Dead men tell no tales.
Well, it’s official – the Pirates of the Caribbean movies have been so successful, they’re about to be incorporated back into the Disney ride that inspired them. That’s right, the ride is being remodeled to include Jack Sparrow and Barbosa in classic Disney animatronic robot form. But before you hurl that keg of flaming rum at Mickey, think about this – could there really anything cooler than a robot pirate? If I could choose just one robot to short circuit and go on a rampage, that would be the one (other than Yul Brynner, that is.)
[image1]Far less cool is the PSP’s version of a robot pirate, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, yet another movie turned into yet another uninspired, linear beat ‘em up. Taking control of Captain Jack, you hack and slash your way through countless enemy pirates, hundreds of tribal cannibals, tons of skeleton pirates, and then a whole bunch of other pirates. After six or seven hours, you’ll be fresh out of pirates to stab and game to play, ending this fruitless treasure quest just in time.
The limited story exposition will lead you to believe that all this swashbucklery occurs in order to loosely follow the events of the film. Don’t worry about too many spoilers, though, because if you haven’t seen the film, the game’s plot won’t make a lick of sense. The only other thing that might slow down your stab-a-thon is the occasional need to pull a lever, swing on a rope, or move a powder keg to blow something up.
At least you can’t just button-mash your way through like you could in the PS2 stinker, The Legend of Jack Sparrow. The combat system both looks and plays better, with a heavy slow strike, a weaker fast strike, and an “I’m a cheating pirate” move involving a kick to the groin. Different enemies require different button combinations to defeat, which is great until you figure out that there are only three enemy types in the whole game, making the combat far less interesting and more of a monotonous chore. It’s too bad, because the system could have had some potential with a little more development.
[image2]And while the sword-fighting looks good with characters exchanging blows and parrying, the rest of the game is less visually impressive. Jack himself obviously got most of the designers’ love, looking a fair share better than his opponents. Also, his drunken gait is cartoonishly exaggerated to the point where he sometimes does a floating dance across the ground, an accidental jig. There is a bit of slowdown here and there, but for the most part, the framerate keeps pace with the game.
The sound is a bit more upbeat with the great movie soundtrack and a decent Johnny Depp impersonator reprising the role with obvious gusto. I do find it odd, however, that Bethesda managed to get the real Mr. Depp for their title, while this game, which is actually published by Disney/Buena Vista, had to find another actor.
Perhaps the worst part about this drunken buccaneer is that when you get to the end, you’re not at the end. To fight the game’s final boss, the Kraken, you need to collect map pieces hidden throughout the levels, which in turn unlock arenas where you fight (yes, you guessed it, more pirates) in order to earn a couple super moves and pieces of the Kraken statue. Only with all the pieces of the Kraken statue can you get to the last level. So you have to go back and scour the old levels for missing map pieces. On which levels did you miss one? You don’t know.
Provided you’re bored enough to go through this ordeal and beat the Kraken, there’s not much else to do. You’ve already replayed all the levels because of those damn map pieces, which leaves you with the multiplayer, oddly enough the best part of Dead Man’s Chest.
[image3]Gone are the pirates. Gone are the swords. The multiplayer game is instead an Ad-Hoc four-player ship battle which is addictively fun. It plays a lot like the ship combat in Sid Meier’s Pirates – turn your sails, run before the wind, load grape, chain, or cannonballs, get your opponent broadside and fire the cannons. You can also use the gold you capture in battle to buy ship upgrades. With four game modes here, it provides some good fun, and best of all, you can play with four players using only one copy of the game; any missing player is controlled instead by the CPU. Nice.
Unfortunately, it’s too little, too late. A cool multiplayer can’t make up for the rest of this totally uninspired, cookie-cutter rush job masquerading as a pirate adventure. Alone, this pirate is a dud. But find some fellow captains and a few pints o’ Jack’s rum, and you’ve got yourself a parrrty, mate.