sunnuntai 22. toukokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)

GENRE(S): Action / Adventure / Platform
RELEASED: June 2006
DEVELOPER(S): Amaze Entertainment, Griptonite Games (PSP)
PUBLISHER(S): Buena Vista Games

Two sequels to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl were filmed back to back in 2005. Writers Ted Elliott and Teddy Rossio had come up with a huge story arc that just one movie wasn't enough for, and the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise was bound to be extended to at least the length of a trilogy anyway. After an utter waste of time like Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl for the Game Boy Advance, diving head first into Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest wasn't really that much of an appealing thought. However, it has the real Jack Sparrow on the cover, it at least seems to follow the movie's plot to some extent, it kind of looks like Castlevania... what the hell, let's give it a try! ...Just a couple of hours later, I'm not sure what to tell you. It's not a totally bad game when you compare it to some of the worst licensed games out there, but be warned: it is lengthy, and incredibly dull. Those who said that about the movie, you spoke too early.

This is a jar of dirt

Captain Jack Sparrow has a debt he has "forgotten" to pay Davy Jones, the feared captain of the Flying Dutchman. The only way for Jack to escape the looming collection of this ghostly debt is to steal Jones' heart, locked inside the fabled Dead Man's Chest. Meanwhile, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann are faced with a death sentence unless they can trick Sparrow into parting ways with his strange compass and deliver it to the villainous Cutler Beckett.

Pirates of Castlevania.
Unlike its predecessor The Curse of the Black Pearl, which was praised by just about every critic out there, Dead Man's Chest was met with a very mixed response. Some critics found the two and a half hour movie way too lengthy, and the storyline somewhat lackluster. Me? I'm not quite sure, but Dead Man's Chest might be my favourite movie from the original Jack - Will - Elizabeth trilogy. I personally think the whole Davy Jones vs. Jack Sparrow story arc made the actual trilogy, while the first movie was more of a stand-alone masterpiece, kind of like in the case of the original Star Wars trilogy. When it comes to the game, I'm indeed very happy with the fact that it's so different from the first game for the Game Boy Advance, but it does share some of its quirks, and after a fairly strong beginning, it just simply waters itself down. It's so damn dull and repetitive it hurts.

The graphics are pretty mediocre, to tell you the truth. The open sea combat looks quite OK, but the standard 2D adventuring looks somewhat stripped down and cheap. The cutscenes are simply laughable; some parts of the dialogue are direct quotes from the movies, some of them just don't belong, and the still images of the characters are totally random outtakes from the movie. For example, Sparrow and Gibbs having a conversation in the tavern might suddenly cut into the middle of a battle at sea, and then back again. It's ridiculous. It seems the developers wanted to capture certain facial expressions for the cutscenes, it didn't matter which of the movie's scenes they were from. What a horrible call. The portraits during in-game dialogue look weird. Gibbs looks really thin and Jack looks like he has a misplaced jaw. The music's great, though. Ian Stocker, who worked on the Lego Star Wars games, among others, delivers a good soundtrack in the true spirit of Pirates of the Caribbean, which separates the game even further from the piece of unbelonging Filmation trash the first game was.

The game is a non-linear action-adventure, in which you control three characters - first just Jack, but later, Will and Elizabeth - on a journey across several islands of the Caribbean. Venturing on some certain islands continues the storyline, whether you want it or not; once you've entered a level that takes the story further, you cannot leave the whole island before fully completing it. There's never a clear indication where you should go to make progress in the story. "Sidequests" almost fully consist of going on a hunt for treasure, as well as legendary treasure, which result in tons of EXP. You can simply find treasures here and there on your way, but most of them are found by paying a few gold coins to town gossips around the Caribbean. As you level up, you essentially gain new combos for battle. Your attributes are almost fully managed by different equipment you can buy from shipyards, along with upgrades for your ship.

My food and drink meters are telling me
I'm screwed.
The standard gameplay style of Dead Man's Chest reminds me of a poor man's Metroidvania game. The main difference is that there are no essential hidden items in this game that you simply wouldn't do without, only regular power-ups and maybe some treasure. Your only true goal is to beat every 2D level in this game, and there are a LOT of them. The background art is different on each island, but the levels themselves are repetitive like crazy, the ones essential to the storyline just become harder to navigate towards the end. The combat is somewhat clumsy, the characters easily get stuck due to their own flashy combos and you have no way of deflecting or otherwise blocking projectiles. You have several projectiles to use as well as secondary weapons, but they come in very limited quantities and most of the ones that have some use, have a very weird range and trajectory.

That's just one half of the game, the second half consists of an advanced incarnation of the open sea combat from the previous game. It's even closer to ripping off The Curse of Monkey Island, but there's a very frustrating twist. You need to keep your crew in balance with abundances of food and drinks, or else there'll be a mutiny. Not only is it frustrating to spend your hard earned gold on beverages instead of some new equipment for the characters and your ship, it's also a very constant peeve as your food storage seems to deplete to zero in a matter of a few minutes, and the lesser you have, the harder your ship is to control - at times it even comes to a complete halt, which makes it impossible for you to alternatively target another ship in hopes of forcing your way onboard and ransacking their storage. You are forced to spend way too much valuable time on keeping your crew happy by either paying your ass sore for food and grog in the shipyards or fighting your way through identical ships and crews over and over again, from the beginning to the much anticipated end of the game.

Gotta love this guy.
A shorter length would do this game some good. The islands consist of several levels each, and the game just never gets any more challenging or diverse. It's not quite as boring as its very different predecessor, but after a few hours of scavenging nearly identical islands and running through a million British soldiers with your cutlass, suffering a few mutinies and returning for seconds to some choice locations just to raise the money for some ultra-expensive, but highly mandatory equipment, you'll be begging for an end. Of course, if you're lucky, you'll find the correct spots for the storyline to go on right away, and you'll be done a tad quicker than the average player. Like I said, the game begins rather strong, but it doesn't take long for it to fall into a serious need of change.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is a playable game, and definitely a thousand digital miles ahead of its predecessor, but it's still just not a very exciting or interesting experience. It has many good things going for it on paper, such as character development via EXP and equipment, but the developers obviously weren't quite on mark when it came to how to capitalize on its artificial qualities and the more interesting elements of its gameplay. The food/drink system, on the other hand, was a bad idea that should've been crossed out at an early stage of development.

SOUND : 8.7


GameRankings: 63.54% (DS), 74.30% (GBA), 52.71% (PSP)

The waterwheel sequence is exclusive to the Game Boy Advance version.

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