- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Aye, mateys, here’s a look at some of the multimedia products perfect for a team of pirates to plunder, based on Disney Pictures’ famed swashbuckler tales.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest from Buena Vista Games for PSP ($39.99) and DS ($34.99), rated T for teen. A pair of hand-held games give the gamer a chance to become, virtually, the stars of the Disney franchise and, more important, invite buddies to take part in skulduggery and heroism.

First, the version for Sony’s media machine, the PSP, brings the latest exploits of Captain Jack Sparrow to the miniscreen as the player uses him to battle through highlights of the movie. Bright, bold graphics of sword fights are plentiful, and a perfect re-creation of Sparrow’s inebriated swagger offers plenty of eye candy, but not much of a challenge.

However, the multiplayer ship-battle game shines as up to four PSP owners share one game cartridge and wage a wireless war in multiple varieties of sea vessels within four types of challenges. As ship captains weaken one another through precisely aimed cannon shot, they can board disabled ships, run over and use power-ups, and eventually control the Black Pearl (unlocked by beating the single-player game) or Flying Dutchman.

Next, the game for Nintendo’s dual-screen system, the DS, will impress thanks to another cooperative extravaganza (each player must have a cartridge) that allows each pirate to choose to control Jack Sparrow, Will Turner or Elizabeth Swann as they work side by side through a third-person adventure based on the latest film.

The game does not make much use of the DS’ touch screen, which comes in handy only for the stylus-driven minigames Walk the Plank, Boom Barge and Shoot the Monkey.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow from Bethesda Softworks for PlayStation 2, rated T for teen, $39.99. Now the bumbling captain tells his side of the story in a third-person adventure game that bogs down in hack-and-slash repetition.

The player enjoys control of the famed pirate, Will Turner or Elizabeth Swann as he collects coins, buys new moves and bests a variety of dunderheaded villains who take part in Jack’s amusing revisionist adventures.

In addition, a fine vocal performance by actor Johnny Depp delights and makes up for some of the murky graphics, tedious linear game play and confused camera action.

The best chance for a satisfying experience with the game, however, is to get a real partner involved to fight against the hordes of evil and share plenty of laughs at Captain Jack’s cheeky dialogue.

Flying Dutchman from Mega Brands, stand-alone product, $59.99. Amateur builders will look like professional model makers as they easily assemble Davy Jones’ sea-battered vessel from a kit that mixes blocks and molded pieces.

Highlights to the 236-piece kit include cloth sails, a pair of working cannons, a pipe organ, a creature-encrusted hull, Davy’s locked treasure chest, and miniature versions of Jack Sparrow, Bootstrap Bill Turner, Davy Jones and his crustacean crew member, Palifico.

The chest indeed holds treasure. It holds a code, which can be used at the company’s Pirates of the Caribbean Web site (www.megabloks.com/potc) to reveal the tech magic and history behind all of Mega Blok’s Pirates construction kits.

Not only is it a clever merge of online media and marketing, but it also is an educational lesson as junior Blackbeards learn how much behind-the-scenes work it takes to make a slick-looking toy.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

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