LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean review

Half the fun of the LEGO games is seeing how they’ll render new movie universes. While combining a film series based on a ride with a videogame series based on toys might sound like a recipe for the biggest sellout this side of a Gaga concert, the LEGO series wards off cynicism by the boatful. That is, unless you’re hoping for a LEGO game you haven’t already played.

Like every other LEGO game, you run dumpy LEGO people around like they’re madmen, swinging your weapon nonchalantly and destroying everything you come in contact with. Most of the terrain is destructible and you’re rewarded for your transgressions with the whimsical spilling of LEGO studs (game currency), which allow you to purchase everything from cheats to costumes in the home base, called “The Port.” Sure, we’ve done it before, but it’s still fun.

See, like a child who watches the same film over and over, there’s a small comfort in knowing if you’ve played one LEGO game you’ve played them all. Pirates doesn’t make any attempts to reinvent the formula, but differentiates itself in a few small ways. For one, Pirates is certainly the most gorgeous LEGO game ever. From motion blur to pristine water reflections the scenery looks great comically juxtaposed with LEGO trees and impossibly stocky LEGO people. The game is also more difficult than its predecessors.

You’ll still reduce your enemies to piles of plastic and collect thousands of studs each level, but to unlock everything you’ll have to play through multiple times with unlockable characters. And then there are those puzzles. Nine times out of ten you’ll soar through a level paying no head to your enemies and no attention to the puzzles. The answers are always right in front of you – break something, build something, fetch this, fetch that – most of the time its a stretch to qualify the puzzles as anything more than “actions.”

Until the other 1/10th of puzzles, in which you’re expected to break some random object to find the thing you didn’t know you were looking for. Onscreen prompts are rarely displayed, so you’ll run around spinning your arms like a windmill on PCP until you finally solve what was presumably designed as a simple puzzle in a children’s game.

The barely-fighting, barely-solving puzzles formula has worked for every other LEGO game, but in the course of Pirates’ twenty lengthy missions, that formula loses its flavor. The single system co-op will have one player doing everything while the other stands around – and the sloppy platforming sections, or as we like to call them, “the only time you die,” remain as unfixed as a newborn puppy.

There’s still plenty of fun inside the good ship, especially in the excellent home base where unlockables are abundant, but the LEGO series seems to be losing its new toy shine. Pirates has its moments, but we’re ready to set sail in a new direction.

May 18, 2011

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