We do love the Lego games, but we've got to admit that two new titles in less than two months is taking unfair advantage of our affections. And with Lego Star Wars III still fresh in our minds (and high in the charts) it provides some unflatteringly direct comparisons with a game that fits the Lego movie mould with a far less satisfying click.
Alas we haven't been bribed with any real Lego (ever in fact, despite frequent requests) but it does seem to exist for Pirates of the Caribbean. Most of the sets are based on the new film On Stranger Tides, but although that gets the cover spot for the game as well this splits its content equally between all four films.
While Lego Star Wars III tried to branch out with new styles of play, including an extensive real-time strategy element and specific roles for the two players this is a much more traditional Lego game. We'd say it was back to basics but it goes further than that by stripping out the vehicle levels and other distractions that date back to the first Lego Star Wars back in 2005.
Unlike the early games though the emphasis is on puzzles rather than combat, putting it closest to Lego Harry Potter in terms of gameplay. But this only emphasis one of several reasons why Pirates of the Caribbean is not a good fit for the Lego games template. None of the Pirates films have any particularly lengthy action sequences and so for much of the game there's no one to fight and nothing to do except smash Lego objects and solve the logical-straining puzzles.
Lego Harry Potter suffered from these same problems but at least there the huge cast of recognisable characters and incidents meant you were always waiting for a favourite scene or cameo. In Pirates seemingly half the characters are just the primary cast in different costumes and the rest are minor background characters, many of which we suspect were only given a name for this game.
The cut scenes are still as well orchestrated as ever but unlike the other Lego games Pirates was already an action comedy, so all the pratfalling and other physical comedy seems unnecessary - and in most cases less funny than the original joke.
Lego Star Wars and Harry Potter worked because everyone knows the basic cast and plot, while all the more minor details are equally familiar to fans. The Internet isn't exactly bulging under the weight of fan sites dedicated to At World's End though and for very good reasons.
Even if there is some secret cabal of obsessive fans the game often pays only lip service to the events of the films and fabricates entire levels out of sequences that barely lasted a minute in the movies.
And yet this is a hard game to hate. The sheer destructive joy of wrecking level furniture and the insatiable desire for collecting little Lego studs is worryingly addictive. Even though we've done exactly the same thing in half a dozen games over the years we've still find ourselves wanting to smash that last chest or collect that twinkling silver stud.
That's assuming the game doesn't crash or the collision detection decides to work properly. Or that your computer-controlled ally does what it's supposed. Like all the Lego games this is filled with bugs and glitches (including fury-inducing crash bugs that require the console to be reset), many of them exactly the same ones that have haunted the series for over half a decade now.
No one is really going to miss the vehicle sections but you barely ever get a go on one in a normal level either, with only a few goes on a cannon or telescope breaking up the monotony. Even the unlockable extras in the hub world seem unusually miserly for the series - particularly compared to Lego Star Wars III's excesses.
It's bizarre that not only should two games in the series be released in quick succession, but that one tries its level best to expand the concept (while fitting the Lego template like a glove) while the other features the least innovation of any of the games (and doesn’t really fit the template at all).
We're not sure how much better a Lego Pirates Of The Caribbean game could ever have been but we're certain there must've have been more suitable recipients for the formula.
In Short: The weakest Lego game so far suffers from both a lack of variety and a movie license that fails to build on previous successes.
Pros: Smashing Lego is as fun as it's ever been, especially in co-operative mode. All four movies (unlike the first Lego Indiana Jones) and decent graphics.
Cons: The license really doesn't fit the game very well. Less extras and less variety than other Lego games. Same old bugs and glitches.