reviews\ Jul 12, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow - PS2 - Review

I once read a book titled DisneyWar, an insightful non-fiction tale about the inner-workings of the Walt Disney Company. In it, the author illustrates an event where former Disney chief Michael Eisner tried to squash a pirate movie idea, dismissing it as a certain box office failure. Currently, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl has grossed over $655 million dollars worldwide with it’s sequel, Dead Man’s Chest, breaking box office records (Eisner has since taken credit for the film’s overwhelming success, but I digress). It would seem, at least to a studio executive, that releasing a video game to coincide with a film’s premiere could guarantee added revenue from the license by cashing in on the craze. Thus is the case with The Legend of Jack Sparrow, developed by Seven Studios (Legend of Excalibur and Defender), the game has everything you would expect out of a game based on the high seas. The crippling problem, however, is the lack of depth in every part of the game. It feels as if it was rushed through development without any QA or bug testing, and the game fails because of it.

The game’s title would have you believe that this is a prequel to the first movie, living the life of Jack Sparrow and his many adventures. In actuality, The Legend of Jack Sparrow is set between the first two movies with periodic flashbacks as Jack awaits execution. Our favorite drunken pirate sails the seven seas visiting exotic destinations and fighting enemies along the way. The storyline features strange twists and exaggerations courtesy of Captain Jack’s insobriety (such as creating a makeshift raft out of sea turtles and back hair).  The developers spin the plot to poke fun at the so-called “Legend” that is Jack Sparrow.  Unfortunately, the plot couldn’t save the game from its stale gameplay.

You take on the role of Captain Jack and occasionally have the option of playing as Will Turner or Elizabeth Swann. At anytime, you can switch and play as the other characters previously controlled by AI. Sadly, this option only becomes useful when the AI-controlled player gets stuck in an area and you must switch to set them free. The gameplay consists of hack-and-slash sword fighting and other melee combat. Jack’s skills with a sword improve with earned upgrades as you progress. He will also pick up special attacks and the ability to throw objects. The enemies you will fight in game are riddled with a poor AI engine and gameplay bugs. They can’t navigate through barrels in the way and on numerous occasions they were pathetically slow to attack (you will rarely need to defend yourself against incoming strikes). The boss fights are also plagued with bugs and lack gameplay depth.

The Legend of Jack Sparrow also offers a few objective-based puzzles, which include pulling levers to open doors and placing barrels of gunpowder around building pillars to crash it to the ground. The puzzles are minor nuisances between the real “action” of the game and were nothing to look forward to. There is a co-op feature where you and a friend can share in the “adventure,” but it is also poorly designed.

Graphically, the game is Ok. I really enjoyed the environmental interactivity but the animation was subpar and the character models didn’t look much like the actor’s they portrayed. The enemy’s also looked identical and lack detail. The music, on the other hand, comes out strong and sounds just like the movies. Just like Kingdom Hearts II, Johnny Depp has lent his voice to this project with great results. You will enjoy his comical narration wherever Captain Sparrow voyages. Other voice over work is less enthralling.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow has all the makings of a good video game. But the lack of entertaining gameplay and polish sinks this title.  Had the developers not rushed its release to coincide with the movie, there could have been much more to talk about. For $39.99, you best stay away and save your hard-earned treasure. Savvy?

Review Scoring Details for The Legend of Jack Sparrow

Gameplay: 5.3
Besides being infested with glitches and bugs that ruin the appeal, the hack-and-slash gameplay is boring and hard to sit through.

Graphics: 6.5
The interactivity with the environment was a plus, but the character models and animation lacked detail.

Sound: 8.5
The soundtrack makes you believe you really are apart of Captain Jack Sparrow’s world … until you grab the control and begin to play. Johnny Depp’s talents are not lost on only a microphone; his unique voice transitions nicely from film to video game.

Difficulty: Easy

Concept: 7.0
The idea of putting Jack Sparrow in a video game to control is very appealing (if executed correctly, of course). It’s a shame that the developers didn’t take advantage of the characters that were given to them.

Overall: 5.4
The Curse of the Black Pearl, the movie, was surprisingly delightful and created a very lucrative franchise for Disney. The Legend of Jack Sparrow was very disappointing as a game and hurt the franchise’s appeal as a consequence.


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