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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

For: DS   Also on: Mobile, PSP


Product: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End | Developer: Griptonite Games | Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios | Format: DS | Genre: Action, Adventure, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-4 | Version: Europe
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End DS, thumbnail 1
How ironic. Pirates originally designed their cut-throat flags to strike fear into the hearts of commercial traders. Now, however, the skull and crossbones has become a symbol beloved of those very traders thanks to the full-on merchandising power of Depp, Knightley, Bloom and the whole Pirates of the Caribbean pantomime.

At least in the case of the DS version of the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie that's no bad thing. It's really rather good you see, and effortlessly a cut above most of the licensed film-game fare that's forced to walk the plank.

As was the case with last year's Dead's Mans Chest DS game, it's all down to the sterling work of developer Amaze. Once again, it's come up with a game that captures the hi-jinxs of the big screen while providing a measured and entertaining platforming adventure.

Indeed, one of the most remarkable aspects about At World's End is that it never feels like you're playing a constrained platformer. Not only are there some clever touchscreen mini-games, but the 3D graphics and in-game music and audio are impressive and it's also beautifully structured.

Admittedly, much like Jack Sparrow you sometimes feel like you're lurching from one scene to another a little uncontrollably, but the action is always fun, breezy and varied.

Your ship, The Black Pearl, provides a central hub for the adventuring, and it's here you learn to duel, swap your character between Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann and Jack Sparrow (Captain Jack takes some time to unlock, mind), view artwork, and play a fun gambling game called Liar's Dice (which is also available as a multiplayer option). The whole presentation here betrays the love and effort that has gone into the entire project.

Getting back to the cut-and-thrust, the main action in the game is a mixture of platforming and button-bashing combat. It's not very original, but there are plenty of subtleties. Alongside standard moves such as jumping and climbing, you can shimmy and swing across gaps, while equipment can be collected to give you even greater mastery over your environments. Such bounty includes a bamboo pole enabling you to leap across chasms, a flaming torch that can be carried to key locations to burn exploding barrels, and a grappling rope capable of getting you to some damnably hard-to-reach places.

The acrobatic animation is first class, and the sense that you're perilously launching yourself from pillar to post like Burt Lancaster at his swashbuckling best is well realised. Whether you're swinging from the high rigging of wrecked ships or exploring the otherworldly depths of Davy Jones' locker, there's a pace and energy about At World's End that keeps you plummeting headlong toward its conclusion.

Save points are beautifully judged, the combat is enthusiastic, if sometime a bit repetitive, and all the mini touch-screen games – such as a challenge that has you picking locks by drawing your stylus though a tumbler – are simple yet effective at adding texture to the piratical adventuring, especially for younger players.

The only exception to this general sense of exuberance are the touchscreen duelling boss fights. The idea is nice: instead of pressing buttons to slash right, left, up and down with your sword, you have to draw lines in the appropriate direction with your stylus. The pace is rather stilted though as the game takes some time to recognise your move and then trigger the in-game animation, which means it's best to wait for your opponent to make their move and then counter it. The result becomes a turn-based version of rock-paper-scissors that can sometimes drag on too long for comfort.

Bosses aside, the combat engine is engaging. Sure, at its most basic level it consists of an attack, a block and a kick, but some of the more canny ghostly opponents require serious pummelling. An amusing sneak attack and several powerful special weapons such as flash bombs and poisoned daggers also add pleasing variation, while certain enemies let out a noxious gas on expiry. Others even drop bombs capable of dealing you fatal damage just when you think the danger has passed. It's this kind of nuanced detail that gives At World's End additional savvy, elevating it above your typical wishy-washy licensed product.

Unlike victorious pirates who've captured a hold full of grog, we don't want to get too carried away. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End isn't perfect by any means, and finishing it doesn't require anything like the same level of mastery as the likes of say, New Super Mario Bros. It is one of the best movie-licensed games on DS, however, and will effortlessly fill 10 hours of your time with effervescent and smart game design. Prepare to have your timbers well and truly shivered.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Reviewer photo
Mark Walbank | 30 May 2007
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is a superb action platform adventure that captures the exuberance of the film brilliantly
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