Wot I Think: Lego Pirates Of The Caribbean

By John Walker on May 25th, 2011 at 2:00 pm.


Lego Pirates Of The Caribbean came out last week. A bit. I’m most of the way through what’s a very big game, and am ready to sit on the lounge floor amidst piles of plastic bricks, and tell you Wot I Think.

Lego Pirates Of The Caribbean is a brilliant game. Let down by an astonishingly poor PC port. Wounding. Gosh, the fun I have when a level eventually loads, the sheer pleasure that comes from taking part in each delightful level. Until one of the characters gets wedged into a platform and can never get out, forcing me to restart the level. Well, not restart the level, but quit to the main hub, which takes about two or three minutes, before then starting the level again – another two minute wait – skip past the cutscenes I’ve already seen, wait another minute, skip another cutscene, wait another minute, and then play the level again!

It’s impossible not to let this colour the experience of what is yet another expertly crafted Traveller’s Tale Lego third-person adventure.

As I mentioned last week, it’s a lazy eye sees a game as solid and entertaining as Lego Pirates as being poorer than its peers simply because there’s a lot of them. Yes, there’s criticism to be made of the lack of progress in the series, but it’s foolhardy to let that mar a brilliantly fun game.

Here you’ve got adventures based on all four of the POTC movies, each playable in any order once you’ve finished the first level. From a simple, central hub you choose from the maps to pick a movie, and then work your way through the chapters, or replay them with a mix of characters to explore for all the hidden treats you couldn’t find the first time.

And so clearly you’re following the events of the Johnny Depp movies, such as they are. What the Lego games offer, splendidly, is a rescue for even the worst films. It’s notable that their version of the more recent Star Wars trilogy was more entertaining than the plastic incarnation of the original three films. So whatever your feelings toward Bruckheimer’s films, that isn’t really a deciding factor on whether the game is fun.

Which is interesting, really. At a certain point these games become much more about the mechanics and immediate situation, than the larger context in which you’re playing them. If you’d held a knifegun to my head I’d not have been able to tell you a single thing that happened in any of the first three films, all of which I’ve seen. “Um, something about a waterwheel in the second film? And McKensie Crook was a less entertaining feature than the light in the cinema ceiling glaring in my eyes. Can I live now?”

And having played through all of the first three films’ levels, I really am none the wiser. Lots of lovely, laugh-packed cutscenes show plastic pirates pratting about, and then I’m smashing stuff up again and collecting tokens.

The one section that really stands out, as you might suspect, is the sequence near the start of the third film, At World’s End, with Captain Jack Sparrow beyond the boundaries of reality, multiply existing, trying to get his boat out of the sand. Here the game’s best features shine – you’re always in control of at least two characters, and in this game often as many as six, tasked with using their unique skills to unearth all the hidden bonuses, key puzzle elements, and kleptomania-inducing tokens. Here you’re controlling, eventually, five Jack Sparrows, each armed differently with guns, swords, spades and so on. And a goat to ride, obviously.

It exemplifies the game’s best ways. To get the boat moving you need to rebuild it – it’s broken off into Lego sections at either end. To do this you have to use Sparrow’s compass (an odd feature, allowing more hidden extras to search for, but delivered in a strangely slow way – you have to walk everywhere when using it, which is heftily dull), rescue or discover other versions of himself, use smashed piles of Lego to build wheels, ride a goat (clearly), smash up everything you can see, figure out routes to climb around the boat, and eventually watch a brilliant cutscene featuring hundreds of creepy white Lego crabs swarming everywhere.

Sparrow is just amazingly captured. The rest of the cast are quite generically presented (mercifully TT chose to massively play down the monstrously unfunny roles of Ragetti and Pintel (Crook and Arenberg)) meaning it can often be hard to remember who’s who, but Depp’s swagger is uncannily delivered. Running him around is an endless pleasure.

It’s hard to consider a TT Lego game without wanting to plot it on a graph, which is obviously of limited use to those who haven’t played them all. But quickly, the hub isn’t as good as Star Wars III’s, the level design not as exquisite as Harry Potter, and the humour as spot on as Lego Star Wars I or Batman. However, it’s still utterly compelling, especially with those bits and pieces you realise you can’t reach this time through tantalising you to return in Free mode.

What puts me off, and it does it quite significantly, are those load times.

The first time I sat watching the (cute) paper puppet loading screen I thought the game had crashed. Jack Sparrow endlessly bobbed around a boat, on a looped pattern, music playing in the background, for so long. Because TT seem to have bitter contempt for PC players, there’s of course no way to play it in a window (let alone apply any anti-aliasing to a game that so desperately deserves it), so I task-switched out, killed it, and started again. The same.

Leaving the room I came back later to find the game loaded. And so it goes. I’ve missed a few of the cutscenes because I’ve gone to make coffee, fed the cat, checked the post. It generously freezes loading if you task-switch, so it’s sit and stare for ridiculous amounts of time, or go find some other entertainment. And this is made far worse by a load delivering a cutscene, that’s then followed by MORE LOADING OH ARGH. This time there’s a compass spinning in the bottom right of the screen, and while they tend to be faster than the puppet sequences, they’re still uncomically long. When that delivers you to another cutscene it’s hard to maintain control.

Sadly the same is true mid-levels too. A lot of the larger areas have a load point midway, but there’s no warning that it’s going to happen. And when you’ve gone through one, it’s hideously easy to accidentally stumble back through it, and then have to go through the tortuous process two more times. This is not the case on the 360 at all, and certainly all other Lego games work like a dream on my PC, so goodness knows what’s happened here.

It’s glitchy too, and as I mentioned at the start, that can be game-breaking. It’s easy to kill a Lego counterpart so it respawns, but in that particular predicament the piratey buddy insisted on reincarnating with his stomach wedged through a plank. It seems the sort of thing that shouldn’t be allowed to happen by the code.

And all this is only an issue if you can find it. For reasons unknown to us, Disney have chosen not to go down the route of normal publishers and make the game available in a spectrum of online stores (all of the previous Lego games are on at least one of Steam, Gamers Gate, Direct2Drive, etc). Pirates? It’s not on Steam at all. Nor GamersGate. Not Impulse. It does appear on Direct2Drive, but only in North America. If you want to get it outside of NA you’re going to have to go to Games Planet, and there alone (to the best of my knowledge).

But what about the PC version in a shop? Not in any shop I can find. Certainly not Game. Although they have the weirdest offer:

“Order LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean on Playstation 3, Xbox 360, 3DS, DS, Wii or PSP and you will receive a code for 50% off selected Disney PC downloads!”

Are they just taking the piss?

I’m not really sure what the strategy is here. However, Games Planet have it for £25, which is a great price for a huge game. If only they’d patch it so it loads properly. Which feels incredibly unlikely, since Disney don’t appear to be trying to sell it.

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47 Comments »

  1. Hallgrim says:

    Using google, it looks like even on console this has the usual complement of bugs, freezes, and save data corruption I’ve experienced with Batman, Harry Potter, and Star Wars. Guess they are teaching my son about gaming in the face of adversity or something. Backwards through the snow with a double sided floppy etc.

  2. RuySan says:

    Some of the reviews are tagged “review”, while others are “wot i think”. Please sort that out so there’s a way to filter all reviews.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      That’s just John being a spanner. They should all be listed in Wot I Think. We have started adding a review tag recently, too, but I am not sure why.

    • misterk says:

      “That’s just John being a spanner.”

      Comments like this are why RPS makes me so happy.

    • The Hammer says:

      Isn’t that for both Wot I Thinks and Verdicts, Jim?

      It’s a helpful tag, if so.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yeah, that is why. Not sure that we have actually added it to any verdicts though, which would still make it redundant.

    • Daiv says:

      Perhaps a “John is a spanner” tag should be retroactively added in place of the abominable “review” tag?

  3. nayon says:

    Did this game need to be “Lego”? I feel like they should have just made a proper POTC game. I mean, does the Lego aspect add much to the gameplay?

    • loGi says:

      Pros of LEGO:

      - Replacing crappy 2-4 movies with goofy LEGO characters
      - Great graphics yet fast production
      - Smashing everything to pieces is fun
      - Crap to collect

      Cons of LEGO:

      - LEGO Keira Knightley is not as the real one

    • nayon says:

      So basically more or less no good reason :P

    • DrGonzo says:

      Alternate viewpoint:

      PRO- Keira Knighley is made of lego so her terrifying skeleton appearance doesn’t scare me anymore!

    • Wulf says:

      The main reason that this works better as a LEGO game for me is… well, they can be sillier, they don’t need to make excuses, they can just steal pirate clichés from everywhere. They even stole some from Princess Bride. Don’t think I didn’t see that, Traveller’s Tales, because I bloody well saw it! And they don’t need to excuse even that, it’s just piratey silliness, they do everything that my memory has ever recorded that something might need in order to be a pirate experience.

      The thing is is that it’s also an excuse to do a cartoony game and to be completely foolish. If they’d done a game which wasn’t LEGO with a cell-shaded Captain Jack Sparrow, I would’ve loved the hell out of it, but I’m not sure if many others would’ve gotten it. There would’ve been whining about why it couldn’t have been more like the films. Well, there’s an excuse. Why is it not quite as grown up as the films? It’s a LEGO game. Deal with it. Why is it a LEGO game? Because that’s what Traveller’s Tales makes. Again, deal with it.

    • vagabond says:

      There already are a number of “proper” PotC games, based off of each of the films. If their MetaCritic scores are anything to go by then they are terrible.

      I’d suggest that, even if they wanted to, they probably couldn’t have got the licence for a non-lego game, given that other people have been doing that sort of thing already.

    • aerozol says:

      You’re shitting me. Why would anything NOT be Lego?

    • phuzz says:

      Lego: Halflife

      Good idea or terrible idea? Discuss:

  4. loGi says:

    Have played halfway of the second movie with my girlfriend and so far no glitching. The load-times have been a minor nuisance, but nowhere near the length you have described.

    • Wulf says:

      Likewise. I actually thought that the load times were a greater nuisance in Clone Wars, what with the load times between areas, load times between levels of the ship and all, but I still enjoyed Clone Wars despite all that. I really enjoyed Clone Wars. I didn’t click with it 100% though because there’s something about the Star Wars setting that’s just a massive turn off. I can’t put my finger on it, but it just puts me off, and if it hadn’t been a LEGO game with LEGO humour, I’d not have liked it nearly as much.

      Pirates of the Caribbean clicked much more with me in regards to the humour and the setting, they even gave me a little dog. I think there are weird things going on here though at the back of the mind which will have an impact on how much you like a LEGO game. I think maybe John might like Star Wars more than Pirates, and for me it’s the other way around. Though I’d say own both games, because they’re both wonderful, wonderful little gems, but Pirates is the one I’d keep coming back to.

      One thing I really liked about it is that it felt… piratey. This is hard to explain, but I’ll try. If you attack a friendly player, there’s this wonderful parry animation as they parry your blows whilst jumping back, Clone Wars did something like this, but Pirates makes it more clear what’s going on, it looks very much like a fencing parry. There’s the thing with Jack’s compass too and using that to find hidden stuff, I thought that was a wonderful mechanic, and I got a fantastic laugh out of Jack digging up and wearing a giant seashell hat. I’m sure that joke has intended layers.

      It also felt piratey because there was this whole thing with jumping around and doing show fighting, where you’d fence for a bit, then you and your foe would run off and fight somewhere else, then you’d do it again. It was a joke used by the Princess Bride, and it’s used here to to fantastic effect, in fact the fist time you meet Jack they use it, and it made me smile from ear to ear. Oh, and you can run on barrels!! Aside from that there are pirate clichés in the humour, too, and I think that they just went out of their way to just cram them into the scenes and the gameplay mechanics. It worked for me.

      I think this is, perhaps, where John and I differ. I saw that Clone Wars was doing Star Warsy things and I recognised them as Star Warsy things, but not being a Star Wars fan, not even of the first three films (I’m sorry! I was always more of a Star Trek and Doctor Who person), that did nothing for me. I could see that they were clever, but they weren’t things that were meant for me, so I always felt more outside of the Clone Wars experience than I should have. But Princess Bride is one of my all time favourite films, I loved the Pirates of hte Caribbean films as well, I was a big fan of Puzzle Pirates, and I get a kick out of anything that doesn’t take being a pirate too seriously (sorry Burning Seas!).

      It’s a silly piratey adventure. It does exactly what Clone Wars did, I don’t think it does it any better or worse, either. What I think is happening is that some of the games are just going to be better targeted at certain people than others, and due to my general disliking of all things Star Wars, I clicked with Pirates better. Using a lightsabre to cut through a bulkhead doesn’t do as much for me as having Jack follow his compass to a big, red X, and having the little dog dig up whatever it is.

      I can’t help but wonder what’s going on with the lack of exposure with the PC version. Not very advertised and it only turned up on Direct2Drive, this is versus the much, much larger fanfare the console versions had (including a great QuickLook from Giant Bomb). Is it because Telltale believe that PC gamers are all overweight geeks who’d prefer Star Wars over a more piratey game? No, that’s silly, but I had to say it anyway. No, I honestly couldn’t tell you why. But I do find it kind of bizarre. Either way, I think it’s great.

    • QuantaCat says:

      Referring to load times in SW Ep 3, I didnt mind them, they were actually very fast. Maybe they rely on system resources too much? (I have a quad core and eight gigs of ram, its a video editing/compositing suite as well)

      And I quite liked the elevator scenes.

    • lokimotive says:

      After playing it awhile, I’ve got a bit more used to the loading, but it’s still bothersome for me because none of the other games came close to how long these load times are. It’s particularly bad for me at the beginning. Where I get a fairly long black screen, a fairly long copyright screen, a fairly long bunch of waves bobbing about screen and then the opening cinematic. The whole process takes close to a minute, which seems astonishingly long for these games. It really sticks out considering the other games seemed to load nearly instantaneously.

      I mentioned this in a comment for the initial write up, but I have to say it again, the bonus content seems unusually small this time around. There’s no fun puzzley bonus levels, and the hub world seems a lot more functional that it has in the other more recent games. There’s just not a lot to do in it.

      That being said, I have to say that the pirate theme really just suits the Lego franchise. I haven’t seen the movies but I’ve heard they become increasingly ponderous and bogged down with mythology. The cut scenes are a bit opaque plotwise (just like they were in Harry Potter), but they sure are silly and fun, just like a pirate game should be (well, I think it should be, probably entirely because of Monkey Island). Of special note are the cut out cutscenes, which are usually used (besides in loading screens), to signify flashbacks. The one that tells the story of Blackbeard looks astonishing. I’m not sure why they decided to go this route for those sections, but I’m glad they did because it looks phenomenal.

  5. Bodminzer says:

    It’s times like this that I am glad I impulse bought a cheapo used 360 a couple of years ago. I forget about it most of the time, but for times like this I’m glad. I’m sorry… so sorry…

  6. Berzee says:

    Indeed.
    What about the PC version in a shop?
    Not in any shop I can find,
    indeed.

  7. Frank says:

    “a great price for a huge game”

    It’s not the size of the game that counts, but…

  8. DAdvocate says:

    What’s the difficulty level like on these LEGO games? I generally have to fool my brain that I am not wasting my time playing games by ramping up the difficulty so that it is at least a minor challenge to complete it.

    • trjp says:

      The difficulty level is low in terms of progressing through the levels – they’re aimed at kids remember!!

      Collecting everything – unlocking every achievement etc. – that’s a whole different ballpark. I noticed one of the achievements in this game is to complete Level 1 without collecting a single stud – that’s got to be fucking insanely hard…

      Oh – one snag on the difficulty thing – there are some “bloody minded” bits, where it’s not obvious what you’re supposed to do. I suspect kids do fine because they just run around smashing stuff until the solution reveals itself but adults often lose their rag because they can’t work it out logically.

      Solution to that is to release the inner kid!!

      The other snag with Pirates in particular is that it likes hiding things in dark/murky places *hinthint*

    • DAdvocate says:

      @trjp Thanks for the info, I’ll definitely pick up one of these LEGO titles as soon as I can reach the top of the stack of “games still to play” that I’ve got on the side of my desk.

  9. Ergates_Antius says:

    Good thing I own a PS3 then….

  10. P7uen says:

    Mr. T, Luke Skywalker and Jack Sparrow nicking a treasure chest in that 3rd screenshot?

    I’ll buy it for that mission alone.

  11. RobF says:

    I wish Disney would stop doing this. They messed up Split/Second for the PC in a similar manner (it’s still not available on Steam now, the complete idiots) and Blackrock did such a beautiful job on it, it didn’t deserve that fate.

  12. TheTourist314 says:

    LEGO Harry Potter on PC has this same ridiculous loading problem. Why the hell does it take so long to load? The optimization is non-existent; I think the loading screen is a mask behind which the digital LEGO characters actually build the scene, brick by brick.

  13. zipdrive says:

    So… I should get the 360 version, then?