None are impervious to Lego's charms. We went in cynical size nines strapped on, ready to stomp hard on a franchise that's had more releases in the past half decade than Guitar Hero. But by damn we came back out sandalled and smiling. Traveller's Tales should market this stuff as alternative therapies for stressed business workers.
The franchise's cheerful charms has turned to Pirates and, truth be told, has found it's perfect partner in the comedic and set-piece rammed tale of Captain Jack Sparrow and chums, and spectacularly makes something decent and worthwhile out of two overblown sequels.
Vast swathes of exposition that dulled the latter parts of the trilogy are liberally cut and restitched instead into a few key cutscenes that are big on laughs rather than snores. Bruckheimer should had mined Traveller's treasure chest rather than Davey Jones's locker for inspiration. The action scenes are returned to front and centre of the experience rather than talk (though the mumbles of Lego's blocky cast are brimmed with win) and thus the diversity shown in the four films shines through.
As do the principle characters. And what rings true with the films does so with the Lego version; Sparrow steals the show. His iconic canter is performed perfectly by his Lego counterpart and charms from the off - making it one of the few Lego games where we actively fought to play as a character.
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Combat in the game is the same as any - button bash to your heart's content - but the developer has went to great pains in replicating the swash-buckling sword play of it's cinematic cousin...in look at least. It's a small but worthy touch, the kind that populates these games in great number and shows each is more than a production line replica of the last.
Each character has his or her speciality; gunslingers, blacksmiths, and, in what seems to be a unconscious nod to Princess Peach, high-jumping ladies. You've got to hot-swop between your chosen crew to use the right ability to finish objectives, with the AI proving companionably smart in pulling and activating dual switches when needed. You'll see a lot of glowing stuff you can't interact with first time round- another sweep through in Free Play with an newly-extended cast unlocks new areas and treats.
One weakness in Lego's typical 'collect-em-all' is that it has had neither the thirty years of cinematic legacy of Star Wars or years worth of well-estasblished characters as Harry Potter to draw it's selection from - you're likely happier (and more knowledgeable) about unlocking a blink-and-miss bounty hunter from Empire Strikes Back than a salty sailor who served as background filler as Captain Jack pratted about front and centre.
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But where there's weakness in character there's strength in location. You might see the inside of a galleon one too many times,but the richness of tropical isles and storm-lashed seas present the most intoxicating locales as the game engine pumps out scenic landscapes torn directly from a travel catalogue. We'd happily choose here over Mos Eisley any time.
Each is rammed with the usual collection of secrets, unlockables and alternate routes typical of the franchise. Access and interaction of these draws from the films for inspiration- dancing atop a rolling cask or plopping one over your head to work as an impromptu air holder for a walk under the sea is hilarious. It takes some time before novelty is fully worn out.
It's not all sun-kissed holidays though. There be monsters here too. Multi-character fights can become incessingly chaotic and thus hard to keep track of your character. Walking the plank, or sail beams for that matter, should come natural to a pirate, but the frequency of falls due to a less-than-precise twist of the control stick will irrate even the seasoned gamer. The developer's tried to capture the unsteadiness that comes with the action, but tension dissolves too quickly into frustration.
They're small quibbles though when compared to the entire package. Yes, it's another Lego tie-in, yes, it follows the same level and hub structures as before with little deviation. To knock its kid-friendly charms is like slapping a puppy. But even ignore the child-like physique, and it's still another slice of enjoyable pop-culture hilarity built upon some firm platforming and decent puzzle structures, and another reason to go Lego for fans and gaming families.
8 / 10
+ Another winning marriage of movie and block.
+ Each film section feels different enough from the others.
- Nothing new to add to the Lego franchise.
- Battlefields get too chaotic.