It’s a credit to developers TT Games that, despite the amount of franchises now getting the LEGO treatment, the quality of the brand is generally still high, thanks to numerous small improvements over time and the variety of gameplay. LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is the latest title that TT Games are cashing their bricks on; Cubed3 shivers its timbers to see if it’s worth your pieces of eight.
The tale of Captain Jack Sparrow has been delighting cinema goers since 2003, following the Johnny Depp-and-rum-fuelled sea scoundrel in numerous mishaps over the course of the four films to date. It’s a strange decision to release a LEGO title covering these films now, given that there are strong rumours that at least one more film is on the way in the not-so-distant future - a ‘complete’ version with further movies added feels like an inevitability down the road - but TT Games have done their usual business with the source material, tearing out the best bits of the main plot points, abandoning any surplus while retaining certain subtleties masterfully to ensure a focused game. As such, while it would probably help to avoid some light bewilderment, it’s not necessary to have seen the films beforehand, the rough storyline put across through numerous jovial cutscenes - LEGO Johnny Depp is a hilarious sight to behold.
As ever, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean puts a strong emphasis on teamwork, with players controlling groups of between two and eight characters at all times. Each hold different skills, and they need to be used together to traverse numerous obstacles; some can make it through crawlspaces, others are a dab hand with a shovel or a hand cannon, for example. While the player controls one figurine, the others will trail behind, keeping up as best they can, each switchable to the playable ‘leader’ role by pressing the C button and moving the analogue stick in the desired direction on the wheel. A second player can also join in the fun, similarly flicking between the different members of the team when there are more than two members present.
Thanks in part to its character switching nature, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean remains varied throughout, with players not often performing the same action repeatedly for an extended period of time. Much of the game revolves around simply puzzling: hunting out items with Captain Sparrow’s trusty compass, the direction of the prize signposted by spirals of LEGO studs and baby hurricanes; delivering items to the correct people or places in an adventure game-lite style that is appropriate for a game of a film series that was seemingly inspired by Monkey Island; and, of course, a healthy dose of smashing up piles of LEGO and rebuilding them into something more useful. Action fans are not left to walk the plank, however, as there’s plenty of leaping around, sword fighting - motion control optional - plus breaks from the norm such as cannon-firing mini-games. You’ll even spend time locked in a Super Monkey Ball-style contraption, rolling over anything in your way and generally causing havoc.
There is a sense that LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean has perhaps become slightly over-complicated compared to past LEGO titles, with some sections being mildly trickier to figure out than you would expect. Help prompts aid with this, but they cannot stop proceedings getting a little crazy when you have a full squad trotting around getting in the way, dawdling behind, or generally making the bustling environments that bit more confusing.
TT Games have, however, once again presented a product with outstanding value for money. With each of the four films gifted five chapters, eight to ten hours of play are available in a straightforward playthrough before even considering the masses of collectables such as extra-unlocking red hats, mini-kit parts to construct LEGO models. Then there is a hub world to explore, with more becoming available as you earn gold bricks through normal play, and the traditional Free Play mode of the LEGO titles makes a return, allowing you to go back over any level with any characters of your choosing. The 70 characters are unlocked through normal play and by purchasing their services with collected LEGO studs, though it does soon become apparent that many of the ‘different’ characters are in fact variants of others; there are numerous Jack Sparrows to be playing with. Not that, many would argue, you could ever have too much Johnny Depp.
Plenty of fun, varied gameplay as usual, though it does feel a little more fiddly when controlling a larger squad.
The most visually impressive LEGO title yet, with plenty of detail, great water effects and a perfectly LEGO-fied Jack Sparrow, walk and all.
The occasional voiced grunt and Pirates of the Caribbean tunes do a fine job on the audio side.
On top of a campaign consisting of a decent number of hours, there are plenty of unlockables and the opportunity to replay levels again and again as different characters to experience things anew.
There are a few niggles, but as a whole LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is another great entry into TT Games’ long-running series. It’s funny, perfect for fans of the films or just those in the market for some light-hearted antics and has more content than you could shake a peg leg at.
When I was over at a co-workers house from DISH the other day, I noticed that after you have completed certain areas of the game, Jack is then added to your character wheel of people you can play as in the game. As you go along, more and more characters are added to the wheel. Each level offers something new and it is by no means a game that is so simple it could be completed in a single day. It offers challenges, but is not frustrating. You actually get to play through the whole movie as you go along, so you have an idea from watching the movies what you need to do next. Having the two player option is great and a lot of fun when trying to complete more difficult goals. For those looking for an awesome title to play with their kids, I strongly recommend Pirates. Unfortunately I can’t afford to buy it for a while, so I’ll probably rent it with Blockbuster@Home. At least I know I can always save money renting my games through Blockbuster until I can afford to buy them.