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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Score: 65%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Buena Vista
Developer: Amaze Entertainment
Media: UMD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action/ Fighting/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:
Look and feel are certainly the best parts of this venture, which means that more than a few copies will fly off shelves based on previews. Gotta give credit to the folks who scripted the opening cinematic, because they make Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest look much more engaging than it turned out to be.

The game soundtrack is great, as was the movie music. Voice acting makes its way into the game as lots of funny comments, and the weird, drunken prancing that Johnny Depp perfected in the movie is here intact. There's enough realism to accurately portray the wild costumes and the creepy settings, and each level brings some new surroundings. The sound effects are nicely done, down to the smallest action. Little visual touches appear in the game, like swirling mist or creeping/flying bugs. This girl has a pretty face, but boy is she a boring date...

My jury (a small cadre of mice in my garage that I use as a sounding board for game criticism) is still out on whether Dead Man's Chest is a multiplayer game with a single-player hook, or the other way around. What we do know is that the two games could not be more different. Rather than just play through a 3D action/platformer that is the single-player experience, multiplayer goes for vehicle combat and lets you battle between ships on the high seas.

There's room to argue that the single-player game was the feature at one time, since it does look so darn good. But, it gets deadly boring after just a few levels, because the action is so repetitive. Fighting enemies with swordplay comes down to three or four combinations you'll use again and again and again. This mode is so linear that when enemies come running up, you see, floating above their head, the button you press to fight them. It's like a rhythm game, but not fun like a rhythm game. The .A.I...well, I'll get to that. The amount of fluid control possible is just about nil, so the times you aren't battling tend to be the most dangerous. Falling down holes, jumping in the wrong places and getting crushed or cut is a constant. Like most 3D platform titles, an Easter egg hunt ensues and the game runs you through level after level of different enemies fighting exactly the same way.

For variety's sake - and you'll need it - there is the multiplayer mode. Game sharing is the default, with no limitations at all on what opponents can do in the game. Instead of the platform action, each player boards a ship and proceeds to sea to do battle. The battle modes are standard frag-fest fare, but points for originality in not just offering a few mini-games and calling it quits. It's almost like multiplayer is a completely different game. My guess is that players will spend more time with their friends on multiplayer, since there only needs to be one UMD in play. The single-player is just painful, and in an odd marketing strategy, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest multiplayer doesn't sell the single-player experience one iota. So, the mice and I decided this game is just confused.

It's been a long time since I've seen A.I. this bad. Enemies stand in line to fight you like they are waiting to have their groceries bagged and their value-card scanned at Kroger. Pitiful. I actually had one enemy run right by me on some programmed path before he came back to fight. Special attacks that don't require supercharging totally disable enemies, which means there is very little excitement once you learn to pace attacks and work through enemies one by one. The multiplayer benefits from real human brains in the mix, so I guess your A.I. there is at least as smart as your buddy.

Game Mechanics:
The controls are wooden, and easy to learn. The analog stick controls Jack Sparrow, and there is an action button that initiates lots of things in the game world. From climbing ropes to kicking barrels at enemies, you'll find that one or two buttons get it done. Jumping, climbing and basic platforming actions are not controlled by the action button, and the camera in the game tends to hover behind a pole at just the wrong time. Luckily, the edge detection for swinging on ropes is ridiculously wide and you can't really jump the wrong way. It's hard to perfectly capture all the crutches packed into Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, but we've all seen the dark side of licensed games before. A Jack Sparrow wrapper, some neat visuals and music and this baby was headed for retail. Too bad for us, since this is a very mediocre and forgettable title. If you're craving swordplay, take the cardboard tube out of a paper towel roll and pretend to joust with a sibling or family pet. The battles at sea make for a cool multiplayer experience, which equates to a rental or used copy down the road. Oh, Jack Sparrow, we hardly knew you...

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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