Lego Pirates of the Caribbean (PS3)
Also available on Xbox 360, Wii, PC
With Versions for PSP, DS, 3DS
Disney and Travellers Tales
Release May 2011
Pirates of the Caribbean is the latest franchise to get the Lego treatment, coinciding with the release of the new film ‘On Stranger Tides’ which features in the game. If you want a preview of the film, then this is a sort of option.
The Lego games, as always feature Lego versions of the films characters playing through a tongue in cheek spoof of the movies. Generally, they take some artistic license with the plot and cutscenes adding their own brand of humour, but in most cases requiring the player to have previously seen the film before playing so that they can understand what is going on. This is no exception.
Having played through the ‘On Stranger Tides’ part of the game, I am none the wiser as to what will happen in the actual film besides a few ideas that mainly came across in the trailers anyway – mermaids, more undead, Barbossa working with the government and the appearance of Blackbeard. The Lego preview also took place in the original Star Wars game where Episode III featured before its release. In that case, the Lego game did not match up to the final film completely story-wise, so I can only assume a similar thing here.
As is the usual with the Lego games, they are aimed at a family audience and have a quite simple learning curve for controls and difficulty. There are no game overs, if your character dies (pops apart) he or she is immediately put back together again, but you lose some of the Lego studs (equivalent to money) that you have collected. You can always just run around a try to collect them back up again before they disappear.
The game features improved graphics once again, the settings looking great. Lego items and characters are dotted around what is otherwise a beautiful representation of the pirate Caribbean.
Players of the series will be familiar with many of the ideas and tasks involved in the game. Level include a mixture of platforming and puzzle elements.
Different characters with different skills are used to get further in different situations. There are diggers, repairers, strong men, musicians, women who can high jump, undead who can walk underwater among others. Some of the most interesting are unique to individuals.
Jack Sparrow has his magic compass, which points him to whatever he needs most. The mechanics of it work slightly differently to the film, allowing Jack to choose what he wants to find. Will Turner has his sword and also carries throwing axes. Blackbeard is able to manipulate red and black bricks to open up new areas or complete certain puzzles, much like the Sith Lords in the Lego Star Wars series. Some characters have unique funny killing moves, to add a touch more character.
Regular Lego players will also be familiar with the normal free play mode, where you can re-enter a level with any characters that you have unlocked in order to complete the various challenges. Recognisable are the True Pirate (collect a set amount of studs), Gold Bricks and Minikits.
Along with the usual content, some of the elements have been tweaked to give the game a more unique and piratey feel.
In addition to the mentioned collectibles are the Red Hats, which take the place of Red Bricks, but serve the same purpose of allowing extras (most call them cheats) to make the game a bit easier.
When swordfighting you must tap the attack button instead of holding, meaning you’re your timing counts.
In the Level Select Port you can unlock extra characters as normal. But rather than going to a shop and purchasing them from a list, you must find them walking around and then buy. In some cases, you will even have to duel them first until they allow you to buy them.
As you collect Gold Bricks more areas of the Port open up to you, revealing more secrets and giving you more to explore and find.
As well as this there are even more secrets to unlock through many different methods. The Trophies/Achievements will hint at some of these, but it is always more fun to find them yourself.
The game begins with the first level of ‘Curse of the Black Pearl’, in which Jack Sparrow meets Will Turner and they escape Port Royale together with the Guard Dog (I wish they had named him Walt). It acts as a tutorial, showing you what your characters are capable of and giving you a number of situations to try out with them.
Once that is completed you may continue the story or enter the Port to begin one of the other three films.
You begin play with Will Turner and Mr Brown, as there will always be at least two playable characters allowing for the drop in – drop out co-operative play that his been a trademark of the Lego game series.
This is a high point of this game. Some of the Lego games have suffered somewhat from the forced addition of a second character. Indiana Jones particularly. In the Lego Star Wars game, both players could play as an enjoyable character and have fun with them. In Indiana Jones however, one player would be the ultimate adventurer and the other would be left with someone carrying a spade, a screaming woman or Short Round, feeling a little short changed. The pirates game fortunately is teeming with fun pirates and if you aren’t able to play as Captain Jack Sparrow on every level, you may still have Will Turner, Mr Gibbs or even Captain Barbossa.
There are only a few flaws that I found with the game. In some places there will be a puzzle which will be required to solve in order to move on. In scenes of high action, this can sometimes affect the pace, slowing it right down, especially if you get a little stuck trying to find the last piece of Lego you need to build something.
This has been a problem with a few of the Lego games, though Pirates is much better at managing the action and puzzle pacing than some of its predecessors. I still believe the first Lego Star Wars game is the best all round, not letting puzzles hinder the action, but Pirates is close.
Pirates main problem though is that sometimes it is simply not clear what you are meant to be doing. When presented with a puzzle, you should be shown your objective and then left to figure out how to achieve it. Sometimes, in this, you have to solve the puzzle before seeing why you did what you did.
The other problem with the Pirates game is its loading times. Between each level (and sometimes during) you will have to wait for a loading screen to complete, though you are given a nice animation of 2D Lego puppets chasing each other while you wait.
In all, I believe Pirates to be one of the best of the Lego game franchise. Any fans of the previous games will surely enjoy this one, and any fans of platformers should as well. The same goes for fans of the Pirates movies.