Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC
Developer: Traveler's Tales
Review Date: 6/16/11
"Pirates Of The Caribbean" has been an obvious choice for the Lego franchise to capitalize on ever since the first movie came out, and I'm surprised that it's taken this long for it to happen. Using the same template and mechanics as previous Lego adventure games, this one retells the events of the first four "Pirates" films using charming little Lego mini-figures. Playing a level in Story Mode unlocks the Free Play option, which allows you to revisit the level with characters of your choice in order to track down hidden items. Each character class offers its own special abilities. Cursed pirates can walk underwater, the Flying Dutchmen crew can teleport through special coral portals, strong characters can lift heavy objects, small characters can crawl through tiny spaces, female characters can jump higher, singing characters can shatter glass, and certain characters can fix machinery, fire guns, and throw explosives. Additionally, Jack Sparrow and Blackbeard have special abilities that are unique to them. While all of the characters are cute and charming, I found myself playing the Elizabeth Swann Pirate character about 90% of the time because she's so incredibly adorable. She also carries a sword and is a formidable fighter.
The game revolves around a central hub where you can choose which movie you'd like to explore. Unlike the previous sprawling "Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars", it sticks to this formula and doesn't offer any other diversions or game modes. The game is also free of any vehicle missions, which have historically bogged down the previous Lego games. As a reward for completing the game, a special level gets unlocked which is a delightful rendition of the "Pirates Of The Caribbean" theme park ride.
This is probably the easiest Lego game to date, and hitting 100% completion doesn't offer any serious challenges. It's also the most boring Lego game to date, and much like the movies, it's mildly entertaining but never very interesting or engaging. The game also seems buggier than earlier Lego games, and characters quite often get hung up in the environment, forcing you to swap characters or restart the level. Load times are also appallingly long, which the game tries to cover up with cute paper cut-out animations.
The biggest new feature to the core gameplay is with purchasing and selecting characters. Unfortunately, this is never explained, which leads to lots of frustration and confusion. When characters are unlocked, they start randomly roaming around the hub areas. They can only be purchased by characters of the same class, so only a cursed pirate can purchase another cursed pirate. But the only place you can select what character you're playing is by going back to one of the movies. Additionally, when you try to purchase a character, they immediately run away from you, which gives you no time to see who they are, how much they cost, and if you can afford them. This is infuriating. However, after playing long enough, I discovered that you can beat unpurchased characters into submission regardless of what class you're playing, which is not intuitive at all. (not to mention rather rude) Also, about thirty hours into the game I accidentally discovered that you can actually choose to play any character you want, at any time simply by pressing and holding the Y button. Boy, it would have been nice to have that documented SOMEWHERE. That would have saved me a considerable amount of time and frustration.
Other than that, "Lego Pirates Of The Caribbean" is a simple and mindlessly enjoyable adventure game that treads overly familiar ground, but remains moderately fresh and funny due to its undeniable sense of charm.