Reviewed: August 3, 2007
Released: June 25, 2007
The immense popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy of movies has surprised many a moviegoer over these past few years. Most people expected very little from Disney’s high seas tale, fabricated to capitalize on a 40 year old animatronic amusement park attraction. No surprise that people were flip, as Disney had previously attempted to put a story to their Haunted Mansion attraction, and that proved to be a flop.
But the Pirates movies, starring the swaggering Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), handsome Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), and gorgeous Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley) quickly became a box office smash. Naturally, sequels ensued – as well as video game adaptations.
While Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End might be the final movie in the theatrical trilogy, the video game adaptations is only the second title to hit the shelves. It appears that the one-two punch of the big-screen releases of Dead Man’s Chest, and At World’s End, did not afford the game makers (Disney Interactive and Eurocom) enough time to make two separate games. As such, At World’s End actually bridges material from both movies, serving as a bit of a hybrid of the two.
When you have subject material that involves the high seas adventure of a band of ghost pirates searching for lost treasure, you would expect high-action swashbuckling swordplay and adventure. And for the most part, that is what Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End delivers – pure, on-rails hack-and-slash action. But instead of simply mashing buttons like most consoles would afford, the Wii’s motion sensing controllers allow gamers to literally hack-and-slash their way around their gaming rooms – frantically waving both arms as their onscreen characters react to each motion.
Over the course of the single player game, gamers get to take on the controls of Jack, Will, Elizabeth, and Barbossa – and learn their character-specific combat moves and movements, as they plot the course through the storyline bridging Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Sadly, there is very little actual adventure to be found – at least in terms of adventure gaming, where gamers would need to solve a series of puzzles in order to progress. Pirates sticks to a strict point-to-point progression, where gamers simply have to hack and slash through waves of oncoming foes with a few bosses thrown in for good measure.
Do not get me wrong, I am not complaining – Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is one of the most enjoyable hackers to come out in years. Not so much for the gameplay itself, but for the immensely entertaining (and exhausting) interactive Wii controls – which might not be spot-on perfect, but definitely supply a fun upper-body workout.
Movement is controlled with the nunchuk analog stick, action and blocking with the shoulder bumpers. The Wii-mote plays the role of surrogate weapon, with the motion sensing abilities tailored to recognize slashes and thrusts, and chaining together combos of movements to build a series of uber-attacks.
To be completely honest, even after having finished the game I would have a hard time performing any super move with precision – the wild flailing that ensues during gameplay lacks the precision of even a standard console button masher. But really all that is needed is to understand the timing of when to block, when to slash, and when to consume the health packs (the mysterious roasted chickens of the classic Double Dragon series make their return) on the fly. Once all of these issues has been mastered, the game is a walk in the park. There are a few instances where a particular boss will require a particular move to defeat him (or her), but the game usually does a good job of interpolating the correct moves for each situations.
On the downside, there are a few instances where the goals are a bit unclear – especially with regard to timed goals, where the game might not emphasize that there is a clock involved. In one such situation, Jack is tasked with fending off attackers while the Pirates prepare the ship for launch. I probably spend twenty minutes fighting off spawning attackers before realizing that the wave was not going to end – and when I ran to the boat, it was gone. It would be nice if the game actually told me that I was on a clock before I wrecked my arms whacking and slashing for a half hour.
There were a few spots where the game seemed to drop the ball with respect to cohesiveness and would let events occur out of order due to character proximity. For instance, one situation requires jack to lash explosive to the support beams of a platform, run a trail of gunpowder to the explosives (like a fuse), and then light the gunpowder using a spark from his trusty sword. Somehow, my Jack was able to complete the task by first sparking the sword, then laying the explosives, and finally running the fuse. I know it really does not have much bearing on the final outcome, but it seemed a bit silly when the platform blew up in Jack’s face.
To end on a positive note, the Wii and PS2 versions were made separate from the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions – and it definitely shows. I myself have played the Xbox 360 version of the game, and although the levels are fairly similar, action is actually much more fluid and intuitive on the Wii. And while the Xbox 360 and PS3 owners have been complaining about the fact that all of their enemies take exactly two slashes before turning their backs to Jack as if asking for an execution-style killing, there is none of that silliness to be found in the Wii version of the game.
It appears that developers are stating to understand the inner working of the Wii, and although still a bit rough by modern console standards, While it won’t win any awards, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End looks pretty darn good overall – especially with the 16:9 progressive scan.
The character models really nail their respective characters, and there is a definite difference between Jack’s drunkenly stagger, and Will’s Errol Flynn-like grace. The enemy types are heavily recycled, but that is almost a given in a game like this and do not detract much from the gameplay.
The cutscenes are especially interesting, with the muddy textures and grainy corners giving the characters a bit more creepiness to their already creepy appearances.
The big screen actors do not perform the voiceovers in the game, but the one-off voice actors do a fairly good job of capturing Depp and Bloom. Every now and then the game will get stuck playing the one-liners a few too many times, but overall the game does a good job telling the story.
The musical score is straight from the movies, and has the trademark high-seas ambiance. The effects are a bit lackluster, with generic sword clanks, musket and cannon fire, and creaky doors strewn about. Not necessarily bad, but definitely noting to write home about.
Not only does Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End have a full-fledged single player story, it also contains a unique multiplayer component that lets gamers play side-by-side with a friend in a series of challenge modes. While not truly a co-op mode as we would call it (you don’t play through the whole story), the multiplayer pits the gamer and friend against specific scenarios or situations and sets a series of requirements that must be met.
The Wii requires both gamers to have Wii-remotes and nunchuk controllers attached, which might be too pricey an option for some gamers – but for those that already have the hardware, it is hard to beat the wild flailings of two people in a cramped living room.
I really was not expecting to like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as much as I did. It definitely makes the most of the license and delivers a fun game for the Wii. While the controls might not be a perfect as they could be, just the fact that you can swing your arms like a real pirate gives the Wii version a ton more mileage than the button mashing console versions.