Platforms: Xbox 360 (reviewed) | PS3 | Wii | DS | 3DS | PSP
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Why are Lego games so good? Because they arrrrrrrrrrrgh.
Sorry. Couldn’t resist that. And couldn’t resist the latest film themed title from the Danish brick people and, more importantly, Traveller’s Tales. If you’ve ever played a Lego game before, you’ll know what to expect. If you haven’t, where the hell have you been?
They’re churning these games out now at a hell of a pace. It’s only weeks since Lego Star Wars III: Clone Wars appeared and, actually, that left me somewhat underwhelmed. Sure, there was the addition of strategy and battles – I like the Guardian’s comment that it was “like a primary school version of Command & Conquer” so will one day pass that line off as my own – but, for the most part, it felt a little laboured. Most of that though, I think, is down to my lack of knowledge about The Clone Wars. Well, it’s not so much a lack of knowledge more a “can’t be arsed”.
There are, I’m sure, people who read, devour and remember every nuance of everything George Lucas has ever imagined. I’m not one of them. Luke and Han = good guys, Darth Vader = bad guy and Luke’s dad? That I can remember. Which minister did what to which planet and which embargo forced what tribe into an alliance with which rebellion? Bugger. Off. I could get into it, I’m sure, but life keeps getting in the way.
To my mind, all the nuances of The Clone Wars just suck the joy out of the original Star Wars films. The same is probably true of Pirates of the Caribbean, as it happens. The first one was a cracker: fun, funny, exciting. The second was more of the same yet considerably less so and the third... Well, my only memory of that was the 30 minutes of buttock massage I required after to try and restore some feeling to a quite remarkably numb bum. How long was that film? Because it seemed longer. Much, much longer.
So, if you can remember the plot details of that film, you’re either in possession of a better memory than mine or have way too much time on your hands and watched it again. So, with that in mind, a game dedicated to all four Pirates of the Caribbean movies wasn’t exactly the stuff of dreams. Sure, Lego would give it the customary funny spin and do nice things with the characterisation, but one good film, one average, one poor and one (at the point of playing) unknown? Hmmm.
Knowledge of the plots will help you get the most out of the cut scenes / story elements here. If you don’t know the stories / can’t remember, the cut scenes, while witty and colourful, don’t give an awful lot of clear clues to what’s going on. However, the game itself is so vast and fun, it’s only a minor flaw and a Lego interpretation of a forthcoming blockbuster is certainly a more-encouraging-than-usual take on the film tie-in.
Game wise it’s pretty much business as usual as you work your way through long(ish) scenes from the film, solving puzzles and destroying the scenery in order to collect those all important Lego studs which you’ll need to unlock bonuses, buy new characters, etc.
Complete one level of the first game - Curse of the Black Pearl – and you’ll unlock the other three titles: Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End and the new one, On Stranger Tides. You can dip into these at any time in any order via the “hub” – a nicely designed portside, with noticeboards tracing your progress through each adventure.
The best thing? As with previous Lego games, completing the five levels in each of the four games will take a few hours but only take you to around a 50 per cent completion level. Once you’ve played a level in “story” mode, you unlock it for “free play” and you may need to revisit each several times in order to find every bit of unlockable content and side challenges. You’ll also require the skills and weaponry you’ll only pick up in later stages of the game to access certain areas.
The usual Lego rules apply here, such as female character being able to jump higher and silver objects (gates, padlocks, grills, etc) needing an explosive weapon to get through them. That’s relatively easy to obtain, although the underwater silver bits might take you a little longer to work out. You’ll also need one of old Squid Face’s crew for other sections, you’ll have to wait until the end of On Stranger Tides, however, to get yourself a siren (whose voice can break glass) and beyond that before you get Blackbeard’s sword and the ability to open yet more areas and content.
In addition, puzzles are often more challenging than before which, while probably beyond the abilities of some of the younger players, provided this rather older Lego addict with some welcome moments of enjoyable frustration. Better still, the environments are a pleasure to explore: graphically, this is a huge leap forward on previous Lego titles.
Game play itself is varied – the cannon-firing elements and telescope tracking break things up nicely – the two player option is excellent and it’s often laugh out loud funny. As expected / mentioned above, characterisation is spot on, which is remarkable given the standard Lego policy of no dialogue. Captain Jack Sparrow, for example, moves and sounds like Johnny Depp, without ever forming a word. There are some great background gags too: I was particularly taken with the miniscule Lego version of Tom Hollander / Cutler Beckett , who barely registers above the bottom of the screen.
- Funny, charming, well observed – as you’d expect from Lego
- Good looking – graphically it’s the best Lego game so far
- Huge – there’s hours of content here
- There’s hours of content – but only if you’re in a completist frame of mind. If you just play the main game, you’re probably looking at a day or two tops.
- Cut scenes, while funny, rely on good knowledge of the films. That’s not an issue with the first one, but the ever decreasing sequels?
- Controls can be frustrating. “Y” will switch between characters but also gives you control of transport. I lost count of the times I was trying to jump on a boat and ended up switching to the other character. Grrr.
The Short Version: It’s a new Lego game. If those five words excite you as much as they usually do me, then you’re in for a very enjoyable few weeks. If they don’t, then this isn’t the title that will convince you otherwise. After the minor blip of Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, while not their finest moment, is a big return to form.