That’s as in “sky” and “pirates”, you see. Not the best name perhaps, but Air Buccaneers was taken. Anyway, Skyrates is a flash-based real-time air-pirating and trading game, with furries flying fantasy aircraft around a series of floating islands. It’s one of those “dip into when you have time” online games, where you can leave your pilot flying and fending off pirates, and only attend to things when you have time. The flights, for example, are conducted in real time, so if you log onto the game while in flight you can deal with pirate attacks personally, but you might as well leave the game to conduct your business for you. Furthermore, if you’re AFK for an extended jaunt in the real world then you can simply leave your anthropomorphic air-chum to carry out the piloting instructions you’ve left for him. You can’t exactly pretend to be Porco Rosso, but the trading and bullet-dodging offers some intriguing depths nonetheless.
So the really annoying thing about Skyrates is that it’s got plenty of potential for fiddling and building up your character over time. It doesn’t really demand much of you – in fact you have to go off and do something else during the hour-long flights – and yet I’ve spent half the morning (that I’d intended to spend working very hard on tricky games-writing projects) setting up trade routes and trying to deal with pirates nicking my cargo. Although frustratingly incomplete, Skyrates is tipped up to the gills to stop you getting lost, and there’s even a map so that you can see what all the other players are up to. I can’t actually figure out if I’m enjoying it, I just feel… compelled. Subliminal Flash hypnotism plugin, I bet. But take a look for yourself.