|System: PSP, PS3, PC, Xbox 360, Wii, DS|
|Dev: Traveller's Tales|
|Pub: Disney Interactive Studios|
|Release: May 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A|
by Robert VerBruggen
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
That may be a cliché, but it also seems to be the official motto for the LEGO videogame series. In the six years since the smash hit LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game, developer Traveller's Tales has spent most of its energy repeating the formula with one movie after another. In the typical LEGO game, you play as LEGO versions of the main characters, exploring 3D LEGO environments based on scenes from the film. To break up the easy action/platformer gameplay, you watch cutscenes in which LEGO figurines act out events from the movie, usually with a whimsical twist. In addition to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, and Harry Potter have gotten the LEGO treatment.
In May of this year, Pirates of the Caribbean will join the list. Don't expect any surprises: Going by the trailer and pre-release buzz, there will be a few tweaks to update the formula and make the action fit the franchise, but this is the same LEGO game you've been too grown-up to admit you love since 2005. You'll be collecting studs, solving simple puzzles, fighting enemies with quirky personalities, and bringing shapeless piles of LEGOs to life. It's a pretty safe bet that dying will cost you only a few studs.
Plot-wise, the game will cover all four Pirates movies -- that's right, including On Stranger Tides, which will come out the same month as the game -- with five chapters for each movie plus some bonus sections. Starting at port towns, which serve as hubs, you'll explore the Pirates world, including Tortuga Island.
Certainly, Traveller's Tales hasn't lost its sense of humor. The game's trailer is a case study in how the developer gets laughs by juxtaposing the seriousness of Hollywood blockbusters with LEGOs. Jack Sparrow's ship sails to epic music, approaching an island. He's standing at the top the mast, and when he looks to his side, he sees three men hanging upside-down. Then the ship crashes into Port Royal, sending LEGO pieces flying as the hull explodes. Sparrow grabs hold of the mast as the rest of the ship is destroyed, and keeps hanging on as the mast drags along the ground, one LEGO piece breaking off at a time. That's just enough to cushion his fall -- he lands, laughs, and walks away. You just know he's seconds away from getting into trouble, but probably a much lighter and funnier kind of trouble than we see from his film incarnation.
The game will be released on all platforms, but naturally, the trailer appears to come from a current-generation console. The graphics are up to the series' standards, with realistic landscapes mingling with lifelike, impeccably well-drawn LEGO items. It's the world of every child's imagination brought to life, a world where toys are living, breathing characters and everything around them is exotic and exciting.
To solve puzzles and kill enemies, Jack Sparrow will have a sword for melee strikes and axes to throw at longer-range targets. In addition, he'll have his trademark compass, which reveals secrets, as well as a barrel that allows him to explore underwater. In the unlikely event you get stuck, a new hint system (a skull icon that appears near important areas) will help you out.
For those of you who are wondering whether your favorite features from past games will be included, here's what's been confirmed so far: There will be no online co-op or vehicle segments, but there will be local co-op and Pirates-appropriate animals for you to ride if the mood strikes you. There will also be a character creator, and you can re-play stages with characters you unlock to find new items. More than seventy characters from the Pirates series will make an appearance.
Our only significant worry is that most previous LEGO games came out long after the movies they were based on, giving the developers the time they need to create a polished product. Pirates has a hard deadline to hit. The early signs are that this hasn't affected quality, and by this point Traveller's Tales could make a LEGO game in their sleep, but movie games have a bad reputation for a reason, so we're maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism.
Even if the game doesn't turn out well, or if Pirates of the Caribbean just isn't your thing, don't worry: A new LEGO Star Wars game will come out this year as well (it's based on the Clone Wars animated series, and it's due next month). Also, Pirates is the first Disney franchise Traveller's Tales has LEGO-ified, which opens to the door to a whole world of adaptable movies. Pirates won't be the end of the LEGO franchise, but hopefully it'll be a worthy entry in the series.
CCC Freelance Writer