Tortuga Bay tells the story of a retired pirate captain who looks back on his adventures in the Carribean in 12 missions, divided over different chapters.
The gameplay is similar to Sid Meier's Pirates!, but entirely arcade-based, without role-playing, adventure or strategy elements. There are two types of missions: the player either commands a ship and has to take out different enemies with the cannons, or the mission takes place in a city, on an island or on a ship, controlling only the captain in fighting sequences. Both types of missions are time-limited. During the ship sequences, the player has to track down enemy vessels in a region with different islands using the compass, and attack them with the cannons. These can only be fired from both sides. Sunken ships provide bonuses such as lead cannon balls, an extra cannon, repairs, or more time. Some of these can also be found in the water. There are also smaller boats and sharks that attack the ship.
During the fight sequences, the captain can strike enemies and needs to collect loot. Other bonuses are life potions, treasure, new weapons such as an axe or a sword, and additional time. The game is entirely in 3D. The camera can be rotated and zoomed in on the action. In between certain missions, 3D-rendered cut-scenes are shown.