Time was, when game developers got hold of a movie license, they'd rewrite the plot with impunity (which is how we got Keanu fighting a 40-foot Tom Waits in Bram Stoker's Dracula). But today’s game-buying audiences are a little more sophisticated. So how do you pad out a Pirates of the Caribbean hack-and-slasher with stuff like Chinese sorceresses and Vikings made of ice?
Simple: you have a liar tell the story.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow begins with its title character and his straight-man sidekick, Will Turner, captured while raiding a Spanish fort. As they're waiting to be hanged, Jack tries to stall the execution by telling a highly fictionalized version of the first movie's events (which you'll then play through). It’s actually a pretty clever plot device, allowing for all sorts of deviation as Jack starts telling stories to the characters in his story.
It's all genuinely funny and fairly well-acted, which is kind of a shame, because most players likely won't have the patience to wade through the game in order to see it all.
Legend of Jack Sparrow starts out as an acceptably fun slash-'em-up, with players solving simple puzzles, opening treasure chests and slicing their way through hordes of pirates, Spanish soldiers and other assorted thugs and monsters. You'll play as both Captain Jack and Will, switching between them on the fly while the computer controls the other character.
The only real differences between the two, however, are that Jack throws explosive "grog bombs" and Will tosses hatchets - which also factor into their special attacks.
Basic action aside, all the elements of a good game are present: your attacks are varied and upgradeable, you can destroy or toss around chunks of scenery (usually to the detriment of your enemies) and the action moves fast.
The trouble is that Legend of Jack Sparrow doesn't do any of these things particularly well. And after a while, the action gets really repetitive and boring, as tough-but-dumb enemies keep swarming out in the same predictable patterns (swordsmen charge forward while gunners or archers hang back and shoot). Your computer-controlled sidekick is even worse, and is almost as likely to stand around staring at you or getting stuck on a wall as he is to actually fight. (But at least he can't ever be killed while the computer's in control.)
This stuff might be easier to overlook if the game didn't try to compensate by always making you restart a level once you've run out of lives - which your characters share, even in the two-player co-op mode. Did you use up your lives fighting a mid-level boss, only to be cut down by some puny lackey much later in the stage? Tough. Get ready to do the whole thing over again. And you'll have to re-watch all the cinemas, too.
It doesn't help matters much that the game isn't too pretty even by PS2 standards, and the animation tends to get choppy as the action heats up. And while Johnny Depp turns in a great performance as Jack Sparrow, it's not enough to distract from his expressionless, barely moving face.
The Legend of Jack Sparrow is bogged down by a host of flaws, but in the end, it's still a passably entertaining sword-brawler. Its relatively short run-time, clever script and Johnny Depp voice-over are enough to justify a rental for fans of the film, but we can't imagine shelling out $40 to play this.