Game Review

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

The greatest LEGO pirate you’ve ever seen?

The LEGO series is becoming a prominent part of gaming culture, bringing new twists on mainstream franchises such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter to fans. It is little surprise that Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean has signed up for the LEGO treatment, but is LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean a blockbuster or missing the vital pieces?

As with LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, all four movies are included. These, particularly At World's End, are notorious for their complex narratives, so developer TT Fusion has taken on quite a challenge to incorporate all of these tales onto one 3DS game cart. It is helpful that the LEGO style of storytelling allows for a humorous, satirical portrayal of the plot, with some of the cutscenes memorably poking fun at the more convoluted storylines.

Even with the trademark humour present and correct, however, there are some problems. For one thing, the 3DS version has been scaled back to four levels per movie, giving you a total of 16 stages. The home console equivalents have about 20 – as with previous LEGO titles, this version has been cut down, which has a noticeable effect on the flow of the story as well as the pre-rendered cutscenes being shortened significantly. Narrative sequences are often cryptic in LEGO titles at the best of times, but they are practically indecipherable in this version for all but the most hardcore fans. It is a shame that those less familiar with the films will, in all likelihood, be lost and confused by the cutscenes and transitions between levels.

Also setting the handheld version apart, the levels here are streamlined and linear affairs, which brings some welcome structure to proceedings while avoiding head scratching, 3DS-throwing moments. Stages are typically broken up into a number of smaller areas, each requiring you to smash and build blocks, activate switches and levers, and engage in some swashbuckling sword fights. It is always obvious what needs your attention as items requiring interaction are signified by clear visual prompts.

The developers have not only made it easy to figure out how to progress, but have also pulled back on the level of difficulty. Enemies sometimes forget to fight back, difficult platforming is mostly stripped away, and regenerative hearts are abundantly available. Alongside the hand-holding and simple puzzles, this lack of challenge may divide players; though the title is catered towards less experienced gamers, there is a danger that others will crave a tougher challenge.

This accessibility continues with the controls, which utilise the 3DS feature set particularly well. The circle pad or d-pad can be used to move, the former feeling accurate and comfortable, with A, B, Y and X doing the rest. There are also sword-fighting boss duels in the form of quick-time events using the four face buttons. These are easy to control and fun to watch, though their charm fades with each subsequent battle. Finally, as with previous LEGO titles, you control multiple characters with differing abilities. Swapping is mapped to the touch screen, and the ability to do so with a simple tap feels intuitive and keeps an enjoyable gameplay flow. As with the handheld LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, this suffers due to a lack of two-player co-op. As a series staple, the option to adventure with a friend would have been a welcome addition.

A no-frills playthrough will take around four hours, but to complete the story and stop would be to miss the whole point of the game. It would be impossible, for example, to collect all items in each level as the main mode doesn’t supply you with all of the attributes needed to break strong barriers, use portal shortcuts and so on. To access everything, you need to complete the game, unlocking characters of varying abilities as you go, and then return to do it all again. It's fun and exciting to explore every nook and cranny in the hunt for bottle-ships, red bricks and golden coins. Free Play gives you eight characters to use in each level, this motley crew accounting for all of the special skills that you need, and only observant and thorough adventurers will find everything. For completists this collect-a-thon will, at the very least, double the length of the game.

There are other goodies too, such as a StreetPass feature that allows you to choose a favourite character to duel with others. You select three attack and defence options – high, medium and low – and when a match is initiated it is a kind of rock, paper, scissors face-off. It’s simplistic stuff, but if you have a friend with the game who you can regularly battle, this may be a fun diversion.

Other extras are more modest: the hub village includes stores and taverns where you can view collected models and purchase extra characters, items and hints with your hard-earned studs. The tailor's shop is perhaps the most fun, allowing you to create your own custom LEGO person that is then playable in Free Play Mode. There are over 70 characters, plenty of items and even a cannon shooting mini-game, sure to prolong and enrich the experience.

The production values are a mixed bag. The graphics are a treat, with impressive effects and animations on show; Jack Sparrow’s distinctive running style is a particular delight. The 3D effect, even on the full setting, doesn’t add a great deal of depth, but still provides a pleasing visual experience. The downside is that the 3D can have a significant impact on the framerate. It is never game-breaking, but we did notice some areas where the slowdown was substantial. Additionally, the prerendered cutscenes are often pixelated and over-compressed.

Sound effects are strong and the orchestral music is nice, though the transitions between different loops are often poorly executed. Whenever enemies appear, the score suddenly shifts to an up-tempo number and then abruptly back to a relaxed beat when the battle ends after five to ten seconds, coming across as clunky and unnecessary.


LEGO: Pirates of the Caribbean is, for the most part, an enjoyable addition to the series and a fun experience. The level design and lack of difficulty make this particularly suitable for less experienced or casual gamers while potentially disenchanting seasoned players. There are some disappointments, including lack of co-op play, less levels and shorter story sequences than the home console versions, as well as some presentational hitches. However, this title is packed with fan service, unlockables and replay value, as well as undeniable charm and humour. All in all, this can be a fun, sometimes even swashbuckling adventure.

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User Comments (23)




Won't be getting this. May be destined to be the only Lego video game I haven't - or won't be - playing. I'll wait for Lego HP 5-7. Still playing the Wii version of Lego Star Wars 3 as well - which is good btw ... I really didn't like the Pirates of the Carribean films (well, the first one was ok I guess) and even Lego won't change my mind. Too many games ahead of this even if it was a consideration.

Cheers for the revw as always. ONM seem to think the 3DS version is marginally better than the wii version.



NintyMan said:

If I come around to getting this, It'll be the Wii version. Fewer levels and shortened cutscenes sound pretty disappointing.



JumpmanZ said:

This sounds pretty bad. Looks like my favorite Lego game remains Lego: Harry Potter Years 1-4.



Azikira said:

I hated this one so much. And thats saying a lot because I absolutely adore the big console version.



6ch6ris6 said:

i still dont understand what is so good about these lego games.

i mean the gameplay is so pathetic .



OrangeSmoothie said:

It's definitely not a challenging game, but as a Pirates fan and as my first lego game, I really enjoyed it. If you go in with an expectation that it isn't going to blow you away, you can get a lot out of this game. I'm halfway through doing everything 100%, and I'm loving it as a simple entertaining game.



ThomasBW84 said:

Thanks for the comments so far, always nice to see different opinions bouncing around.

What I would say is that I gave this a 7/10 because it is a solid title. There are, as pointed out, some weaker parts to the game, but it also has good points that some gamers will enjoy. It's also important to remember that these game are popular, arguably, due to their accessibility and style of gameplay. This style of game isn't for everyone, just like FPS's or racing sims aren't for everyone; each to their own...

For the genre, and considering it's a portable version, it's not bad!



Rathe said:

I've always enjoyed the LEGO games for their simple and accessible gameplay. Having three nieces and two nephews under the age of eight makes finding a game I can play with them challenging. The LEGO series fills in quite nicely, providing something that doesn't bore me to death and is easy enough for them to enjoy.

That being said, the Wii version will probably end up in my household. I absolutely cannot stand stripped down portable versions. It makes no sense to me; compress some textures, compress some sound...don't take away the content.



ianmage1 said:

This was very dissapointing. Pirates of the Caribbean is my favorite movie series, which is the only reason why I bought it. I'll probably never buy a Lego game again...
I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but I thought that the cutscenes for the 4th movie had horrible 3D models that looked terrible compared to those of the cutscenes from the other movies...



LucinaSmash said:

Co op makes more sense in consoles than handhelds. base on the level designs for the 3DS version, the game was meant to be played solo.



daznsaz said:

its ok its the latest game ive had but also had the star wars one for 3ds so a bit samey really off to trade it today for doa to be honest though lego games are for real young ones no real challenge but ok when your waiting for other games to come out on 3ds



Stine said:

Well, now I think I'll get the Wii version if I ever decide to buy this game.



Linkstrikesback said:

I hope you didn't just say "For a portable version, it's not bad".
It's not the 90's anymore, portable games are completely capable of being almost exact replicas of home console titles, and there is not a single good reason for them to ever cut some content out of a handheld release. And it shouldn't be accepted simply because its a handheld game.

I know I wouldn't have accepted it if capcom removed 1/5 of the characters from super street fighter 3d because "it's a handheld". I'm certainly not accepting it from anyone else.



ThomasBW84 said:

Um, yes, I said it!
I already said in the review that having four less levels and shorter cut-scenes was disappointing, so we're actually agreed on that point. However, I still feel that there is a distinction to be made between home console and portable versions. They've been clever in their level structure in that it is far easier to understand than the console equivalents, reducing the clutter and confusion; that was a design choice that worked. As I said, the easier difficulty isn't for everyone, but the DS family of handhelds has a lot of less experienced gamers, who enjoy this kind of adaptation (members of my family included).

Portable's have big sellers like Nintendogs and Professor Layton that could sell on home consoles, but wouldn't have the same impact and success on those platforms. There's a few moments in the review where I bemoan the reduction in content, but what is left is a game designed with portable gaming in mind that provides a friendly, fun experience for less skilled players. So yes, in the context of the whole game, not just the number of levels, it's not bad for a portable version.



hattrick said:

I was under the impression there was co-op in this game. The back of the box states it is 2-player co-op enabled... Unless I read wrong. I'll have to check when I get home.



Yogsoggoth said:

I was a bit disappointed with Lego Pirates. The game starts interestingly enough but quickly descends into a rather monotonous mish mash of blah dueling and obvious lever puzzles. What really steams my broccoli though is the inexplicable slowdown in some levels (Singapore is a good example) where the frame rate stutters and lurches like the Frankenstein Monster. I certainly hope this is not an indication of how future 3D games will be.



jerryo said:

it's a nice game buy it when you run out of games to buy, i was somehow impressed with the quality of graphics, combat and 3d and instantly my appetite for action RPGs on 3DS grew stronger! More and more i am convinced that 3DS is the perect platform for such games!

it's a 7 but a good one!



Milkman-123 said:

if you'ew me, you know how many lego games i played. my first was lego starwars:the complete saga. the jokes were good at first, but then they start getting pretty crappy. later, we have the gameplay. the controls are good and all, but they make the game too easy. owning a lege batman DS copy, i think that the controls for the 3DS copies will be tweeked a bit, but still be bad. im in hope that there will be an option to swap the controls. anyways, anstead of lego starwars, lets talk about the other games. they follow the same plot. try and crack a joke which isnt funny, because in a while, you expect EVERYTHING they imitate and do. while the jokes arent funny, it resembles the story O.K, but it's medeocer. in the later versions, the puzzles just get harder and harder, so you have to go see the movie to find the answer(which sucks, because T.t only makes lego games for the lamer movies)or use a computer and become a cheater to the game. although i dont own the game, nor played it at all, i expect the jokes to be expected hense not funny, screwed up story, lame puzzles/levels, and junky gameplay. if i'm wrong, i'd give this a smackin' 7/10 as of this review, but if im correct, this deserves a 1.5/10.0
~MM - 1 2 3



Ducutzu said:

I find the game very charming. It's not a challenging game - no tense fighting and brain-bleeding puzzles here. This game is about exploring the lovely pirate themed world, which is exactly what I was looking for. I find that it's the perfect choice for this game, as it keeps the action move swiftly and makes the game relaxing. It's an excellent purchase for me.



Tate24 said:

i agree with review 7/10 is good and reasonable score.

I bought this because i fancyed a plaftformer game and beening a fan of pirate of caribbean movies i though id walk plank and give it a try.

And am glad i did.

I have to say am enjoying it alot! while i agree with the short comings! i do have to say it has quite abit of replay value.

Specially in free play mode! collecting bottles, red bricks, gold coins in each level will take awhile.

And then there stores were u can buy all 70 characters from movies and also edit them to created your own crazed pirate play in free play.

Should double play time:)

Also love fact game use's streetpass for pirate duels which is very cool feature.

its shame that some of my favourite scenes from the movie have been cut short like the kraken level for example is little bit rubbish:(

All in all its not bad little game and beening fan of the movies lets me live life like a pirate without getting my feet wet

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