Review
LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean

By Jorge Figueiredo - May 24th, 2011

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Sometimes I think that the LEGO franchise has a license to print money; any video game adaptation (that bears the LEGO name) of a film will always do well. The formula is essentially the same for each game: stick to the major plot, ensure that the character design reflects that of the movie and capture the charm. Though it seems like this system could become repetitive, each game manages to be entertaining. The latest in the LEGO lineup, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean (developed by Traveller’s Tales and published by Disney Interactive Studios), is just as addictive and fun as the games that came before (and certainly far more engaging than the middle two films).

The POTC film franchise is like a shopping cart: when you start, it contains a lot of the great stuff that you like; but after a while, the wheels malfunction and all of your wonderful content becomes harder to steer; you have to abandon some things (comprehension) to try and make it to the end. I have not seen the fourth film, but I have no doubt that it’s probably better than the middle two (though I have been hearing not-so-good stuff about it). Coinciding with the release of On Stranger Tides, LPOTC brings you the goodness of all four films, LEGO-style! Traveller’s Tales had a daunting task to create something playable based on source material that is a comprehensive mess. For the most part, they do a good job recounting the tales of Captain Jack Sparrow through great game-play and cute cinematics.

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Will Turner prepares to do a routine from Coyote Ugly.

The game starts you off at the very beginning of the series, aboard Governor Swann’s vessel. Some creative license is taken with the telling of the tale of Elizabeth Swann’s first encounter with The Black Pearl, but given the medium it is more than forgivable (and downright hilarious – as are most of the cutscenes). From here you re-enact the first part of Curse of the Black Pearl and start the process of collecting LEGO pieces like mad. After the first cinematic, the game hub makes itself known: Port Royale. It is here that you may access the four main areas of the game (you need to finish the first story before gaining access to the rest) as well as recruit new characters (by hitting them a lot and then buying them); additionally, as the game goes on the port expands, opening up new areas to explore. As with the other LEGO games, there are some hidden goodies to be had in this nexus of the game experience.

Graphics are crisp and fantastic. Every new LEGO series seems to push the envelope a little bit further than the one previous. Characters are faithfully reproduced (seriously, they even have Jack Sparrow’s funny walk down pat) and are a delight to both watch and play. The combination of toy-like sound effects coupled with more realistic noises makes for an interesting audio experience, as with the other LEGO games. This is all set to the original score as well, so the feeling of the game is one of authenticity. Additionally, the lack of speaking (other than the grunting and other simple sounds made by the cast) adds an interesting dimension to the game. I don’t know who did Jack’s parts, but combined with the sauntering walk it makes for a very compelling “block-l-ganger”.

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Sobriety tests used to be much harder in the old days…

Controls are not difficult to pick up; prompts are given in the game when you can interact with things, removing a lot of guesswork for people new to the franchise. You can choose to play on your own and swap between characters (something that is a necessity to complete the game); you can also play with a friend. Puzzles are not too tough; but they are not always too easy, either. Luckily, Jack Sparrow has access to his magic compass, so you can find some of the key pieces you need to finish each level. Some of the difficulty in solving some of the stages involves the use of characters that are not unlocked yet: in the spirit of LEGO games past, completing the story is only the beginning; you can play through each level in free play, returning with other characters that may hold the key to removing previously impassable obstacles. It is this appeal to the completionist in all of us that makes LPOTC such a fun game to tackle. Even though a fair number of the characters are simply re-skinned versions of companions in the game, it is so much fun to try and collect them all.

Thus, the re-playability speaks for itself: there is a lot to do in this game, so you had better budget your life accordingly. LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is a fun romp on this high seas. With wonderful visuals, the original score, great sound effects, puzzles, collectibles and the ability to play with a friend, this game is definitely worth the play, whether you are a fan of the film franchise or not. In fact, this might actually be better than the movies*!

* – For the record, I played the PS3 version of this game.

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