LEGO videogames are hard to fault because they're so disarmingly unpretentious. Some follow-ups promise the world on a platter with controller attached; besides goofy dialogue-free respins of iconic (or at least well-marketed) cinematic moments, the most LEGO sequels ever offer is more bricks.
Bricks that burst into polychromatic heaps of studs, LEGO's smallest unit of currency. Bricks that hop up and down invitingly, begging to be assembled into a door, a rowboat, a cannon. Coy silver bricks that won't put out for anything short of a fistful of dynamite, and rare gold bricks that lurk in weedy caverns or atop palm trees.
The Pirates of the Caribbean films suit this hyper-collectionist formula well - if there's one thing pirates appreciate it's booty, booty by the barrel-load. Scattered across the latest LEGO title's 20 levels (five per film, including Jack Sparrow's fourth jaunt On Stranger Tides) are more lurid, angular trinkets than you could shake a Jolly Roger at.
The film's marvellously over-designed sets - the cannibal's isle of Pelegosto, the brig of the Black Pearl and fair London town among them - also give Traveller's Tales' undersung graphics engine a chance to strut its stuff. Colours blaze and seep in the humid atmosphere as your posse goes about the timeless corsair business of bashing stuff up.
Pirates and LEGO don't gel so well in other ways. Fixed camera angles have always made LEGO's platforming a thorny affair - couple these with environments criss-crossed by vertiginous ship rigging, and you've got a recipe for fist-through-television. The one-button melee combat still zings thanks to some gratifying choreography, but the flintlock gunnery's a touch unwieldy.
Where the last LEGO Star Wars introduced new multiplayer battle levels to mixed effect, LEGO Pirates defaults to the franchise's time-honoured drop-in co-op. Characters, including several flavours of Sparrow, a night-gowned Elizabeth Swann and new nemesis Blackbeard, can now be swapped out mid-mission once unlocked.
There's also Jack's magic compass, guiding your footsteps towards buried objectives "X marks the spot" style, lending a bit more focus to the levels. Traveller's Tales could use a magic compass, we suspect - there's a definite sense of diminishing returns here, a worry that for all the franchise's simple amusements and dumbshow gags, LEGO is sailing close to the rocks.
A change in the wind for the popular series
- Same old LEGO
- A sight for salty eyes
- Piratical production values
- Fourth film titbits
- Same old LEGO
- Platforming takes a tumble