Reviewed: July 27, 2003
Released: June 19, 2003
I feel obligated to apologize for the delay in this review. Iíve had Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl for almost three weeks now and was holding off on doing the review until I had seen the movie and was able to make any applicable comparisons. My mistake. The only thing this game has in common with the movie is the title and some excellent production values.
The gameplay is loosely based on the characters from the movie but it never attempts to mirror or expand upon the movieís plot. You play as rogue pirate Jack Sparrow, and your mission is to collect enough wealth to lead an attack against the dark captain, the ruthless Captain Barbossa and his band of undead! Fight, cheat and steal your way to greatnessÖif you have what it takes, untold riches are yours for the taking! Sound good? Only in writing.
Pirates of the Caribbean Features:
The Curse of the Black Pearl is listed as an action-adventure hybrid and while there is a bit of action I found the game was more of an adventure with a heavy emphasis on exploration and item collection. Your adventure is split between land and sea and consists of a lot of wandering around picking up scattered booty and completing any objectives given to you at the start of the mission.
Youíll have plenty of opportunities to whip out some cold steel as you fight off English soldiers, pirates and the occasional wild animal. Combat is problematic in that you only have two attacks, a slow powerful attack or a fast weak attack. If this limitation wasnít enough there are seriously collision problems that make it impossible to know when and why you hit or miss. You basically get as close to the enemy as possible and start mashing buttons until you win.
Later in the game you can get a rifle that is useful for long range attacks, but even this weapon has its problems in that you cannot fire it while moving. Perhaps thatís a realistic notion, but it doesnít translate very well into a game.
The levels are large but also quite linear, so you donít have a lot of potential for exploration outside of the confines of the intended design. There are a few movement puzzles and some acrobatic challenges but after 20 levels it all starts to blend together and gets a bit repetitive.
Another part, albeit a much smaller part of the game is the seafaring missions. These are a welcome diversion from the landlubber missions and have you traveling to new areas so you can explore new lands or fighting off waves of pirate ships. Combat isnít any more complex than it was on land. You use the triggers to fire the cannons on either side of the ship and the duration of the button press dictates the distance you fire making for a bit of skill-based combat.
My final complaint is the save system. Even though you can finish this game in 8-10 hours you will probably need to save once or twice during your pirate career. Black Pearl uses a password system that generates a lengthy ďnuclear launch codeĒ that you had better write down or risk starting over.
The graphics are visually stunning, and the graphics engine appears to be similar, if not the same engine used in Pocket Studio's recent Incredible Hulk game. The levels are colorful and well designed and the sea level and ship battles are also excellent.
The cutscenes are gorgeous watercolor style paintings that give the game a comic book flair that is quite unique. There are also nice special effects, subtle animations, and other visual enhancements scattered throughout the game that really make the game pop off your GBA screen.
The music and sound are excellent, both in quality and content. The soundtrack is some good pirate theme music and the sound effects of cannon battles, swordplay and ambient environmental sounds all bring this game to life.
You can hack and slash and sail your way through The Curse of the Black Pearl in about ten hours or less and there is nothing to bring you back for a second pass anytime soon. Itís an enjoyable rental but a hard game to recommend as a permanent addition to your GBA library unless you have friends or siblings you can share it with.
Other than having a painfully long name Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl suffers only from a limited vision in gameplay design and combat mechanics. The production values are all in place and a game couldnít ask for better sounds or graphics, but in this case they are wasted on a simple exploration game with occasional and simplistic combat. Itís worth a look but not a purchase.