Review / LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean (PS3)

I got stuck in the first room of LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean. Not two weeks ago had I run through Portal 2 with relative ease, but now here I am in the first room of a family game, confused as hell. Frustrated at my own stupidity, I started jumping around the room, trying every little thing. It wasn’t until my 10 year old sister walked in around 20 minutes later and said “Have you tried making the donkey pull it?” (which sounds a little weird out of context) that I realised what I had to do. There’s a face palm moment if there ever was one.

A puzzle like that should be a walk in the park for me, but there I was, super-stuck on a super-easy title. Am I losing it? Are the youth of today just more “in-tune” with these games? Maybe the answer is a mixture of both.

And that makes me a bit sad, because LEGO Pirates, just like any other LEGO game is harmless fun, filled with light-hearted comedy, combat and puzzles. It’s the type of game I should easily be able to enjoy, and I did for the most part, but it also feels like a last hurrah to my younger days of gaming. Sort of like a bar mitzvah, but with LEGO blocks instead of dreidels.

I realise that this is all very personal stuff for a review, but on paper it’s pretty simple to cover this one. Having fought space battles, super villains, wizards and whatever you can call the bad guys of the Indiana Jones films, the series now turns its attention to Disney’s Pirate mega-franchise.

If you haven’t played before, that means more third-person adventuring for one or two players, with basic sword fighting and light platforming thrown in. Levels take you through the famous scenes of the franchise, putting you in the biggest fights and solving the most puzzling riddles.

Players switch up characters in-game to carry out specific tasks. For example, fan-favourite Jack Sparrow can find hidden items with a compass, while any female character can double jump. It doesn’t take itself seriously though; you have an infinite amount of lives and you can pretty much run free and cause havoc at any time. Think God of War meets LittleBigPlanet, with idiot-proof controls.

The result is like every LEGO game before it; casual co-op fun that sees players running around as their favourite characters, literally knocking people’s blocks off. It gets its own brand of Pirates gameplay elements, complete with cannon firing and running on tops of barrels, but anyone who’s played a previous game will be right at home here.

Spanning all four Pirate films to date (including the newest, On Stranger Tides), there’s a good amount of gameplay on offer, sure to keep the little ones entertained for hours, and that usual LEGO twist on famous scenes remains as funny as ever.

As I said earlier, it’s harmless. It mixes all its different elements together well, which is more than most games in the genre can say, and even features a few stand-out moments like a giant pinball-esque level at the start of Dead Man’s Chest. But it hasn’t changed at all since the series’ beginnings with the Star Wars franchise. The visuals still remain untouched, bar that HD polish current gen systems have given (sorry ladies, LEGO Johnny Depp is not a looker), you’ll still just mash one button for combat, and character-specific powers remain similar to those used in previous titles. But the kids continue to eat this stuff up, so why should developer Traveller’s Tales fix what isn’t broken?

There are a few small problems; sometimes there are too many characters in your party, making it a juggling act to find the right man for the job, and combat, while not a big focus, is pretty dull, but this is a tried and true formula that’s worked for around 10 games now; don’t expect it to change any time soon.

Had I been the in the age bracket for the LEGO series when it first released (and most TVGB members will tease that I almost was), I’d have thought it was a god send, and I know why kids these days still do. I could play as all these great characters, play out all my favourite scenes, and collect a mountain of extras to unlock bonus bits and bobs. But I’m just a bit too past it to really hunt down that last golden brick these days. And that’s what made me feel a bit down while playing; my inability to get excited about all the great stuff that’s been laid on, just like I used to with Crash Bandicoot or Gex or Croc. I could once become obsessed with that stuff, and I know that it’s very much possible to do that same here if you’re young and like building blocks. It’s great that Travellers have kept the spirit of those games alive instead of producing soulless Wii shovelware.

I’ve grown up and my gaming tastes have come along with that. And that’s why I know that LEGO Pirates is a great game, especially for kids and franchise fans. It has heart, solid gameplay mechanics, and a lot to do, but it just doesn’t hit home with me anymore. It’s like a starting point for future hardcore gamers; I have no trouble recommending it to the groups listed above, but for me, LEGO Pirates is a sad farewell to the gamer I once was.

+ Casual, simple fun for families
+ Plenty of content on offer through the four different movies

– Very similar to previous games in the series
– Visuals beginning to grow stale