Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Aye, my hearties, do we have a tale for you. There was once a movie tie-in so dreadful, so evil, that even grog-filled buckos dared not speak its name for fear of terrible retribution.

At Pocket Gamer, however, walking the plank is something we do for kicks so allow me to be crystal clear: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is awful. You suspect this the moment the unpolished and mostly useless tutorial meant to introduce you to the fighting, ledge shimmying and rope-climbing ways of rum-loving Jack Sparrow loads up.

If you've seen either Pirates of the Caribbean film, Jack is the character so memorably portrayed by Johnny Depp, and in fairness the developer has done a decent job of capturing elements of Depp's intoxicated swagger (although his voice can sometimes sound like a constipated Billy Connolly). Unfortunately, however, this appears to have affected the entire control system, which feels sluggish, unresponsive and offers the predictability and precision you would indeed expect of a drunken sailor.

But even the company of an inebriated seaman would prove less infuriating. You can forget about sailing fluidly through levels. Everything Jack does – from swinging on ropes to even the most basic environment navigation – appears to revel in increasing levels of unresponsiveness. Our favourite hair-tearing example came quickly, when Jack suddenly wandered a little too close to a lava pit and then languished upright in the fiery liquid until his health bar was completely depleted, his body convulsing hideously from our increasingly desperate attempts to get him to jump back to safety, which despite being a single step away clearly proved too great a leap for our remarkably debilitated hero.

Alas, it's a similar story when it comes to interacting with the environment. Any action item is 'helpfully' highlighted, which in theory should turn most puzzles into woefully simple tasks. In practice, the misery of trying endless logical – and eventually, through desperation, irrational – alternative permutations caused by the game's occasional inability to recognise a player's control inputs (collision detection is not Dead Man's Chest forte and is often depressingly inconsistent) can be soul destroying.

And then there's the combat. The early game trailers may have promised fast, multi-enemy action but despite decent animation in Jack's movement, the reality has the grace of a cannonball. Multiple foes whose intelligence is as restricted as their vocabulary have to be dealt with on a one-by-one basis (see PG Tips below), and the absurdly constrained nature of the system means you're required to initiate combat with either the slow/strong or quick/weak attack, depending on the two types of adversary, then the moment you land a string of hits, switch to the other button to finish them off – miss your 'window' and you're forced to start the sequence over. Not that you will, of course, because the ludicrous lack of variation in the combat at least ensures near-endless practice.

But by far the biggest struggle you'll face with Dead Man's Chest is the fact that it's unplayable. Literally as well as figuratively, it turns out. It may be our UMD but we're stuck. We can see the item we should be interacting with and have tried every button while standing in every possible position (praise Blackbeard it's a small area), to no avail. And frankly, based on the evidence of the stages up to that point, we're hardly disappointed to be prevented from continuing. It's not as if things were likely to improve.

As it happens, they do, but only if you switch to multiplayer. Here you find a ship deathmatch style set-up for you and three friends to play in either ad hoc or game sharing mode and although simplistic in both looks and structure, it manages to shiver your timbers in a way the 'main' game can only dream of. Lining up alongside opponents, firing off your cannons before boarding their ship, and looting and spending the treasure on upgrading your vessel's ability proves both addictive and engaging, and far more in line with our expectations of Dead Man's Chest coming away from E3 earlier this year.

In hindsight, it's probably what the developer should have focussed all of its efforts on. Because as things stand, no amount of Nelson's folly will ever enable you to tolerate the dreadful single-player offering.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is on sale now – click here to buy.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Keep your coffers shut and do not contemplate putting this in your UMD drive – tis utter rubbish, for sure
Joao Diniz Sanches
Joao Diniz Sanches
With three boys under the age of 10, former Edge editor Joao has given up his dream of making it to F1 and instead spends his time being shot at with Nerf darts. When in work mode, he looks after editorial projects associated with the Pocket Gamer and Steel Media brands.