LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game Review (Xbox360)

Reviewing a Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO game is almost redundant at this point. Outside of Tecmo Koei’s Dynasty Warriors franchise I can’t think of any other series that has stuck so closely to a single formula since initially gaining popularity.

The game successfully captures Jack Sparrow's mannerisms...
As such, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is exactly what you’d expect, providing basic combat and platforming with a heavy emphasis on smashing and building things made from LEGO bricks. Of course, this time around the game is based on Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series, spanning all four films including new entry On Stranger Tides.

Though I skipped out on the last couple of Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO games playing LEGO Pirates for the first time was like nothing had changed besides a fresh coat of paint. It may even be a step back for series given the additions of space combat and real-time strategy elements in the last outing, LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars.

The only significant new game play mechanic is Captain Jack Sparrow’s compass ability which allows him to hunt for buried treasure.

While such an ability sounds interesting in theory and very appropriate given the source material the novelty soon wears off. The actual searching process consists of moving Jack ploddingly between waypoints; a particularly irritating task across the larger areas of the game. It positively abuses this function on stages that feature Jack too asking you to go through the process up to eight times per level.

With the same old formula comes the same old problems. Playing the game alone quickly becomes dull and doubles the amount of time it takes to complete the multistage puzzles. The inconsistent camera often makes platforming tough and is disorientating during split-screen co-op. The game, obviously aimed at children and families, is also still crying out for some sort of hint system when the puzzles and objectives take a turn for the confusing. Sloppy auto targeting, frequent glitches and bugs, relentless randomly generating enemies in places… I could go on but this article is in serious danger of becoming a bullet point list.

LEGO Orlando Bloom is somehow more emmotive than the real Orlando Bloom... and he can't even talk
So, with a catalogue of minor problems and a complete lack of innovation why do I not hate LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean? Furthermore why do we, as consumers of video games, insist on returning to this uninspired series again and again? For one thing, they’re straightforward and don’t require much mental investment or skill. Not only are they simple, dumb fun but they’re also easy to play with video games novices like children or a significant other.

Conversely, they successfully tap into the completionist tendencies of gamers. There are so many things to collect ranging from new characters, buildable ships, cheat codes and new areas. You always seem to be close to affording the next cool unlockable too, promoting that “just one more level” syndrome in us. It’s this fiendish mastery of the carrot on a stick formula that continues to be the reason why I both love and hate the series.

Of course, you can’t discount the appeal and the charm of both the LEGO brand and Traveller’s Tales’ humorous reinterpretations of the source material.

That said, these aspects are a little diminished in LEGO Pirates since the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is rightfully not as a revered or nostalgic as past LEGO subject matter like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. As you’d expect there aren’t as many beloved and iconic moments to draw from so there’s isn’t as much of a pay off this time around. Still, as with the rest of the game, the story and the attention to detail remain solid.
If this was a cheaper Jack Sparrow simulator, it would be 10/10, as a £40 videogame, sadly it's a 6/10

And that’s really the one of the key words here, “solid”. It’s a by-the-numbers entry in the series that doesn’t bother to attempt the type of meaningful additions seen in LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars.  As such, a recommendation can only come with a number of caveats. If you’re a Pirates of the Caribbean fan, have a friend, sibling or girlfriend to play it with and aren’t yet burnt out on the LEGO series this might be one for you. Everyone else should probably think twice.

Best Game Moment: How it captures Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow-isms right down to the fey running animation.

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By Thibby (SI Core Veteran) on May 24, 2011
I excpected it to better because I really liked the Star Wars games.