The wrong kind of booty.
Disneyland is the "Most Magical Place On Earth" - or so the guidebooks tell me. And when you're a kid, Disneyland certainly feels like one big fantasy. But once you get older, a little something is lost. That's why you should try to spice things up the next time you go. I bear no legal responsibility should you attempt to recreate any of the following experiences:
- Ride Star Tours without seatbelts. Just buckle them in behind you and hold on!
- Watch the Electic Light Parade in the middle of an electrical storm.
- Try to get the costumed people to break down and admit that they hate their jobs.
Another surefire way to turn Uncle Walt over in his grave is Pirates of the Caribbean, released for both the PC and the Xbox. It can be fun pirating it up, but scores of bugs ultimately send it to Davey Jones' locker.
While Pirates of the Caribbean may share the same name as the recently released movie and original ride, it doesn't really have anything to do with either. It was actually originally supposed to be Sea Dogs II, but then someone figured they'd slap a new title on it to theoretically capitalize on the film. There are some regular pirates and some zombie pirates, but none of the swashbucklers from the big screen. Instead, you get the boring story of Nathaniel Hawk, a captain during a time of political discontent.
Pirates of the Caribbean is brought to us by Bethesda, makers of the fantastic The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Morrowind and Pirates share the same open-ended design philosophy, featuring enormous playpen environments to adventure through on both land and sea. Unfortunately, Pirates suffers from serious control and bug issues that loot most of the fun out of the game.
For instance, the control interface is altogether confusing regardless of whether you are on the PC or the Xbox. The Xbox controls are a bit tighter, but are still needlessly clunky. Two buttons must be pushed to handle the work of one button; it becomes an acquired skill, but it's never really second nature. The PC version is just as obtuse, with your left hand flying across the keyboard just to fulfill simple commands, while your right hand is weakly fumbling with the limited mouse controls.
With either system, the swordplay is stiff and unsatisfying. You just swing your sword, block and hop backwards as little statistical damage numbers fly from a villain's head. How I miss the smooth and natural lock-on of a Zelda battle in comparison to this mash and dash.
The sea battles are much more rewarding, as you lob cannonballs at distant ships and assess the damage from your sight glass. In order to successfully aim, you must compensate for wind and enemy movement. This part of the game feels the most piratey; you can even board an enemy's ship, but then it's back to the crummy swordplay.
As you progress, you are awarded skill points to boost the different abilities of your character. Besides boosting stats and purchasing improved weaponry, it is also wise to flex your character's cash flow. There is a pseudo-economy of static prices from island to island. In order to maximize revenue, you must play the trade market, buying low and selling high, sort of like the old classic Taipan.
Pirates of the Caribbean is a study in inconsistent graphics. For every beautiful horizon as the sun kisses the surface of the water on a seafaring voyage, there's a harsh storm of hit detection problems as hands punch through heads. The PC version has a relatively steady framerate, but the Xbox stutters like a toothless landlubber.
Likewise, there are some high quality melodies set next to some of the most generic muzak ever. Most of the characters only have an opening sound bite before you scroll through text. While the world of Pirates of the Caribbean is huge and expansive, it's not immersive at all.
Imagine going to Disneyland, but instead of being surrounded by smiling families and joyful kids, everybody was one of those robot Abraham Lincolns. There are still many places to go throughout the park, but it's all somnambulistic rather than supercalifragilistic.
Now imagine that all the Abraham Lincolns are on the fritz and your hands are tied behind your back, and you will begin to understand what it's like dealing with Pirates of the Caribbean's awful bugs and control issues. Reportedly, there are bugs as hardcore as corrupted save games and quests that cannot be completed. Most of all, there's just a pervasive feeling of instability that mars the whole thing.
This is quite a shame, because you get the feeling that if they took more time and care here, we could have had one of the best pirate games ever. Instead, this is a cool game hiding underneath scads of bugs, control problems and weak swordfighting, leading to not a cool game whatsoever. If you're dying to be a pirate, dig up one of the Monkey Islands. And if it just be adventure ye be after, than you're much better off with Morrowind. Or just spend that money on a ticket to Disneyland.