Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Review

Pirates of the Caribbean (PotC) for the GameBoy Advance is probably the closest you'll be able to get to playing a video game based on the popular movie.  Pirates of the Caribbean on other platforms made only passing reference to the movie, leaving the film's fans high and dry.  Taking a different tack, PotC actually features some of the characters from the movie and even casts you in the role of Captain Jack Sparrow.  Imagine that!  However, while the game may include some of the locations from the movie such as Port Royale, overall it is less an homage to the film and more of a simplistic and generic action/adventure game that will probably only appeal to younger gamers.

Button mashing, er, sword fighting.

There are basically two aspects to PotC, land-based action/adventure play and ship to ship battles at sea.  The majority of the game is spent on land, so we'll look at that part of the game first.  The game is divided into missions which are introduced by static scenes with scrolling subtitles.  The introductions serve to give you your objectives for the mission more than to drive the game's story, since the game's storyline is actually a little disjoint and doesn't really follow the plot of the movie.  As for your objectives, they require you to run around the level trying to collect a set number of objects so there's not a lot there either.

The land levels are played from a 3/4 overhead perspective that you see in a lot of console RPG games.  You can run in any direction as long as you stay within the confines of the level, which doesn't give you a lot to explore since the levels tend to run on the small side.  You'll also visit locations more than once on different missions so there's even less exploring to do as the game progresses.  You control your movement with the directional pad and there is a button for jumping, even though there is little need to jump in the game.  There are a few ledges that you'll need to jump on or catch and pull yourself up, but they are few and far between.

You can also press a button to draw your sword or pistol, but the game will do this automatically for you when an enemy approaches. When sword fighting you have a quick but weak attack and a strong but slow attack. You can also try to block an attack by pressing a shoulder button, but you'll rarely use this option because the combat is not well-implemented. The problem with the fighting is that the collision detection is not quite programmed correctly. It's hard enough to discern between your sword and your opponent's as it is, but when hits seem to land at random fights are reduced to button mashing affairs. There's not really a reason or advantage to trying to plan your attacks or parries - it's all pretty mindless fighting.

As for the items that you need to collect, you don't have to solve any puzzles to retrieve them because they are just lying out in the open. You just need to run around the levels until you see which corners of the map they are sitting in and then run over the items to collect them. There are also bonus items such as coins and gems that you can collect and then cash in, but it's not like you really gain anything useful by collecting them.  And once again they are all out in the open so there's no challenge or puzzle aspect to collecting the treasure.