LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game Review

Ok, in the interest of full disclosure you need to know this up front: I hated, seriously hated, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Sure, Johnny Deppís character, Captain Jack Sparrow, was memorable and fantastically acted, but aside from that I canít see too many positives with the film trilogy (with number four coming in just a few weeks). They were long, overblown, one-note summer movies that only got more ridiculous with each subsequent entry. Iím in the minority on this one, I know, but two recent events threaten to change my mind on the theme-park-ride-turned-big-budget-film-franchise. The first was Michael Bolton on a Saturday Night Live digital short singing about Captain Jack with Andy Samburg (itís hilarious, watch it if you havenít seen it yet). The other is the surprisingly excellent Lego Pirates of the Caribbean on the game-starved Nintendo 3DS.

Like all the other Lego titles, from Harry Potter to Star Wars to Batman and beyond, if you want to follow the gameís story, you had better watch the movie it came from. Lego Pirates follows the plot of all four films, with four episodes dedicated to each of the films, but neither in-game interactions nor the flat out great cutscenes will be able to inform someone who has never seen the films of who is who or what is going on. The cutscenes especially; they are pretty much shot-for-shot reenactments of the filmsí biggest scenes, only with Lego characters subbed in for the real actors. The game also takes big liberties with the story in the name of slapstick comedy, which probably renders the plot even more difficult to grasp by the uninformed. Since Lego Pirates is really more about gameplay than accurately recreating the four films, you probably wonít mind that you get very little plot to go on between levels.

And speaking of those cutscenes, we should talk about presentation next. Lego Pirates is the best looking 3DS game yet. Those cutscenes are taken directly from their console big brothers, and they look pretty good on the small screen as well. The in-game graphics are just as impressive. And while the game looks really sharp, the 3D is the star of the show; the best use weíve seen yet on the system. The best effects are the ones you donít notice, such as how everything has depth that feels essential to the game. More evident uses are great, too; the 3D makes some of the platforming much more fluid and attainable. Honestly, I canít imagine playing this without the 3D switch turned all the way up. The sound is good as well, but the same music seems to be on a loop throughout the entire game. What feels at first like a rousing musical call-to-arms devolves into a maddening metronome that would make Peter Griffinís Surfiní Bird record blush.

Some people will tell you that if youíve played one Lego game, youíve played them all. I disagree. Each of these games has unlockable characters and cheats, Lego studs to amass by the thousands and plenty of collectibles to keep you enthralled until youíve done it all. Though the structure of Lego Pirates follows that of every past Lego game, subtle differences make each of these games different, for better (Harry Potter) or worse (Indiana Jones). Lego Pirates breaks the mold with a sword dual minigame, and though it gets tired after awhile, it still changes things up a bit. There are also in-level minigames, new types of Lego blocks, ranged attacks, decent platforming sequences and even some limited vehicle interactions. There is a reason there are so many successful Lego games out there, and even though Pirates has its own personality, there is a reason the formula is recycled time and time again with new properties: It works.

Console Lego fans will bemoan the lack of multiplayer, both co-op or otherwise, in this title, but handheld Lego fans will barely miss it as theyíve really never been given the option. What this version does include is StreetPass functionality, and it actually adds enough to the game to b worth mentioning in a review Iím trying to keep short. If you donít know, StreetPass is a new feature on the 3DS that allows players to accumulate coins and bonuses simply by walking around with the system on you, like a really expensive pedometer. Coins earned through StreetPass can be used to unlock new characters, and considering some of those characters will cost you up to 1 million Lego studs, swapping out a handful of coins is a great shortcut to completion. Beyond that, StreetPass will also allow you to build your own pirate, and if you happen to get close enough to someone else with a 3DS system and this game, the two will battle automatically. If the StreetPass system sounds like a gimmick, youíre right, it is. But the delight I felt after discovering my pirateís victory over an unseen opponent at IHOP was tangible, and I dare anyone not to be excited when you see it work for the first time.

Lego Pirates does have two outstanding faults: The load times and the challenge. Starting the game, going from the hub world to the gameís levels and vice versa, even loading up extras comes with a static load screen and up to a minute and a half wait. Thatís far too long, even by PSP UMD disc standards. Cartridge games, I thought, were as such to avoid disc-based loading issues, making Lego Piratesí endless load screens even more perplexing. Iíd gotten used to it by the time I hit 100 percent completion, but that didnít make it any less irritating.

The challenge problem isnít quite as obnoxious. Lego Pirates is an overwhelmingly easy game. Not every game needs to be as back-breakingly difficult as, say, Demonís Souls, but this one is REALLY easy. Even when going back to conquered stages to collect items, the puzzles are at about a pre-K level. Finding everything in other Lego titles wasnít always this simple, so donít be expecting much frustration when looking for bottles, coins or studs.

I bought my 3DS not based on its launch titles, but what would be coming in the next few months, like I imagine a lot of people did. We all know that the eShop, Resident Evil and Zelda wonít be here until June, and the launch titles have already worn out their welcome. The 3DS game drought has made the wait for the anticipated titles even more excrutiating, and, admittedly, that is part of what makes Lego Pirates of the Caribbean so fun and refreshing. The game looks fantastic, plays great and gives the player a ton of stuff to collect and unlock. I might hate the source material, but this is the 3DS gem everyone has been waiting for. If nothing else, it will keep you occupied until Nintendoís wave of June releases.

Final Rating: 91%.


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