Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (Game Boy Advance) - Review by Andrew
Given that the majority of attractions in Disneyland are based on movies it surprised everyone when the House of the Mouse announced some years ago that they were to develop movies based on The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, both of which were considered 'original' attractions. The Eddie Murphy led Haunted Mansion was not well received critically and while the general public still enjoyed the movie it didn't exactly break box office records. Pirates of the Caribbean was both a critical and financial hit causing Disney to green light two sequels immediately and three years later here's the first. Games were a different story though so while developers and publishers alike embraced Haunted Mansion, clearly nobody thought a Pirate game would exactly excite the gaming community. It's different this time around of course, with a version of Dead Man's Chest gracing all 3 handheld formats (PSP, DS and GBA) but are they worth crossing your local game manager's hand with silver?
Initially Dead Man's Chest appears to be your average movie tie-in platformer and it's true that the game owes a great deal to this classic design. There are impossible jumps, secret areas (and enemies), collectables and increasingly difficult foes. Over the twelve or so sections you also have another objective: collecting gold, because unlike other games of this nature which allow you to purchase simple cosmetic upgrades, this wealth will give you success in the other part of the game - the vast oceans of the Caribbean. The reason for this is that your game is split over a variety of islands and it's important to keep your crew happy because if they're not, you may have a mutiny on your hands. Even if they're only hungry they won't perform properly, which is essential when they enter into battle with you when you come into contact with the many other ships patrolling the waters. This adds an interesting strategy element to the package and while it's by no means as complicated as your average management sim it still adds a completely different element to what could have been just another platformer.
While the control system is fairly simple you can gain extra attacks as the game progresses in order to combat the more resilient foes you'll come across. It's never really necessary to use these though as the majority of enemies can simply be avoided if you don't wish to fight them.
Visually the game is very nice indeed with some well thought out environments with the developers adding parallax scrolling to give the whole thing that extra sense of depth. The real highlight here though is the animation, with Captain Jack in particular moving about with his trademark drunken swagger whilst also bearing a striking physical resemblance to his on-screen counterpart. There are a number of still images from the movie, which push the action along nicely as well as doing a fine job of making the story make sense.
GBA Midi soundtracks now appear to be suffering from the same kind of backlash as the GameBoy Color did when the Advance was first introduced and while it's fairly respectable it's not a patch on the DS version. I know that shouldn't make a difference to anyone who only owns a GBA system but given that I've just reviewed the DS version it's difficult not to judge.
It does seem odd that given that this is the least powerful of the three platforms this game has been released on it's the most entertaining. This gives significant fuel to the argument that developers are still trying to win us over with high production values as opposed to good ideas. Clearly the game is far from original and the platforming / sword fighting is at the core of the other two versions albeit in a 3D setting as opposed to the GB's favored 2D. What this version does have though is variety so rather than sticking to a strict platform format the whole thing feels much less linear with the sea battles and management elements being a real bonus. It's been a while since we've seen a decent GBA title with developers now giving the majority of production time over to the DS and other formats but for once this simple GBA effort is the version which comes highly recommended.
Pro: Nice GBA Visuals and Sea Battles.
Con: Dull Soundtrack and A Little Repetitive.
Final score: 7.6
|Platform:||Game Boy Advance|
|Publisher:||Buena Vista Interactive|