminiscent of how the fight against the Pirate Master at the end of Pirate’s Curse went for me.
The story obviously can’t end with Risky getting what she wants, though, so a lame contrivance after beating Shantae causes her plans to go awry. Boom, game over. No final genie realm fight. No real closure or moment of characterization. I know it’s a 10-dollar DLC, but I was still hoping for something unique to close things out.
Anyway, I got my 100% and did so in 3 hours, which isn’t all that impressive, but I had to go through Hypno Baron’s stage like 5 times because I kept missing chests.
Some random thoughts
This is basically a dump of random stuff I was too lazy to carve out a place for.
It took me a second to figure out that Risky’s bombs (which shoot out like a normal bullet) can break open those statue head things that shoot fire. It should be obvious since the bombs are clearly a replacement for Shantae’s statue-smashing elephant form, but it still took embarrassingly long to piece that together. Also highlighted in the video above are enemies who spawn endlessly from one spot and bounce around. Super annoying. Not really the kind of annoying that ever actually becomes a problem, but still the type of all-around hassle that makes you go “uuuuurrrrrrghh” whenever you see them. Oh, and speaking of annoying enemies:
That’s right—I made sure to get video of the blue guys. They’re not particularly difficult opponents, especially since they can be jumped over without too much hassle, but stopping to defeat them is about as much fun as pausing the game for 15 seconds every time one shows up on the screen. It’s basically the same thing.
Finally, I recorded video of me cheesing my way through the magic carpet race because I lost all my videos of this part of the game when I first went through it. It’s definitely much easier once you’ve got the cannon jump and upgraded pirate hat.
And that’s Pirate Queen’s Quest! It could be better, but it could also be much worse. It’s nice having a portion of the moveset from Pirate’s Curse back (though I was kind of sad that Risky never got the awesome dash from that game), but the level and boss design is a little too “been there, done that” for my tastes. At the end of the day, though, it was still a fun experience. Especially when compared to the soul-crushing mediocrity of some of the other games I’ve covered for this site.