May 30, 2011
Is there a franchise out there that can’t be turned into plastic bricks? I’m still holding out for LEGO Robocop myself, but until that fateful day arrives I suppose I’ll have to content myself with the latest addition to the series, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean. LEGO Pirates covers all four of the films in the series and has been released to coincide with the latest movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. So far so good then, as the adventures of Jack Sparrow were certainly a major draw at the box office, so it surely isn’t too much to hope that a little bit of that success can rub off on the game.
But does it?
The answer is probably yes, but with a few provisos. Certainly this game is a step up from the recent third instalment of the LEGO Star Wars franchise. This is mainly down to the recognisable characters and stories, which have once again been blended into a smooth formula of amusing cutscenes and fun, but not overly taxing, levels. Yet again, this is a game that will appeal to the older generation just as much as the kids it was probably made for and that has always been the key appeal of most LEGO games.
If anything though, the tide has turned too far towards storytelling and less towards making a genuinely new and exciting experience. Each story only has five levels and each one of those tends to have a fairly lengthy cutscene preceding it as well. While these are generally well done, you seem to spend more time watching the game than actually playing it, which is unusual for a LEGO game. This is probably due to the fact that for all its big buck cinema appeal, it’s still not as well known a story as Star Wars or Indy. Thankfully the charm of the characters shines through, and the quirkiness of Cap’n Jack in LEGO form lights up the stage.
LEGO Pirates is certainly a good looking game too with some truly standout set-piece moments – it’s good to see that some strides are being made in that regard. Despite the lack of any vocal work either it’s not too hard to figure out what’s going on, and the addition of some bizarre, yet fun, stick puppet scenes seems to fit perfectly. Pirates though is also one of the shorter LEGO games in terms of content and even the hub area feels pretty short and can be fully explored fairly early on. Still, you can expect the usual array of collectibles to occupy your time and new characters to unlock along the way.
For fans of the LEGO series in general though, you can’t help but feel this is more of the same, as while there are a few pirate specific puzzles like using Jack’s compass to track down items, swords to operate machinery or undead crew to walk under water – it all still feels like the same few puzzles you played way back when. Although having characters that fight each other via proper sword duels (albeit by pressing just one button) is a neat touch, not to mention the ability to recruit new characters during levels by helping them find a specific item. I have to say that the addition of a character select wheel is something that was long overdue, and more than welcome too.
Thankfully the spilt screen issues that plagued the last Star Wars game have been fixed and the whole experience is much more fun in co-op, as you would expect. Solving puzzles with a pal has never been easier, and you can drop in and out at any time. None of the levels are too taxing for even younger players, although it has to be said that the term ‘precision jump’ has never been more appropriate which can lead to some frustrating moments.
Achievements wise, it seems that every LEGO game follows the same set pattern, with points on offer for completing each segment of the story, as well as for unlocking certain characters and finding all the hidden goodies. There are a few fun tasks to accomplish along the way but nothing that won’t come with natural progression. In truth, the series as a whole could do with a bit more originality rather than the same few achievements each and every time, with only a few tweaks to the overall presentation.
LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is closer to the winning formula that most LEGO games have hit, but things are starting to get a touch repetitive and stale. The few new additions fit in well with the Pirates theme but are just touch ups to the general formula if anything, and if you’ve played any of the past LEGO titles, this will feel like more of the same. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as the story and characters here are superbly realised and match their on screen counterparts scene for scene. There is certainly plenty for Pirates fans to enjoy but perhaps this doesn’t push the boat out far enough.
The usual non-existent affair with the backing music not doing enough to stir things up when it really needs to.
Probably the best looking LEGO game to date, and the look and ambience is spot on in terms of the franchise. Have plastic bricks ever looked so good?
As fun as ever and the split screen has been much improved so that co-op play is superb, although it’s just more of the same LEGO formula.
A good use of the Pirates series, but the puzzles are variations from older games plus the game itself is a little on the short side. Still, the characterisation is spot on, and the levels are nicely varied.
A list that is far too focused on finding new objects and characters than anything else. A few more ad hoc tasks would have helped spruce things up.
LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is a great kids game, with a well realised story and fun characters, but it’s also more of the same. In terms of the LEGO series to date then this is probably one of the better incarnations, but you just can’t help but wonder where things could go from here. If you’re a fan of Pirates then this is for you, but everyone else may well want to test the waters first.