LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean
The LEGO franchise has seen numerous variations over the past several years. Comic book heroes, explorers, and even wizards have received the LEGO treatment, and now Pirates of the Caribbean is the latest license in the block universe. LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game takes the series' familiar brand of action-adventure gameplay and mixes in a good amount of humor and Pirates charm to win over most gamers, and those who have an existing affinity for the series will find themselves wanting more LEGO goodness.
LEGO Pirates tells the tales of the first three movies in the Pirates of the Caribbean series and the upcoming entry, On Stranger Tides. The storytelling in the game is unique in that there is no spoken dialogue or even text. Instead, cutscenes emulate the major events in the movies, moving the plot along. Although characters speak the same language as Link from The Legend of Zelda--with vocal inflection rather than actual speech--players who have seen the movies will instantly recognize the events showcased in the game. From beginning to end, LEGO Pirates' narrative is fun and witty, and you're bound to find yourself chuckling at the game's humor. Despite its E10+ rating, expect to see plenty of drunken shenanigans, groin kicks, and even a little crude humor. It's nothing overly intense, but older gamers will definitely get enjoyment out of the in-game antics.
A lot of the charm in LEGO Pirates comes from the entertaining narrative, but it's the gameplay that shines most in this title. You control a party of at least two characters, many of which have unique abilities, and you must use their distinct skills to solve puzzles and clear levels. Puzzles are often multi-tiered, requiring several steps, and figuring out which characters work best for each situation is a lot of fun. Oftentimes you'll need to find a key item to progress, and this is where Jack Sparrow's compass comes into play. In other instances you'll need to fix broken machinery to open a door or raise a bridge, and multiple characters can act as repairmen. Females can double jump, some characters wield guns, and so on. Unfortunately, though there are roughly 70 playable heroes, many of them are ability clones of each other, bringing into question why so many are included in the game at all.
While character variety might not be the game's strongest point, there is certainly a great deal of level variety. LEGO Pirates constantly throws different puzzles at you, and players must use the characters' abilities to solve these brain teasers. You probably won't pull your hair out in frustration, but don't expect to breeze through every scenario. Many of these sections challenge your problem-solving skills, and it's satisfying to progress through the different levels. Combat is sprinkled in between the puzzle sections, and the simple hack and slash mechanics add sufficient swashbuckling without ever getting repetitive.
As solid as the puzzles and combat system may be, there are times when the fixed camera angles make it hard to navigate. Obstructions block your characters all too often, and this induces frustration, especially when you can't see where your character is and you accidentally steer him into a ditch. Luckily, there's no real penalty for dying, and while you do lose a bunch of pegs (the in-game currency), literally thousands of these shiny little LEGO pieces are strewn about each level.
Pegs aren't the only items you'll encounter throughout your adventure. All kinds of collectibles are littered across the stages, and seeking each of these out is necessary if you plan on achieving 100 percent game completion. These collect-a-thons can be a bit tedious, but completists will definitely feel the need to search high and low for every hidden object in the game. And while LEGO Pirates is roughly an eight-hour adventure, doing everything the game has to offer will add to its value considerably. For gamers who would rather play alongside a buddy, the co-op feature in LEGO Pirates should provide even more entertainment, as it encourages subsequent play-throughs. Sadly, this split-screen mode also suffers from some major camera issues, so try not to lash out at your friend for losing all of your pegs when you catch him or her dying frequently.
Visually, the game has a nice charm to it, but the Wii version looks vastly inferior to its HD counterparts. Regardless, there is no denying the personality that each of the Pirates characters exudes in LEGO form. It's cheery, quirky, and just plain adorable. And because every character is so animated, watching them in action will make you smile. A few issues do affect the experience slightly. Character animations can be a bit wonky in the Wii version, and you can get stuck in between objects, with the only saving grace being a forthcoming cutscene. If you need that character with you to progress and view the cutscene, though, you're pretty much screwed. But that's a rare occurrence and shouldn't hamper your time with LEGO Pirates too often, if at all.
LEGO Pirates offers a largely enjoyable adventure with only a couple of flaws. Longtime fans and newcomers alike will find a lot to love about this game, and although the Wii version is the weakest in terms of presentation, it's just as solid as the HD versions from a gameplay standpoint. LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is an impressive action-adventure game that's fun throughout its entirety. Fans of past games or the Pirates license should play this game without hesitation.
[Reviewed on Wii]