Over the last few years, there has been a plethora of LEGO-based games developed by Traveller's Tales. It all started with Star Wars, but Batman, Harry Potter and now Pirates of the Caribbean have joined in on the fun. But aside from showing off the films in a comical light, gamers who follow the series as a whole may be disappointed to find that there aren't many new elements in this installment.
With the next Pirates of the Caribbean film, On Stranger Tides, just released in theatres, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean hits at the perfect time. All four of the films are present within the game, and there are five levels for each film. Anyone who's a fan should instantly recognise each of the levels, although there has of course been a lot of poetic licence with regards to the storytelling and the how the levels pan out. The crux of it is all there though, with the characteristic lack of vocals and slapstick humour.
If you aren't familiar with the LEGO formula, it's a relatively simple one. Levels follow a fairly linear path with a few puzzles thrown in for good measure and your objective is to collect as any LEGO studs as possible. These can be acquired largely by destroying objects, but also from completing objectives. The idea is collect as many as possible, so you can obtain "True Pirate" status, and earn yourself a nice reward at the end.
For the most part, it's a formula that continues to work as well as it has in every previous installment, although there are some niggling points here and there where you can't progress because you haven't done something minor. You don't want a game to spoon feed you, but it's not always obvious what you have to do in order to progress. It's a minor complaint though and it doesn't sour the overall experience.
One of the positive changes though, is the ease with which you can change characters now. In previous games, selecting the right character could be a bit finicky - especially if time was of the essence. Now, holding down the character select button will brink up a radial menu that contains numerous characters, so it's much easier to find the one you want quickly.
That being said, it's one of the few changes that's noticeable. Sure, each of the characters does have a few unique moves, like Captain Jack Sparrow's compass or Will Turner's axe throw, but it doesn't bring a whole lot to the table. The level designs are of course new and unique, and factor in the change in setting and some of the new abilities, but that doesn't stop LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean being very much about the tried and tested. If you've played a LEGO game before in recent years, you will feel right at home here - nothing will surprise you.
Graphically, you can see some changes have been made. Despite not many gameplay elements being brought to the table, Traveller's Tales have always been updating the game's engine. With this game being about water, it's clear to see that the effects have been significantly updated and it's appreciated. It was also a nice touch to get in a few mumbles from core characters. The grunts made by Jack Sparrow are perfect for the humour and setting.
Despite things not changing much, one thing has remained constant - the need to collect everything. Replay value is something that the LEGO games have always had in spades and LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is no different here.
Whether it be trying to acquire True Pirate in every level, collecting all of the minikits or scoring every Gold Brick, there are tons of things to do. Playing alone can get a little bit tedious though, but the game features drop-in/drop-out co-op. The dynamic co-op split screen makes a successful return, where the screen doesn't just split horizontally or vertically down the middle. Instead, it splits depending on where you are in relation to each other. It sounds weird in concept, but it works really well in practice.
There are also numerous cheats to unlock in the "hub" world of Port Royale. Through collecting Gold Bricks, you'll expand the hub, and through expansion, you'll gain access to the Red Hats, which unlock cheats such as Treasure Magnet, or Fast Forge.
Even though it doesn't really bring anything new to the table, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is still a game that's more than competent. Fans of the films will surely enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humour, but it still feels as though more could have been done to expand. Sure, it's nice that there are new levels and abilities, but other than that, the core is identical.
|Great for fans of the films.|
|Water effects add to the revised graphics.|
|Collecting studs is as addictive as ever.|
|Adds very little to the tried and tested formula.|
|Niggling annoyances can hinder progression.|
|Playing alone does get a bit stale, much better to play with a friend.|