Fun and addictive, lots of things to collect, great music from the movies.
Lack of a tutorial, occasional game-ending glitch, poor storytelling.
While the LEGO franchise may have reached complete and utter cultural saturation to a point akin with Starbucks, I may have been the very last gamer alive who had yet to come into contact with it. Having successfully dodged increasingly popular interpretations of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Batman, Star Wars, Harry Potter and I think potentially Star Wars, I decided to find out the buzz about this block-shaped behemoth of casual gaming with their latest foray into media franchises with LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game. And while it may appeal (and be decipherable) to veteran LEGO fans, I can’t say I was completely taken (aboard) by this sea-faring, plastic toy experience.
Having played very little of past LEGO installments, I came into this game as a relative newcomer. Because of this I had some serious difficulty starting out, what with a paper-thin instruction booklet and no tutorial to make up for it. Basically the first three chapters were a nightmare for me; I had to figure just about everything out on my own, which definitely had me pulling my hair and kicking and screaming a number of times. Thankfully after the first four levels, things started to finally come together for me and make a whole lot more sense. After this, the game became much, much better; but I’m afraid any fellow remaining newcomers may not have the patience to make up for the unclear objectives and lack of solid direction. They really only left us with optional button prompts (which I do not recommend turning off) an occasional directional arrow and a handful of ho-hum hints.
As for the storytelling, the game’s stylized video sequences are passable but most of the narrative is poorly told and some of the plot changes are straight-up offensive (such as Sao Feng and his crew being portrayed as strong allies). Even though this doesn’t really affect the gameplay, I certainly wouldn’t recommend playing a level before first seeing its source material, since most of it won’t make a lick of sense without the backdrop of the films as your guide for clarity.
“Arrrggh, I have a cutlass. And Keira Knightley’s arm… The joys of LEGO.”
Treasure-hunting is appropriately where LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean shines brightest. There are tons and tons of items to collect, plenty of content to unlock, and a hefty amount of characters to earn. In short, this game is extremely fun and addictive. I even went out and bought a mismatched and off-brand Wii Remote and Nunchuk (the latter being purple, no less!) in order to get the full, two-player experience. And while the multiplayer is all-in-all pretty decent, the swirling splitscreen only adds to the beginner’s confusion and can actually be very dizzying at times. I really wish there was an option to change the way it splits, with choices like vertical, horizontal or no split at all. Another minor issue I found is that the controls can take some getting used to, mainly because the B, C and Z buttons are used frequently and are quite easy to muddle on a regular basis.
Even so, I believe that gameplay is the most important aspect of a title, and fortunately this game is not shortcoming in that most crucial regard. However, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean does suffer from a few terrible glitches that must not be ignored — the worst being an extremely annoying buzzing screen-freeze that I found no way to override but to unplug my Wii. I’m no play tester, but it seems to occasionally occur when entering areas, as well as sometimes when player one and player two both select the same character at the same time. As you can imagine, this affects the gameplay a great deal, having to play in constant fear that the game could lock up at every turn.
Other bugs I found included a parrot that wouldn’t fly where it was supposed to until I left the room and returned, characters (including my own) disappearing and reappearing at random, the screen freezing temporarily once, a static noise that broke out on two separate occasions, and there was this one freaky time when I kept selecting characters and they always spawned back as Blackbeard. Yikes. Still, the only glitch that didn’t fix itself eventually was that dreaded buzz-freeze, and I give Traveller’s Tales some credit for that. I just hope they care enough to work out all these bugs in later shipments.
Come on, join in… you know the words! Dah dah dum dum, da da dum dum, dadah dum dum da dum dahda!
Glitches aside, the graphics are quite good for a third-party title, but they could definitely do with a bit of sharpening. Personally, I preferred to play the game after setting the brightness in the options menu to 2.0. I found this to not only make it look sunnier outside (which I found befitting) but also to help me plow through the incredibly dark cave areas. Most of the back ground music is taken straight from Hans Zimmer’s accomplished score from the movies and though this has little to do with the game developers, I found it to be a very wise move on their part. The music is probably one of the best aspects of the game and I even found myself humming strings of the epic soundtrack during down time.
Later in the game, players are given the opportunity to create and customize their own playable LEGO characters. This could have been a really noteworthy bonus feature if it weren’t so darn limited. After toying with it, I did manage to make a few cool guys, like Moses and Robinson Crusoe; but overall the LEGO custom feature is seriously lacking.
While LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game is definitely a fun play, I wouldn’t recommend purchasing it at full price (unless, of course, you’re a LEGO aficionado). For those of us living in the United States, I’d steer clear of this one until I can get it for $20 or less at the local Big Lots, along with any other budget gem you may find while you’re there. And no, I was not paid to write that.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.