LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean

Traveler’s Tales and LEGO are no strangers to transforming familiar universes into giant block representations. They’ve broken apart Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and a whole lot more, and now LEGO and Traveler’s Tales are bringing Pirates of the Caribbean to essentially every device on the market.

With the Johnny Depp-fronted franchise comes a lot of expectations. When developing the game, Traveler’s Tales looked at what made the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise so exciting and fun, and then developed a formula that fuses the best elements of the franchise and the toy line into a video game. With that in mind, they decided to focus on shooting, swinging and swashbuckling, and all of the trademark goofiness of the franchise is still intact.

Additional aspects include buccaneering and the dynamic actions of Jack Sparrow and his crew. These includes different attacking abilities with different characters (guns, swords, and more), but this factor also applies to the puzzles. In the first level shown (taking place early in the second movie), Will is trapped in a rolling ball, and by swinging back and forth, he is able to escape and roll about. Puzzles based on using the ball to rotate puzzle levers and platforms are integral to this portion of the game. One impressive puzzle involved using a character to rotate gigantic enclosed wheels, aligning specific entrances. While one player rotates the wheels, the other rolls around inside them until the two are synchronized. It’s simple but fun.

New to the franchise is underwater gameplay. Most of the characters can swim, but the cursed pirates of the Black Pearl can actually walk and act on the sea floor. Much like the spell system in LEGO Harry Potter, players can bring up a wheel of options, but instead of spells it uses crew members. Up to eight can be used on a given level, and each one of them comes with different abilities. Jack, for example, has a compass that can guide him to buried treasure. Black Pearl zombies can walk underwater, and crew members of Davy Jones’ ship, who have absorbed sea life onto their bodies, can ooze into the physical ship and appear in different areas. Since the player can use eight crew members at any time, there are plenty of different skills to be applied to each stage, with over 70 playable characters in all.

Covering all of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies in one game, including the unreleased forth film, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean will emulate previous LEGO titles almost exactly: the irreverent replication of the source material, family-friendly cooperative play, and solid gameplay span all titles. Sure, some of those previous games were weaker than the rest (here’s looking at the second LEGO Indiana Jones title), but others like LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Harry Potter, and LEGO Batman showed that good things come in plastic blocks.

Travelers Tales juxtaposes LEGO characters and items against a realistic environment. Visually, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean looks great. There are few swaths of poor texture here, and many of the realistic portions of the game can be interacted with.

Like all other LEGO games, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean will come to every platform currently supported: That means the Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, DS, 3DS, and PSP will all get their pirates on. Our play time was limited to the 360 and 3DS builds.

The 3DS version is impressive in many ways. I’ve been told that development has been tricky due to the middle ground of the platform. Not quite as powerful as a console but stronger than the DS or PSP, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean for the 3DS actually uses many of the same assets as the console versions. It’s even able to perform lighting techniques the Wii cannot process. The graphics hold up well, and while the pirate ship stage shown is less populated than the 360 version, it still controls and plays admirably.

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean also supports StreetPass. Players can customize a pirate minifig with unlockable clothing and items. Then players apply a series of defensive and offensive actions that, when used in StreetPass, causes their little pirates to duke it out with random passersby. Prizes will be awarded, allowing players to unlock additional abilities and characters.

Fans of the LEGO games from Traveler’s Tales should be pleased with how well the game is coming together. The already irreverent and comedic nature of Pirates of the Caribbean fits LEGO perfectly, a good sign for what promises to be a familiar and fun game.