I played Puzzle Pirates a few years back, when it was in beta. It was cute and fun, but I got sick of working at the same few puzzles over and over again for a pittance, and didn’t have the patience to wait for other games to get released, so I moved on. Since I’ve gone and unemployified myself, though, I’ve been reminded that: 1) Job-hunting doesn’t actually occupy every waking hour, and so I have a little bit of free time for a change; 2) Console games are expensive, and seem doubly so when you’re not pulling down a regular paycheck; and 3) There aren’t a whole lot of games to play on the Mac. Since I’ve yet to be sucked back into World of Warcraft, I figured I’d give Puzzle Pirates another shot, since it’s free to play anyway.

Lack of content doesn’t seem to be a problem these days. If you get tired of jobbing on pirate ships, you can play a whole different set of puzzle games in shops, and if you get tired of that, you can go to the inn and play cards against other players. If you stick to the basics, Puzzle Pirates is basically a casual game portal with avatars and a point system, which actually puts developers Three Rings pretty far ahead of the curve in terms of casual and virtual world trends.

My one big problem with Puzzle Pirates stems from the fact that I tend to get the most pleasure out of exploring my game worlds. Whether it’s going for a run in Okami or poking around the dustier corners of WoW, there’s nothing I like more than the feeling of being lost and stumbling onto some new discovery — even if it’s only new to me. That feeling doesn’t seem to be a big part of Puzzle Pirates. The islands are all pretty small, and there doesn’t seem to be much to do outdoors. Getting from place to place in the world is mostly handled by teleports of various kinds, which is the Right Thing To Do™ from a practical standpoint, but just makes the world seem that much smaller.

It seems like the only way to really get to explore the world of Puzzle Pirates is to grind out the cash to buy my own ship. But even then, I’m not sure if sailing to a new island would be a Wind Waker-like feeling of striking out on the open sea, or just furiously clicking at the navigation puzzle. Overall, though, there’s enough fun to be had in Puzzle Pirates to make me want to stick around long enough to find out.