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Reviewers should play LEGO: Pirates of the Caribbean as Travelers Tales intended; taking into account that it is designed to be played by two people sharing a sofa.

Douglas Baker, Blogger

May 19, 2011

5 Min Read

Recently my seven year old son got a bad case of poison ivy and had to stay home from school for a couple of days.  In order to take his mind off of his troubles, I purchased a copy of LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean.  We have played this game on and off for the last four days while he has recovered.  LEGO:POTC ranks among the very best of the Lego series.  The team at Travelers Tales have honed their craft, smoothed the plastic corners and squeezed every last drop of fun from the POTC license.  Easily the best-looking LEGO game in recent memory due to the design decision that the game world itself is not made of LEGOS.  The characters and most interactive elements are made of LEGOS, but the rest of the settings are very detailed and textured.
 
My son and I sat on the couch together and explored forts, dungeons and lagoons. We were required to observe, communicate and experiment with switches and levers.  Some of the puzzles were more difficult forcing us to talk out solutions.  I fought off attackers while he would carry a heavy object or build a Lego contraption.  We took turns playing as Jack Sparrow, whose magic compass pointed to hidden treasures and passageways.  We have played most every LEGO series over the years and POTC really stands out in terms of graphics and gameplay.
 
And yet, IGN editor Richard George scores it 7.5 out of 10.  Notice two of his criticisms: (Or one since it’s the same thing twice.)
 
7.0 Gameplay Incredibly addicting but not without some obtuse, frustrating moments. Can I play online, though?
 
6.5 Lasting Appeal
You’ll be collecting things forever. Where’s my online?
 
What part of “forever” doesn’t work with “Lasting Appeal?”  Compare this to IGN editor Greg Miller’s review of LEGO: Harry Potter:

 
9.0 Lasting Appeal
There’s so much to do and unlock here – characters, spells, red bricks, gold bricks. Plan on give or take nine hours to polish off the story and a whole bunch more for 100-percenting it.
 
No LEGO game in history has offered online co-op.  Yet, LEGO: POTC takes a 2.5 point ratings hit because of lack of online play.  It’s inconsistent and it’s an unfair negative bias based solely on one editor’s failure to play the game in the manner for which it was designed.  (i.e. not alone.)
 
(And it is clear that Mr. George did play the game alone, as he refers to poor friendly AI pushing his character off of ledges and his persistent complaints of lack of online play.)
 
It is ridiculous that anyone would try to review a game that is designed for co-op play with children without ACTUALLY playing it co-op with a child.
It’s on par with a film critic who writes a movie review based only on the bottom half of the movie screen.
 
Q:  Didn’t you think The Dark Knight was awesome?
 
A:  I saw the bottom half.  It was just okay.

You’re missing the big picture.  Every possible design choice made in the Lego series points to one factor: these games are meant for two people sitting together in the same room.  And in this unique respect, aside from Nintendo, nobody does it better than Travelers Tales.
 
To complain of a lack of online play for the LEGO series simply tells me that you don’t have children in your life.  To cooperate in an online LEGO game one would require voice chat.  A child’s safety comes first and if there is even a remote chance that a child could accidentally get into the wrong menu and end up in a chat with a random stranger then it’s an option that should be left out of LEGO games permanently.
 
In June 2009, IGN editor Ryan Clements wrote an overwhelmingly positive review for something called BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger.  He scored the game a 9.4 out of 10 and stated in his video review that, “BCT is my dream game.  It was clearly designed just for me”.
 
Maybe it’s due to overexposure to the LEGO formula, but I think that some reviewers are giving lazy and generic 7.5 ratings to LEGO games when they deserve to at least be critiqued against the other LEGO games that have gone before.  Certainly if one IGN editor can post a 9.4 for a game with extremely narrow appeal that was “designed just for me”, a little more love could be given to a hugely popular series of Lego games that have been adored by families for many years.
 
BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger, a 2D fighter based on a franchise most are not familiar with is the very definition of a niche title.  Just because it’s one editors’ particular niche doesn’t mean all gamers should check it out.  And no gamer should avoid LEGO:POTC because another IGN editor didn’t get his way with online support.
 
(Also, Mr. George neglected to mention the wise removal of the annoying, vertical scrolling vehicle levels from LEGO: Star Wars and LEGO: Batman which induced nausea on bigger TV screens.)

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