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PSP Review: Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest

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Clunky combat is Pirates of the Caribbean's significant issue in its PSP incarnation. It might not be the concern that it is if the game wasn't homed in on it. The cheap puzzles, wild camera, and touchy controls only compound the problems.

Taking control solely of Jack Sparrow, players romp around various film locales sword fighting with whatever comes at them. The system is set up so that the enemy defense needs to be broken down before any actual hits can connect. There are three types of enemies in total, regardless of the different graphical models used. Each has a specific string of attacks needed to break through noted directly above their head.

This causes a number of aggravating issues that carry through the entire experience. Fighting multiple enemies is nearly impossible to pull off successfully. Using the wrong button to initiate combat results in them automatically gaining a free hit. In a situation where all thee types of enemies are surrounding you, it's easier to die and respawn at the nearest checkpoint than to even try and fight your way out.

Secondary weapons can take out any foe in a single blow, which means a glass bottle has the same amount of impact as an exploding cannon ball. A third set of moves is unlocked by completing brief endurance stages. These charge as Sparrow hacks away at various nasties and can take out piles of monsters with a single shot. It feels like an admission by the developers that the combat simply doesn't work otherwise.

Pits, rope climbing, rope swinging and puzzle solving round out this five-hour ride of dullness. Getting over a pit via any means is difficult. The camera is rarely in the right location, and other times it's not adjustable at all. Jack has trouble stopping, so trying to gain a running start before taking a leap of faith is more work than it's worth.

Puzzles bring solutions so blatantly obvious, you have to wonder why they bothered in the first place. Level design is linear enough that getting lost isn't possible. Repetitive and mundane tasks like blasting open doors with a cannon are repeatedly forced on the player. They're not fun the first time, and after the fifteenth attempt, it's an absurd waste of a gaming period. A cheaply inserted multi-player mode involves ship-to-ship combat, the game's only variation on any of this.

If there's anything to take away from this PSP mess, it's the graphics engine. While sharp and clean, somehow looking better than the Playstation 2 version, the animation takes a serious hit. Single frames of animation are all that come through in crowded areas, lessening impact and making it difficult to tell if a swing even lands.

There's little to recommend here, even for the most fervent fans of this now multi-billion dollar franchise. It's a lackluster run through a wildly popular film. With such little merit, Dead Man's Chest should stay buried.

Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man's Chest is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Violence.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.