A videogame based on movies which were based on a theme park ride. Made to look like it’s built from a kid’s construction toy set. On paper, it sounds like a weak start but in truth, the LEGO series of movie adaptations has been both wonderfully successful among consumers and, with its knowing humour, often critically applauded.
Pirates of the Caribbean is a perfect match for the LEGO treatment too. It offers many iconic scenes, mass appeal and plenty of superfluous filler that can be cut to pare down the plots of four lengthy films, each with their own significant lulls in pacing (we assume, the fourth isn’t released yet), to an action packed series of cutscenes and action sequences. Captain Jack Sparrow retains his unbalanced swagger in minifigure form but without the slurring voice delivery he comes across as more of a swashbuckler and less of a rogue – perfect for the show-stealing lead in a video game.[drop]The offbeat humour of the movies is also a perfect fit for a LEGO game. The darker side of the movies’ tone being easily tossed aside and subverted in the many brilliantly focussed and animated cutscenes and in-game moments that provide the game’s formulaic structure with masses of personality.
The essence of the game is largely unchanged from previous LEGO games. Play through with a selection of characters, fighting and collecting your way from one movie parody to the next. For a game based on a brand which has spent sixty years becoming the world’s favourite construction toy, there sure is a lot of destruction along the way but that’s par for the course in a LEGO game too.
As you play through the game for the first time, you must try to locate as many of the secret items as possible. There are various guides to lead you in the right direction but not all areas are accessible from the outset. You’ll need the added shades of gameplay, only available with unlocked characters, in order to reach many of the special areas and their treasures. These hidden characters provide an extra mechanic, like the ghostly pirates who can slip through previously impenetrable gateways. So the game rewards your first play through with unlocked characters and the typical LEGO videogame humour but it’s only on completion, with the Free Play mode that you’ll be able to return to areas and really get the most out of them.
That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of variation in the first play through. From Katamari-esque sections in which you roll around in a ball-shaped cage to riding huge spiders and fighting little naval battles. The variation of gameplay styles, within a tried and tested structure, is genuinely quite impressive, if a little too fleeting.
Also impressive is the technical aspect. This game is comfortably the best looking LEGO game to date, we’ve only seen the PS3 and 360 versions but we’ve heard good things about the 3DS version too. Everything zips along without a framerate stutter or screen tear in sight, even with the massive amount of collectible studs, exploding enemies and crumbling scenery. For anyone who has witnessed previous LEGO games with their occasional issues, Pirates may seem like a whole new generation thanks to its newer version of the game engine.[drop2]There are sporadic occasions where the platforming doesn’t feel quite as smooth as it should but in general that aspect has been tightened up slightly from previous games. It seems a little more difficult to backslide off platforms and miss your footing than it has been in other LEGO games but there were still one or two points where the platforming sections felt a little overly fussy.
The biggest negative is still with the allied AI when only playing with one player. Generally it’s reasonably solid and certainly much improved on previous outings but there are still plenty of instances of bouncing off – or sticking in – scenery rather than just following the obvious route. For anyone who has enjoyed previous LEGO games, there will be a marked improvement but the issues do persist, albeit with less frequency, and they continue to be quite frustrating at times.
- Captures the tone of the movies very well.
- Distils hours of often convoluted plot progression into snappy, mute, parodies.
- Looks wonderful and never stumbles technically.
- It’s basically more of the same LEGO videogame formula.
- Relies on bit part characters on occasion.
- Allied AI is still less than perfect.
Traveller’s Tales Games have taken another step towards perfecting their winning formula with LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean. It might not be as expansive as Clone Wars or as imaginative as the Harry Potter iteration but it is all the more accomplished because of the lack of those distractions. The humour is fantastic and the technical aspect near perfect. Even if your enthusiasm for LEGO videogames was waning, Pirates is good enough to warrant a return to the franchise.