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Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

For: PSP   Also on: DS, Mobile

Captain Jack Sparrow fans better have the grog handy

Product: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End | Developer: Eurocom | Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios | Format: PSP | Genre: Action, Adventure, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-4 | Version: Europe
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End PSP, thumbnail 1
It's funny how time alters perception. Pirates, let's remind ourselves, were murdering, raping, pillaging bastards. Hardly the thing you'd expect to form the basis for a Disney ride at one of its theme parks, not to mention three subsequently hugely successful films. On that basis, should we expect a Terrorists of the Middle East ride in hundreds of years' time?

Don't answer, it was meant rhetorically. Besides, we're digressing from the task at hand. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, then, is the game of the third movie, although for the first half of the Story mode's dozen missions it actually reprises events seen in the second film. Savvy?

So, you start off in a prison fortress, float across to the Isla de Pelegostos, visit Port Royal, Tortuga and Isla Cruces in search of Davy Jones' heart, before facing the Kraken. From then on you're into third movie territory, sailing to Singapore and sinking to Davy Jones' Locker, with the odd sea battle thrown in for good measure.

If that sounds like a varied adventure, sorry to have to disappoint you.

True, some of the action takes place in and on some inventive locations, such as the swordfight aboard a makeshift raft on your way out of Pelogostos, and occasionally the game offers interesting little twists.

On the raft, for instance, you're required to both fight off adversaries and free your floating contraption when it gets caught in rocks or branches, while in a later level you're expected to ensure the safety of a drunken pirate lord by cutting down objects to fill treacherous gaps in his path, as well as simultaneously dispatching enemies.

But ultimately, the majority of the game revolves around defeating wave after wave of sword-wielding enemies.

And the problem with this is that the combat itself isn't particularly engaging. At first you'll think otherwise, with encounters involving various opponents seemingly offering a fresh and dynamic system as your competently animated avatar (initially Jack Sparrow but soon alternating between he, Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann, as well as Barbossa) automatically locks on to an adversary, leaving you to concentrate on light and heavy attacks, as well as a grab option. (The camera, too, is automatic and works well, despite some occasionally disorientating moments during drastic changes of perspective.)

Combos incorporating these functions unlock as you progress further into the game, and you soon find yourself following a pattern of relying on the latest offering, dispatching enemy after enemy using the same repetitive button sequence. You do have additional weaponry at your disposal – throwing daggers and a musket come to mind – but as you'll find little opposition until the very last level, you tend to forget to use them.

To counter the inevitable tedium of endless combating, on occasion the scenery also comes into play, with the context-sensitive commands reacting to enable you to kick a baddie over the side of the Black Pearl, for instance. Orchestrating things so that these work when you want them to is unrealistic, however, and more often than not it's mostly a case of luck, which removes a significant amount of satisfaction – the result is welcome, but you can't help feeling you had little to do with it.

Which is also how you'll come to regard the environments. Despite their detail and diversity, aside from the odd barrel or crate to smash up (for health, cash and other item replenishment) in reality your interaction with them is either severely limited or unfulfilling. Or both.

Still, for those prepared to explore the areas that are accessible, a number of sub-missions are available per level, and usually triggered by chatting to the locals. Perhaps of most importance are those offering games of Pirate Dice, Pirate Poker and Davy's Hearts (a card game), if only because although a little on the laborious side, they do at least distract from the otherwise relentless slashing. (These mini-games can also be played outside of Story mode for those that so wish.)

Along the same lines are 'Jackanisms', sequences requiring you to press buttons or perform analogue movements to match those displayed on-screen (similar sequences occur when fighting alongside an ally, resulting in rewarding choreographed combat).

Success sees you gain a tactical advantage in the encounter that inevitably follows, but as the implementation is patchy, with the game too eager to fail your efforts (and you only get one go), this can be a source of some frustration.

Not as much as the sudden death moments that occasionally show up, however, (though at least in these cases restart points tend to be considerate), nor the sound glitches that plague the game throughout; the low health warning is inconsistent and mostly absent, requiring you to keep a constant eye on your character's status, while speech tends to overlap during the (mostly ineffectual) cut-scenes.

Disappointing, too, is the overall poor standard of presentation, with a lack of polish evident throughout and poorly structured loading breaks that entirely remove the little dramatic tension the cut-scenes may have otherwise managed.

Meanwhile, the half-hearted feel to several of the game's inclusions such as the functionless nature of your notoriety score, the cash you collect and many of the unlockable items, as well as the overall structure (your – mostly linear – progress tends to be mapped out by bright yellow markers) and wasted elements (a stealth-requiring sequence is used once, as though its inclusion is purely cynical) do little to endear you to events.

There's nothing terribly wrong with At World's End but, equally, there's little here to recommend. And that's particularly irritating because, initially, there's an undeniable feeling that you're embarking on a great adventure – the game opens impressively and does as decent a job of communicating its potential as it does of subsequently squandering it.

But you'll only find that out through extended play, of course. Another case of time altering perception, then.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Reviewer photo
Joao Diniz Sanches | 12 June 2007
A mostly predictable film licence that has its moments but will inevitably be remembered (or not) for its dreary, repetitive structure, shoddy presentation and palpable lack of ambition
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