LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean – Review

Title   LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean
Developer  Traveller's Tales
Publisher  Disney Interactive Studios
Platform  Microsoft Windows, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Wii, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, Xbox 360
Genre  Action Adventure
Release Date  13 May 2011

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean has you walk into a tavern… on an island full of drunken pirates… then jump onto a pig and ride it around inside said tavern, smashing the place up, and generally causing mayhem! This is but one of many moments that will genuinely have you laughing out loud in Traveller’s Tales’ latest LEGO inspired game. With the entire franchise of Disney’s blockbuster pirate movies getting a building block treatment on this occasion – including the recently-released ‘On Stranger Tides’ – players are treated to a journey through most of the major (and a few less-than-major) parts of the story throughout all four Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Right from the start you are thrust into the pirates’ universe, and anyone who’s watched the films will know what is going on straight away. You’ll laugh and point as you recognise certain areas that appear, and will enjoy taking part in some of the films’ major set-pieces. As with all the previous LEGO games, our block brethren don’t speak but instead tell the story through a series of pictures, grunts, and mime acting. Any part of the back-story that gets visited along the way is retold via a diorama style segment, which is both different and pleasing to the eye. It would have been difficult for Traveller’s Tales to explain some of the story without these segments, due to the lack of speech, but they work well. It is enjoyable to watch, and adds to the overall presentation – which, I have to say, is excellent. The scenes acted out in this way don’t always tie in as tightly to the plot of the films as you would expect, but this isn’t an issue at all as the comedy comes thick and fast through every cut-scene, of which there are quite a few. I looked forward to the start and end of each chapter, wondering what random character, object, or action would appear, and none of them disappointed. It’s reassuring to see that even after so many outings in the LEGO universe, Traveller’s Tales haven’t lost sight of what makes these games enjoyable – the fun factor.

There are, however, serious concerns with the story itself. As good as the presentation and delivery is, it could get confusing for anyone who’s not familiar with the franchise. Proof of this, in my case, was when I played the section of the game concerning the fourth film, On Stranger Tides, not having seen it at the cinema; I didn’t have a bloody clue what was going on! People were double-crossing other people left, right and centre; I had no idea what was motivating who to do what, and it was made all the more difficult by the absence of the previous films’ key characters. This problem was also evident, albeit to a lesser extent, in the sections for the second and third films, although I have watched those, making it not quite so much a concern. However, other people could easily become confused trying to follow the plot if they’ve not yet seen the films.

That said, for the most part the game stays true to the films. All of the series’ characters are here, and all look the part. The various versions of Jack Sparrow for example: Captain Jack Sparrow, Jack Sparrow wearing waistcoat, Jack Sparrow with gun, Jack Sparrow with spade, Jack Sparrow with toothpaste, Jack Sparrow with vegetables and gravy on the side… to name but a few, and all look excellent. Jack minces around, arms flailing left and right, his sword-fighting style a blend of skill and organised chaos. It’s a fantastic representation of Johnny Depp’s character, and is something that is replicated across all of the other characters in the game.

If you’ve played a LEGO game before then chances are you’re going to be familiar with the gameplay. A blend of light combat, puzzles, and finding collectables is what makes up the bulk of these games, and Pirates of the Caribbean shows both the best and worst of this formula. Collecting silver, gold, and blue “LEGO studs” is the goal for the majority of the adventure. These are used to purchase unlockables later in the central hub area. There is also a target total to reach for each level, allowing you to gain the status of “True Pirate”. Finally there’s some correlation to collecting these shiny studs and the end result, as I never understood why collecting shiny building blocks meant I was a true Jedi Knight in the Star Wars LEGO games, but at least here I can pretend it’s treasure and accept being labelled a true pirate.

If you’re not picking up studs, then you’ll either be in combat or trying to solve a puzzle. The combat is easy enough to master: press the A button to swing sword/fire gun/throw harpoon/throw banana. Press multiple times to build up a chain of attacks, to defeat blocking opponents; there isn’t much more to the combat than that. You take part in the films’ fight scenes; everything from the escape from Port Royal in The Curse of the Black Pearl to the infamous waterwheel fight from Dead Man’s Chest. There are also some segments that you play through that didn’t receive much attention within the films, which are fine for padding out levels and generally involve more of a focus on puzzles than on the story for obvious reasons. The puzzles themselves are a mixed bag of tricks, and range from simple to frustratingly hard. This is where Traveller’s Tales let themselves down, and it really affects the game. Generally the puzzles keep to a simple formula; break down some blocks, rebuild the blocks into a new shape, and then use the new shape to solve the puzzle. There are some variations to this, usually involving finding specific items to allow access to certain characters or other areas.

On occasions the game literally guides you to where you need to go with a little blue path. I understand this game may be directed at a younger audience but that, however, doesn’t correspond with the totally batshit crazy puzzles you come across at times, especially in Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End, which abandon all logical direction and pretty much require that you magic up a solution. The blue shiny path is then gone, along with the arrows and helpful little icons that littered the screen before. I was stuck on one puzzle for over half an hour, because I didn’t realise I had to ride a goat to the other side of a chain to pull half a ship out of some sand. All of that, just so some crabs could come pick it up!

My frustrations with the game didn’t end with some of the puzzles either; the camera in its infinite wisdom got stuck in some really odd places. I use the term “stuck” because Traveller’s Tales don’t trust the player to move the damn thing themselves, so if it gets glued to a corner it stays there like a banished child, which would be fine except that I ended up not seeing what I was doing or where I was. This was a particular problem on some of the ship levels, where there is a small requirement to have solid deck, and not water, beneath your feet lest you sacrifice a lot of the precious treasure (sorry, I mean studs) that you’ve been collecting.  The camera problems certainly don’t help with another issue: the computer AI.

Having a large party of characters is immeasurably fun, especially in a universe as full and rich as Pirates of the Caribbean. However… the computer AI must have some serious emotional issues, or be some sort of touch-happy deviant, as it literally kept walking into me and pushing me off of ledges, into water, and down stairs. You name it, and that smug twat Will Turner has probably killed me doing it in the course of the game. I can only assume that the AI wanted somebody to hug it, due to its constant need to walk straight into the side of me. This gets highly irritating on some of the platforming sections. The AI also doesn’t do itself any great favours by getting stuck behind objects that are indestructible. I was lucky enough not to need the characters that got stuck when it came to progressing to the next area, but had I done so,  I’m not sure how I would have proceeded.

Despite the inclusion of some barmy puzzles, you probably won’t notice them with the game’s lush visuals and cracking soundtrack. This is the best looking LEGO game so far; I personally thought that the most attractive levels were the ones when it was raining. The thunderstorms looked awesome, and really made you feel like you were actually in rough waters when on some of the ships, and the ships themselves are equally impressive, full of fine graphic touches, especially when it came to Davy Jones’ ‘The Flying Dutchman’. The soundtrack has been lifted straight from the films, which is something I’m glad about as it wouldn’t be Pirates of the Caribbean without the music. With the clashing of swords, cannons exploding, and LEGO parts flying, it really adds to the atmosphere.

All in all, playing through the four stories only took around ten hours to finish, which really isn’t very long at all. However, even though I went out of my way to find as much as I could with the characters I had, I’d only managed around 42% of the game’s overall completion. The replay potential for this game is huge, as there is literally so much to find. Apart from the collection of studs to unlock various cheats and hidden extras, you have the secret red bricks and ten pieces of mini-kit to find which allow you to build various ships. With a central hub to explore, you’re probably looking at another ten to fifteen hours at least, and that’s without even playing the co-op mode.

Co-op is the only other spot where Traveller’s Tales deserve to be hung, drawn and quartered. There is no online support for this game! This style of game is simply begging for it. There’s plenty to unlock, it’s easy to play, and most importantly – it’s a ton of fun. In the current age of online connectivity they really are missing out on a wealth of potential gameplay options here, and it’s simply unforgivable.

  • Fans of the film should love it.
  • Graphics and sound are simply awesome.
  • Simple fun for people of any age.
  • Tonnes of replay value.
  • Frustratingly obtuse puzzles.
  • Dodgy friendly AI.
  • Total lack of online support.

LEGO: Pirates of the Caribbean is an enjoyable game, and certainly one that I'd recommend to anyone who loves the films or other LEGO titles. All your favourite characters are perfectly recreated and, despite some slight tweaking of the story, you are likely to enjoy it. Some of the puzzles are frustrating, and the lack of online features appears really archaic. But, at the end of it all, I was having enough fun that I could overlook these problems and still have a swashbuckling good time.

Last five articles by Chris



  1. Ric Ric says:

    I stopped playing the LEGO games after Star Wars: Complete Saga. I didn’t like the shift of focus from stupid fights to stupid puzzles, and it sounds like some of the puzzles in this one are even more annoying than the ones in the earlier games.

    Brilliant review though! :D

  2. Edward Edward says:

    I have both Star Wars games, but other than that I simply can’t afford to lose more of my life to Lego games. They just sap me too much, and I have other stuff to play!
    Great first review, Chris! Informative and quite hilarious at points :)

  3. Mark Mark_S says:

    Great review mate. I’ve not played a LEGO game since the second star wars title, but its good to see Telltale are still producing quality games, even if the IP is a bit rubbish :P

    Bring on LEGO Star Trek I say!

    Good job Chris.

  4. I do really want to play this but a friend has lent me Lego Batman and Lego games are so similar that playing them too close together can be detrimental to their enjoyment. There’s still 1 more due this year isn’t there? I vote they do Lego X-Men and maybe… ermmm… Lego Girl With The Dragon Tattoo?

  5. Adam Adam says:

    I loved the Lego Star Wars games, sank thirty hours easily into TGS and still didn’t quite hit 100%. I’ve been playing the HP 1-4 Lego game with a friend but since Star Wars, I’ve just stayed away from them.

    I want to play them is the strange thing it’s just that I want to do it with a friend. None of the games since Star Wars has supported this save for local co-op though and thats what has killed the franchise for me. I’d love to play Batman, Indy, Clone Wars and this but there seems to be something incredibly lazy on the part of Telltale at not having worked in a suitable netcode for it that gives them the parental control they want that they think they need for it.

    Still, a cracking review bud and maybe one day all my friends will die and I’ll just give in and play it :)

  6. Samuel Samuel says:

    I played LEGO Star Wars I and II, and Batman and Indiana Jones, but I’ve more or less given up on further ones. They seem to be getting progressively more frustrating and contrived with the puzzles, and the basic gameplay is identical and repetitive. They just stopped being fun for me. Though I might be tempted if they ever made a LEGO Star Trek or James Bond.

    I suppose if I liked Pirates of the Caribbean (I don’t), I might be more willing to overlook the childish slapstick “humour” and the dodgy logic of the puzzles, but alas. Still, at least you enjoyed it Toffer, and your write up of the game was a good read.

  7. Chris Toffer says:

    Cheers for the support guys. Very much appreciated. I wanted to review this capturing the nature of Lego games and mixing it with some Gaming Lives style. I think I managed that :D

  8. Edward Edward says:

    @Mark_S Travellers Tales do Lego games, Telltale do Sam and Max, BTTF, Jurassic Park etc. Simple mistake to make :)

  9. SimonJK says:

    Great review. I loved the both strains of the Lego series – Lucas Arts supported and non- LA supported, (yes they do seem to differ). I’ve played all of them and so far am only 1 achvmt short and thats the DeathStar 2 without dieing one:(
    Anywho, this edition does seem to address one issue that has plagued all of them so far, the rest of the team can and does actually support you in combat and kill any attackers. BUT I found 1 fault in the achvmts/tropheys and that was ***** whipping William Turner five times, they used the wrong character. So insaying that if thats the only fault I could find, then it’s a must buy for Lego fans.

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