Buff Review Show Enjoys Non-Alcoholic Rum-Soaked Block-Building
The words “non-alcoholic” should be banned from modern language…
Anyway, a somewhat delayed review of Lego Pirates of the Caribbean! Enjoy!
Lego Pirates of the Caribbean
I’ve talked before about the Lego franchise of computer games that started a few years back when the original Star Wars movies were faithfully recreated in everyone’s favourite coloured block (fans of Duplo need not read any further), featuring fantastic platform gaming, fun enough for kids and adults to play, and just bordering in that sweet spot between the terms “kiddy” game and “proper” game that a lot of people use these days. Since then we’ve seen the prequel Star Wars trilogy, The Clone Wars series, Indiana Jones and the first four Harry Potter films all converted into multicoloured blocks. And with Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 just weeks away, our first brick-fest for 2011 comes in the way of Lego Pirates of the Caribbean.
The Pirates films are well known for having a near-impenetrable and convoluted storyline. With frequent instances in the films of pirates betraying pirates and different pirates fighting different pirates and sudden appearances of family members and new characters left right and centre, it is easy to get lost even with dialogue provided on screen. I feel the games use their subject matter well, but unless you are already familiar with the plot of the films, you may find yourself a tad lost through some of the many animated cut-scenes featured. Star Wars and Indiana are much more straight-forward stories and do not have the near-constant side-switching and backstabbing that is associated with Piracy and the Pirates films in general. It must be said though that the story plays out in beautifully animated scenes and in-game events, so the effort that has gone into the brilliant presentation helps this game out far more than it has been needed for previous Lego titles.
The jewel-encrusted goblet for these games is always in the graphics, but this was to be the first Lego game to feature on the Nintendo 3DS, so I opted to play the 3DS version as well as the PS3 version, just to see how well they translate between the two. Normally, the DS incarnations have not had the 3D cut-scenes, instead replaced with cutesy, but not nearly as effective, 2D flimsy cardboard animations. However, the 3DS matches it’s console buddies almost like-for-like with stunning cut scenes, and, personally, having seen some screenshots, puts the Wii version to absolute shame!
The 3D doesn’t disappoint for the most part, getting away from the gimmicky and becoming much more immersive into the atmosphere and style of the game when used, but offers nothing in terms of enhancing the actual gameplay. These are still early days in the 3DS’s history, so as use of the 3D goes Lego Pirates will stand it’s ground amongst the other launch titles, and be a good groundwork for games to work upon, and past, in the future.
For now, for those of us who would notice it, the 3D seemed to be used more sparingly than it might have done if we were a further 6 months down the line. This has been a running theme so far with early 3DS games, everyone seems a little tentative to really push the 3DS to the max so early on. At times I found myself doing the equivalent of what I actually did do in the cinema, IE the removal of my 3D glasses for large chunks of the film, and in the case of the game spent a lot of play time fiddling with the 2D slider to see what difference there was from scene to scene.
I mentioned the lack of dialogue earlier, and second pillar that holds up the gameplay, alongside the aesthetics, is the sound effects and music that is there in place of dialogue. All the characters communicate with a mixture of panto sounds, bleeps and bloops, and various other grunts, which all adds to the charm that has been present in every Lego game thus far. Developers TT Games know how to remove what the need to show the players from the films, and remove any scenes and sections of films we either do not need to see in cut-scene form, or which can be worked into the gameplay itself.
The opening level of the game follows the plot of the first film, “Curse of the Black Pearl”, and upon completion of that you unlock the other three films, and that is only the beginning. For those of you fond of collecting things, the demented magpies that all gamers are, there are blocks and costumes and secret characters and all manner of goodies to unlock and search out. It fits well with the Pirates theme of collecting and hunting for treasure, and keeps the game open to both young and adult players- for those who want to find the biggest and best items, or those who want 100%.
Some have complained that the game is becoming formulaic, but this is a formula that works well, and continues to work after six games, with Lego Harry Years 5-7 just round the corner too, and it shows no sign of slowing down. There are not many series who can tout six or more games, all of whom follow a similar formula, but each one different and vivid enough to be considered great in it’s own right. I’d say Lego Pirates is closer to Harry Potter in terms of the puzzle based gameplay, and there are certainly none of the dodgy vehicle -sections we all remember well from the first Lego Star Wars back in 2005.
And like an adorable puppy who has just eaten your favourite watch, it’s just so hard to dislike and chastise a game like this, and despite knowing you might have to go into the real world later on and fish through some dog muck for a lost time piece, you know you’ll always have that reliable, slobbering mutt to go back to for affection and cheap laughs.
If you’re a fan of the films of the Lego games you’ll find something to enjoy here, and if not it is a more-stripped back version of previous games and would be a good introduction to newcomers and young gamers, to both the series as a whole and the 3DS as a console. It’s multiplatform so play it on any console/handheld you can find, I am sure it will tide many of you over until Lego Harry 2!