Anchor Up Review: Set Sail, Sink Ships, Repeat

(Source: Anchor Up Screenshot)

An art style of Unrailed! meets a similar movement feel to the classic Rush Hour that we all grew up on in this newly released game, Anchor Up. This game is all about moving between squares on the map and wiping out the other ships before they do the same to you. Canons, lasers, and a multitude of other weapons are at the player’s disposal.

The developer describes the game as:

A calming turn based puzzle game about out-maneuvering your opponents ships by careful navigation and weapon placement. The weapons you choose, and where you place them on your boat are all part of the puzzle.

Anchor Up

While this game may look simple enough from the outside, actually playing it requires a bit of strategy (and patients! You will lose, a lot). I got stuck several times on levels before figuring out I needed to change the way my weapons were placed for this to actually work. But it was addicting! My wife, who rarely touches PC games even wanted to give it a try just to see if she could figure out the levels I couldn’t. It takes a lot for her to be interested in picking up a game like this, so there’s that. Once you start you won’t want to put it down until it’s finished. Maybe it’s the fun of the game, or maybe you just want to prove you are smart enough to figure it out.

The Basics

(Source: Anchor Up Screenshot)

Here’s how it works… You start off with a square grid. It can be smaller or bigger depending on the level but will always be a grid. The ship can only move forward or turn left and right, the locations it can move are indicated by the small dots in the squares. Notice in the picture above that the ship has three options to move. On your turn, you get to take one action, either move the ship or fire a weapon. Once you’ve completed the turn the enemy ship then gets to do the same.

You win by knocking out all the enemy ships before they kill you. However, the enemy also has an additional way of winning; by boarding your ship. To do this they simply need to be directly in front of or next to your ship with no squares in between. Meaning you not only need to be firing cannonballs but also need to be avoiding getting boarded by the enemy. I tried to board an enemy ship and can confirm… that does not work.

You can change the customization of the weapons layout aboard the ship between each level or every time you are defeated. How you place the weapons is actually very important to the gameplay. Sometimes you need one on each side, sometimes you need them both facing the same way, etc. You start the game with two cannons that can be used however you see fit. The next upgrade you get is a laser beam that can not only sink ships but also stop incoming cannon fire. As you play a level you will notice what isn’t working and that should guide you on how to adjust the weapon placement for better results.

Each level has different things in the grid that provide obstacles. Some just have a few small rocks while others have islands or lighthouses that provide a much bigger obstacle to get around. This can also affect the type of enemy you run across depending on how the map is designed. Ships can keep spawning, chase you, or maybe just go back and forth on patrol. Each grid really changes things up and makes the player have to adapt with the correct weapon placement and movement.

Game Features

(Source: Anchor Up Screenshot)

The full game gives you access to 40 puzzles that have all been hand-crafted to provide the best gameplay experience possible. Personally, some of the levels took me a while to figure out. A full 40 levels should provide the player with a lot of good gaming time.

On top of the levels, you also can unlock 10 weapons. Having to choose between the best 4 options for each level will provide another challenge. Figuring out what is needed for the best win is definitely a consideration. Once you unlock a good majority of the weapons I imagine it would be fun to go back to some of the easier levels and attempt to beat the best scores.

The ability to unlock weapons as you go keeps it fresh and gives you a reason to keep playing. The maps also introduce new mechanics as you go along. Some have stationary canons that shoot after a certain amount of moves, others have tides that move the boat more than one space, and of course, you have bosses with their own abilities. All this adds to the game to make it a full experience.

Final Thoughts

(Source: Anchor Up Steam Page)

I think this game has an awesome first-time play-through. It’s addicting trying to figure out how to beat each level. The maps are also super interesting. While the design is simple I love the art style. It doesn’t get stale or boring going from level to level. They all look interesting.

As the developer says, weapon placement is a big part of the puzzle, more often than not it is trial and error until you figure out the correct pattern to take down the ships. Some levels can take a bit of time to get figured out while others were easier. While I only played the first 10 levels, the full game of 40 levels I imagine would take some time to accomplish.

Once you figure out the puzzle I’m not sure how interesting a replay would be. Though you will develop more advanced weapons so I could see some fun it trying to go back and beat high scores on the easier levels. That is for the player to decide how much they enjoy it.

Overall, it was an awesome game and I enjoyed my time with it. If you are looking for something new to try out give it a shot!

The game can be found here on Steam.

Joshua Myers
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Joshua Myers

Writer for Petition Play and lover of all things gaming

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