Ever since Traveller's Tales created its first LEGO adaptation of Star Wars back in 2005, the gamemaking formula—re-creating a well-known summer blockbuster in mute but colorfully charming plastic—has remained consistent. Notice that I didn't say the job was simple. Restaging a movie with a plastic block cast and somehow making it grin-worthy, using nothing more than a little physical comedy and a dash of grunting pantomime, is no small feat. But it's been done with style.
So it's no surprise that LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game carries on the fun with the same whimsical humor, large LEGO block-built world and a huge cast of characters. This title gives gamers access to renditions of all four Pirates movies—including the just released Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The stories involve everything from reclaiming the Black Pearl to rescuing Jack from a barren World's End to visiting a certain youth-restoring fountain.
All of which means that Jack ends up battling atop racing carriages in the streets of London, running from zombies and tribal warriors, and facing off with a gigantic LEGO Kraken in a series of in-game cutscenes. And all the action is accompanied by that bombastically iconic film score that we've heard so many times before.
Shiver Me LEGOs!
As you make your way through the 20 levels of play, though, the real focus isn't on those stories. It's on the more low-key action of finding treasure, solving co-op puzzles and smashing every LEGO-built structure you can find—with some sword fighting and cannon blasting filling in the cracks. This smash-and-break action reveals loose bricks that can be rebuilt into level-advancing devices. And it also delivers LEGO studs that can be gathered up and used to purchase new characters and special tools.
Even though Captain Jack Sparrow is the star buccaneer here, unlocking all those other playable characters is of vital importance. Each blocky citizen carries his or her own special ability that can get you past blockades—which can be a little tough in spots. And you'll often need the skills of some piratey fellow with a shovel to unearth buried treasure, or an explosives expert to get past metal obstacles, or an athletic female helper who can double jump up to seemingly unreachable spots.
A Little Squiffy and Just a Touch of Arrgh
Where there are pirates on the Caribbean, of course, there's bound to be some nasty backstabbing and hornswoggling. The PG-13 source material bears plenty of proof of that. But I'm happy to report that this LEGO version tamps the full-throated arrghs down to a few quieter humphs.
As I mentioned, there is a fair bit of sword fighting and ax throwing going on, but when a character gets struck or has any plastic parts lopped off, he falls apart into his component pieces rather than shedding any blood. Rum-chugging and some drunken weaving show up. Sensuality on the LEGO high seas amounts to painted-on cleavage and some cartoonish ogling. And mild toilet humor involves such things as Jack dunking his flaming backside in a pool or jumping into a Kraken's gaping maw with a toothbrush in hand to cure it of a bad case of halitosis.
It's actually pretty amazing how different the effect of zombies, deep-sea monsters and snaggletoothed pirates is when they're locked into the forms of a blocky substance known as acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene.