In GamerDad’s recent review of LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, he glowingly relates how the newest installment in the LEGO adventure series just may be the best yet. I wanted to join the chorus and second his recommendation of the title for fans of the LEGO series, fans of Pirates of the Caribbean, or for anyone who is looking for a great two-player cooperative family game.
Anyone who’s seen a previous LEGO videogame will be on familiar ground. Players are first presented with a short scene from the movie (sans dialogue and typically with some tongue-in-cheek mocking of the plot and situation) and then given the chance to play through the scene’s locale using the controller (the Wiimote with Nunchuck in the Wii version reviewed here). This consists of avoiding (or attacking) any enemies, exploring areas, and bashing everything in site that might break down into bricks. All the while, players attempt to solve little puzzles either by building “jumping” stacks of Legos or by using the local environment. It may be as simple as finding a lit torch (used in multiple locations to explode or light certain objects) to things more complex like finding a vegetable to coax a Lego horse to move a cart. Players can even pick up cursed coins to become skeletons in order to walk around freely on the bottom of the ocean if needed! In any case, the combination of little puzzles and explorations make a great game. As the story progresses, new characters are unlocked, often with unique abilities. This gives the game long legs as gamers can replay old levels with new characters to find new items and areas that were unobtainable before.
The LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean brings two particularly new features to the series. The most prominent feature is the split screen play that allows two players to wander away from each other. In previous titles, cooperative players needed to stay on the same screen as they explore which made the game difficult when played with younger (and sometimes rather willful) explorers. In the current version, the screen splits into two parts, typically into two triangles, and is displayed in rough orientation of the location of the two players. This is both a major boon and a minor bane. It allows players to explore what they wish, without tethering them together, but when the two players move to come back together, the split screens can sometimes “spin” around each other in a very disorienting fashion. This is typically not an issue, but if the two characters are moving about rapidly – coming together and leaving again – the result is an excessively spinning screen making it hard to focus on one’s character if not leading to outright nausea.
The second new feature in the game is the Jack’s compass. By opening his compass (that points to what he desires), Jack can follow footprints on screen to discover hidden items. While the hidden items are rarely required to complete a given level, they add immensely to the look and feel of searching for treasure and are a great addition.
I’m not as fluent in all the games in the LEGO line as GamerDad so I’m not quite prepared to declare Pirates of the Caribbean as the best yet, but I will go so far as to say it is a leading candidate. Fans of LEGO games will not be disappointed and fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean films will find even more of that campy sort of humor within the game’s cut scenes.
Kid Factor: This game requires some problem solving skills and a bit of skill maneuvering the game’s joystick. If played solo, it is probably most appropriate for 8 or 9 year olds. However, when played with an experienced player (such as an adult), younger kids can find great fun muddling through at much younger ages. My eldest is approaching 5 years old and we’ve made our way cooperatively through a number of levels – albeit never a thorough walkthrough and often with a number of lives lost along the way. As with nearly every LEGO game, care has been taken to be as inoffensive as possible so any violence depicted is simply Lego pieces exploding and the most disturbing images will probably be some of the more monstrous Lego creatures encountered later in the game.