GDC 2011: 'LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean' Preview Impressions

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean Impressions Game Developers Conference 2011

While at GDC we went eyes-on with an early, pre-alpha, build of the upcoming LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean game.

The guided (and limited) playthrough focused on showing the mechanics that make Pirates a great fit for the LEGO treatment, along with demonstrating the fun gameplay elements that will be incorporated into the game, as well as how these elements will make the title feel unique and different from the other LEGO games. Brace yourself for buccaneering, pirate powers, and curses.

Even at this early stage, the game looked good when compared to prior LEGO games. The updated lighting and background effects stood out and really made the jungle environments and water pop on the screen. LEGO pieces and "background" elements alike would react to light coming from a lantern held by the player. Pirate ships looked wet, weathered, and worn. The environments captured the Pirates feeling well.

In terms of the gameplay, what was shown focused on three elements of buccaneering, pirate powers, and the curses. Buccaneering represented things like swinging on vines, climbing ropes, and general platforming. Based on the demo, LEGO Pirates looks to focus more on pure platforming than prior LEGO games. Pirate powers represent things that many of the pirates in the films did or could do - for example, swimming submerged underwater. While some pirates were people and had to hold their breath, others were the living dead variety, which means breathing is not as much of an issue. Lastly, the demo showed off how the various curses in the film would be used in the game, for example allowing a character to interact with "cursed" LEGO pieces and enter otherwise blocked or hidden parts of a level.

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The game looked to take all of the aspects that worked in past LEGO games, while incorporating elements of the movies to make the experience unique - and not just a re-skinned LEGO Star Wars, for example. Like past LEGO games, Pirates will include co-op gameplay; however, unfortunately online co-op is not planned for the game at this time. While Traveller's Tales stated they could technically include the feature, they thought limiting the co-op to "couch co-op" only was more in line with what younger gamers and their parents would want. They did acknowledge, however, that not all of their audience are kids - but the concern about protecting the co-op experience seemed like an important one, perhaps leading to the current choice to exclude online co-op.

While we weren't able to go hands-on with the console build of the game, we did get a little hands-on time with the 3DS version. The visuals on the 3DS looked sharp and the 3D effect worked well too - giving certain objects a little more pop. The 3DS version of the game will be largely identical to the console version and, at this point, there are no plans to include gyroscope controls in the game. The 3DS version will, however, have a unique Street Pass functionality where gamers can pick certain attributes for their character that can allow them to do battle with other gamers' characters when the 3DS is in Street Pass. These Street Pass battles can then unlock Street-Pass exclusive characters that gamers can use in the main game.

What are your thoughts on LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean? Are you LEGO'd out or do you think Pirates might have what it takes to get you excited about the franchise again? Is no online co-op a deal breaker for you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean is scheduled to release simultaneously with the new film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in May 2011.

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