Hitting store shelves today is the new “LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game,” a fun adventure that steers the LEGO game series back on course after it followed a few misguided headings. The “Pirates” world features a perfect combination of excitement and humor, both of which are only enhanced by the cartoon wackiness of the LEGO world.
The LEGO video game series began retelling the Indiana Jones and Star Wars films using LEGO minifigs as characters and LEGO bricks to build everything else. And it all worked perfectly. The games captured the spirit and character of the films, following their familiar plots, but also injected their own light-hearted moments to move the story along, or just for a laugh. But when LEGO took on Harry Potter and The Clone Wars, the stories became lost to vast landscapes with too many characters and far too many gameplay options. Now, “LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean” feels familiar again, keeping the gameplay simple and relying on Captain Jack to lead the way through, much as he does in the “Pirates” films.
“LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean” features all four films, including “On Stranger Tides,” which isn’t even released for another 10 days. Although LEGO video games only include the most basic of plot points, I still didn’t want to spoil the fourth film for myself, so at the time of this review I’ve only played through “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” and “At World’s End.” Of the three, the first was by far the most fun to complete. But that’s not surprising, as the first film was also (by far) the best of the three. In fact, after completing it, I felt that too little time was spent on this first story in favor of devoting equal time to each of the four films.
But despite the fact that the second and third “Pirates” films were not as good (in my opinion), playing through them all is completely enjoyable. Taking control of Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbossa, Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann, and the rest of the crew (all in LEGO form) is a joy. And it’s wonderful to see how perfectly the game designers captured Johnny Depp’s half-drunken swagger as Sparrow, despite this video game version having tiny plastic legs.
Gameplay mostly relies on slashing things (and bad guys) with swords and shooting a few targets here and there. The only “advanced” gameplay introduced in “LEGO Pirates” is courtesy of Jack’s compass, which allows players to embark on mini treasure hunts within each level. Each hunt is short enough to never become cumbersome and it’s always rewarding to find the treasure, whether it’s a banana or Davy Jones’ still-beating heart.
Of course, like any LEGO video game, re-playability is high. After playing through story mode in each level, a Free Play option is unlocked, allowing players to revisit areas with different characters, each with their own unique abilities enabling them to reach hidden locations. To get a LEGO video game to 100% takes many hours of dedication, but the hunt for these hidden spots is not at all necessary for casual gamers who simply want to play the movies. Those who did go for the extra hunt will be rewarded with special characters and extra building fun. (Though I’m still hoping to find a reference or two to the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which the films were based on…)
Familiar characters, scenes, and the famous rousing orchestral score from the “Pirates” film series make “LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game” one of the best in the LEGO series. Fans of LEGO and fans of “Pirates of the Caribbean” will all thoroughly enjoy this game. But with Jack Sparrow a contemporary icon, I wouldn’t be surprised if kids enjoyed this game even more than the previous Indiana Jones and Star Wars counterparts. And parents should be ready to purchase plenty of real-life “Pirates” LEGO kits too, which are now also releasing from all four movies to make up for lost time.
“LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game” is available now for XBox 360, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, Sony PSP, PC, and the new Nintendo 3DS.
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Teaser for “LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game”:
Gameplay trailer for “LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game”: