Forget 2004's Xbox version of Pirates of the Caribbean, which had about as much to do with the blockbuster movie as the eponymous Disney ride -- Legend of Jack Sparrow is the genuine article. Players will get to paint on the black eyeliner of Captain Jack himself, a rollicking, half-grogged Jack who is one stiff breeze away from falling face-first in the dirt. Both the charismatic Jack Sparrow and stiff-as-a-plank Will Turner are playable as a two-man team through 24 hack-and-slash levels that revisit many of the first film's memorable scenes.
The action offers few surprises to those well versed in the genre. The object is simply to attack groups of enemies on your way to the level's exit or a boss fight. Along the way are a few simplistic mini-games that may involve cranking levers by waggling the analog stick or prying open doors by tapping certain button combinations. While players have the ability to switch between characters at any time, there's little incentive to do so. Both possess the same basic moves and only have two special techniques. Turner can heave hatchets and perform a blade barrage, while Sparrow tosses "grog bombs" and can set his cutlass ablaze.
As in many other hack-and-slash titles, players can break open objects and collect coins to purchase enhanced combos for each character. Yet the AI has difficulty keeping up with even the mundane moves, so players can sail through many of the levels relying on a single button press. Though you have seen and done everything this game has to offer many times before, you won't dwell on this sad fact until the final stage is plundered. The variety of locales, fast-paced tempo, and the appeal of Johnny Depp's character are big pluses in otherwise ordinary adventure, one that falls somewhere in between "thar she blows" and "shiver me timbers" on the pirate entertainment scale.
Graphics: The character models look just like their movie counterparts, and Jack Sparrow has Johnny Depp's trademark swagger. Some nice fire effects make Jack's projectile attack fun to use.
Sound: Johnny Depp adds his voice to Captain Jack, but the rest of the cast is handled by professional soundalikes.
Enjoyment: The theme and diverse locales help make up for the uninspired design, but the poor AI makes things too easy. Sparrow, Turner, and Swann (in certain sequences) don't have enough diverse moves.
Replay Value: Players can revisit completed stages to find a hidden treasure map piece, which will unlock extras. Cooperative play is also supported.
When it comes to movie licenses, Disney knows how to milk them for all they are worth. From various animated releases to the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film, every year we are bombarded with one disappointing adventure after another. The latest PSP offering, Dead Man's Chest, left a lot to be desired and quite frankly put a sour taste in my mouth. So it is with some degree of trepidation that I venture into the ocean blue of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow.
Oddly enough, even though this game is coming out so close to the release of the Pirates sequel, it actually has nothing to do with it. If you think about The Legend of Jack Sparrow as a spin-off then you'd be kind of on the right track. Through the silver-tongued finesse of Sparrow we experience past "events" in his life. I say "events" because we all know how much this bloke loves to craft lies to make himself look better. Depp even signed on to the project to lend some weight to this release, but unfortunately the personality and charm that we have come to expect is essentially absent.
It's a shame really. The PSP's Dead Man's Chest and now The Legend of Jack Sparrow do absolutely nothing good for the Pirates of the Caribbean license. Because I loved the franchise I was desperately hoping for something above mediocrity, but what I experienced was its very definition.
The premise is simple really: run around some islands as Jack Sparrow or Will Turner and beat up other pirates for treasure. Things get even better (on paper) once you toss in the fact that there is a co-op mode and an upgrade system for special moves. Actually experiencing the game, however, is a totally different story.
Right from the get-go the generic nature of the gameplay is omnipresent. Don't get me wrong, the right pieces are in place, but due to the way they were executed you can't praise them. The combat is easily the biggest (and most boring) offender. As your character of choice you'll find around the map and use one of two attack buttons to string together combos and cause some damage. The only problem here is that there is no finesse to the system. It is, at its core, a straight-forward button masher and it never truly evolves beyond that point from start to finish.
Sure some subtle systems are thrown in like the ability to use obstacles in your environment to your benefit and blocking. The funny thing is that each of these elements pales in comparison to just bashing the hell out of your controller; or keyboard/mouse respectively. It doesn't matter how you go about it or who you're fighting, except maybe some bosses, the combat requires the precision of a pirate monkey who has had too much rum. I suppose it also doesn't help matters that your opponents do little more than run at you blindly. Somebody should have told these swashbucklers that strength in numbers (or stupidity) doesn't necessarily equal difficulty. Sometimes they'll even glitch and get stuck on crates or absolutely nothing at all. Sadly this happens with your co-op AI partner as well.
Now that you've become accustomed to pounding on your controller there are a couple other things to tinker with. Like Dead Man's Chest, The Legend of Jack Sparrow offers puzzles to impede your progress, but they too could be solved by the drunken monkey. By following plain as day icons and pressing the appropriate button when you are asked to, you'll find yourself opening closed doors and turning stiff cranks. That's probably the single bullet from the flint-lock that does this game in; its linearity.
As I had previously mentioned you can swap between characters on the fly or play with co-op. The sad part is that no matter who you play as, be it Will, Jack, or even Elizabeth, they basically control the same. The limited upgrade system doesn't do anything to add to the depth of the game either and a distinct lack of customization winds up disappointing.
From start to finish you'll feel like you are being guided through this game. There truly is no room for error or exploration and that's really a shame. Compared to other titles of similar caliber that offer more to do, The Legend of Jack Sparrow comes up mighty short. Younger fans of the movie franchise may get a kick out of the action affair but anybody accustomed to better polished and executed games will find wading through this one a chore.
The likeliness of the characters in this game matches their film counterparts almost perfectly. Many of the environments are varied enough as well so even if the gameplay gets dull at least your surroundings usually don't. Gritty textures await you, for better or worse. The dirt fits in with the overall atmosphere of the Pirates universe, but in this package it comes across as an attribute of poor resolution and lack of polish. Animation is another buggy area as well since at many points the game foregoes several movements before achieving the desired results.
With Johnny Depp providing the voice acting for Jack Sparrow this game gains a certain amount of credibility. Unfortunately he's the only actor that signed on for this project, even though the voice actors for Turner and Swan do a semi-decent job. The soundtrack is pulled straight from the movies and is as great as you'd expect. Sound effects also help flesh out the pirate atmosphere.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow is a game that wants to be loved by fans of the movies. The atmosphere is rich enough, Depp is as good as ever, and the concept of an action game involving Sparrow and Turner was enough to catch my eye. Unfortunately the action is practically brain-dead, the puzzles are glaringly obvious, and several things speak volumes about a game lacking polish. Casual gamers who are fans of the films will get the most out of this but just keep in mind there are better crafted games on the market.
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