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Flawed Co-Op Mode Diminishes Gameplay Experience
on May 31, 2011
I have no complaints about Lego Pirates of the Caribbean from a single player standpoint. The gameplay is great, the entertainment value is high, and the game's extensive extras makes for really high replay value. If playing on your own, this game is a great installment to the Lego video game series. BUT...
For myself and those I know who buy the Lego video games, the real draw is the multiplayer co-op mode. The Lego games have all stood up pretty well as single player games, but playing a game like this with someone who grew up with Legos and who also knows the source material adds so much more depth and fun to the experience.
Lego Harry Potter took the mutliplayer mode of these games and really flipped it on its head (in a good way) by going from the static screens of the previous Lego installments to what I like to call the "evolving split-screen." For those unfamiliar with this new type of split screen, the game allows both players to be on one screen when they are close together. As they separate, the screen splits, allowing for free exploration by both players where previous Lego installments forced the players to be somewhat tethered to one another.
This "evolving split screen" was implemented quite well in the Harry Potter installment of the Lego games. But this same feature exhibits huge flaws in the Pirates game. No small number of stages take place on or in confined spaces (pirate ships). The "evolving split screen" goes haywire in some cases, and in some instances where one player accidentally drops down a hole or climbs a set of stairs in an already confined environment, the split screen barely knows what to do. In some cases, it flips the screen so quickly and severely that it made me and the person I was playing with become dizzy.
When you finally make it out to a more open area, this issue resolves and gameplay returns to a satisfying norm.
One other flaw that has made the game less enjoyable than it could have been are the massive numbers of characters you seem to collect in a few of the stages. When playing other Lego games, you unlock a few characters here and there and buy all the rest for use in Free Play. In Pirates, though, a huge chunk of characters are unlocked in-game by helping them find or do something. Although this is fine in theory, you can end up collecting more characters than you know what to do with. This wouldn't be a problem except that they follow you around like puppy dogs and have caused more than a few deaths-by-falling when the platform or ledge I needed to reach was unreachable due to a cluster***k of playable characters exercising their drone AI.
Bottom Line: The game is great as a solo experience but what normally made the Lego games shine so brightly (co-op multiplayer) has pushed this game to the brink of unplayable. Fortunately, the open areas are frequent enough to give you a break from the head-turning, stomach-churning flaw of the "evolving split screen" in confined spaces. Solo grade: B+ Multiplayer grade: C-