LEGO Pirates Of The Caribbean (LPOTC) has restored the faith that LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars destroyed so effectively.
By the time of wiping Clone Wars from my 360 Hard Drive, I was seriously wondering if perhaps the whole LEGO thing had played itself out. However, being the person I am, I still shelled out for LPOTC (and LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4, which I’ve yet to play).
The first thing I noticed was that the same graphics engine that’s used in The Clone Wars appears to be used here. That means that there’s a lot of detail, some pretty water effects, and some wonderful lighting effects.
The second thing I noticed was that this has returned to the (mostly platforming) LEGO experience I’ve enjoyed before. While there are a couple of vehicle sections, there are none of the Real Time Strategy (RTS) sections. Good use has also been made of the characters from the movies, and the character “classes”.
There are the basic classes of high jumpers (women), those that can fire projectiles, those who can blow up shiny objects and those who can lift/move heavy objects.
They’ve added the cursed, who can walk/breathe underwater; mermaids who can breathe/swim underwater and break glass with their voices and Blackbeard’s sword, which has its own mystical properties.
Captain Jack Sparrow (in all his incarnations) gets his own range of special abilities. The most useful is his compass. You can use this to find various hidden objects, some of which are necessary to complete a level. Beyond those necessary, if you find all eight on a level, then you are awarded a gold brick (which unlock new areas/bonuses in the main game hub). He also has the ability to be lifted up by a rope/pulley/weight arrangement that appears in some levels. This allows him to get to some much higher areas.
Some puzzles are also taken neatly from the mythos in the movies. For example, you can’t kill the cursed unless they’re in the moonlight, when they appear in their skeletal form.
All of the other LEGO game mechanics are there. You first play a level as part of the Story, then can come back later in Free Play with the appropriate companions in order to complete the level fully. There are mini-kit components to find, LEGO items to destroy or build, and many fun puzzles. Oh, and a lot of platforming action.
As you complete levels, collections of compass objects, or minikits, you’re awarded gold bricks. Around The Port (the game hub) there are piles of these gold bricks, and when you have enough you can build one of the many objects. Some of these objects give access to new areas in the hub, others gives red hats.
Red hats have replaced the Red Bricks that used to give various ‘powerups’. These are also found when destroying certain objects, or completing certain puzzles in the hub.
So, all in all, there’s a lot to do within levels, and inside the hub, and I haven’t become bored yet.
However, there are problems. Sometimes due to lack of shadow, or other ways of judging distance against the 3D landscape, it’s easy for a character to miss a bridge or a jump. At best, you simply have to retry the jump. At worst this can lead to the loss of a needed object (if you were carrying a torch and fall in the water), or even a loss of studs as you die in the swamp, or are eaten by a shark.
Sometimes a character will get stuck in part of the landscape, and most often this seems to be when a wrong move will send them into the aforementioned deadly liquids. Or perhaps I just notice it more. However, this can lead to multiple, quick deaths, and much frustration.
On the other hand, if you manage to get your character onto a narrow beam, they appear to become “locked” to that beam, meaning they won’t fall off. That’s a mechanic that certainly makes some bits easier.
Despite those problems, I really am enjoying LPOTC, and if Skyrim hadn’t come along, I’d probably still be working my way towards 100% completion…