GBA Review - 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl'

by Justin on Aug. 15, 2003 @ 12:18 a.m. PDT

It's mutiny on the high seas as you steal, barter and pillage your way to riches in the video game that accompanies Disney's major live action film for Summer 2003. Search for treasure as you defend your pirating skills with cannons, artillery and swords in an all out battle for the ultimate in pirate booty!

Genre: Action
Publisher: TDK Mediactive
Developer: Pocket Studios
Release Date: July 1, 2003

Buy 'PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN': Xbox | PC | Game Boy Advance

Disney struck gold with their hot summer flick, Pirates of the Caribbean. Though the movie may have rocked, starring the fantastic Johnny Depp, the games have proven to be a bit less memorable. Despite some nice graphics and nifty naval battles, the game was in dire need of an extra coat of polish. By no means were the console games bad; they just weren't all that great. The GBA game, however, is a much different story.

The game seems to revolve around Jack Sparrow, but the way the story is presented will bore you to tears long before you get a chance to care about anything that's going on. "Cutscenes" consist of a still picture and some dialogue in a box alongside the bottom of the screen. Most of the art isn't very interesting, and the dialogue is nothing too exciting, either.

The game also has lots of trouble with logic. In the initial mission, Jack needs to find some firewood. So, he walks through a forest, to a cave, and after travelling through a cave, we find a stack of firewood, there for our taking. Okay, I have a sword, I'm walking through a forest, and I can't chop down any trees because... why again? And why exactly is there a bundle of firewood sitting in the center of a cave? The game revolves around pointless, so-dumb-it's-not-funny tasks like these so often that you'll be lunging for the Off switch not long after playing.

After you collect some firewood, you get to "watch" a scene about Jack making a smoke signal and eventually getting to land. While on land, though, you're warned to be wary: the guards hate pirates! So every single guard that sees you will come charging at you and put you in a fight for your life. Except the guards aren't very smart at all. They generally don't even notice you until you're about five feet away, and they don't exactly put up much of a fight. That's right, the AI is pretty lame.

But the fighting is awful no matter what you're fighting. Jack can draw his sword at any time - but he promptly returns it to it's sheath unless he is actually right next to an enemy. And since he automatically draws his sword even if another item is equipped, the point of even having the "ability" to draw your sword at any time is largely beyond me. Nonetheless, you'll find fighting an overly simple affair: the A button performs a quick stab, the B button performs a slower attack that's twice as powerful - and, uh, that's all. There's no way to guard and there's not much point in dodging when the AI is so dumb anyway, so combat becomes, essentially, a "mash the A and B buttons as fast you can" kind of deal. You never really even need to use the B button, though - it takes an annoyingly long time to do, and you're better off just tapping A. Just basically, combat is simply "Tap A repeatedly."

You will get the chance to control a big old pirate ship in the game, though, and these segments are far more fun than the on-land gameplay. That's not to say they're great - I'm sure many things are far more fun than the on-land gameplay of this game, but that's another story. Anyway, you can make your ship move forward by pressing up, and turn it left and right with the respective pressing of the D-Pad. Cannons are lined up along both sides of your ship, and pressing the left and right triggers will fire the cannons of either side. This can actually be a little fun, trying to maneuver yourself in such a position that you can hit enemy ships a couple times to sink them. It's not perfect, though, as there's not much to do besides that, and the camera can occasioanlly be annoying - it's basically stuck at an isometric angle the entire time. For what it's worth, though, this is easily the best part of the game.

Thankfully, the graphics in the game are pretty decent. Though they never had me in awe, the scenery is rendered fairly nicely, and character animation isn't that bad, even if characters themselves are a tad pixelated. Water, in the game's ship-faring sections, looks reasonably nice, as do most of the ships themselves. The "cutscene" pictures are nothing to write home about, though, so don't get your hopes up for any cool looking cinemas.

Sound is nothing magnificent, though it could be worse. Sound effects are your fairly generic bangs and clangs, and there's no voice-acting or anything to accompany the cutscenes (though that may be a good thing). The music in the game is bearable for a while, but you'll soon find that it loops fairly quickly, and you'll probably feel like turning down the volume after playing for a little while.

So, in the end, is Pirates of the Caribbean for the GBA anything worth checking out? To put it bluntly, not really. Maybe if you're a super fan of the film and absolutely need to try out anything involved with it, but otherwise, there are far better GBA games to spend your time with. If you're in need of some pirate action, you'll be better off with the console or PC version of PotC. Even though this game sports some decent graphics, the majority of the gameplay is so bland that it's simply not worth playing, let alone your hard-earned cash.

Score : 4.5/10

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