Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Video Games : Online Video Game
Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Online

Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Online

Spring 2008 Online Video Game
Ages: 10 & Up
Producer: Disney Online
Gaming System: Online

Please note: Players can access a portion of the game for free, and can choose to upgrade to an Unlimited Access subscription for a monthly fee. The first month is $4.95, and continuing with a $9.95 fee for following months. Or players can purchase 6 months for $49.95 or a year for $79.95.

To say this online video game is "based" on the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies would shortchange the experience by a few pieces of eight. Because this is a richly endowed Internet game, played online, full-blown animated segments closely resembling the appearance and feel of those films blend seamlessly with gaming segments where you control your character's behavior, decisions and destiny. Pretty outrageous! And fun!

First you create your pirate character, from choosing gender (be an alluring young lass or dashing young man) right down to the shape of the nose and chin, color of hair, shape of body, clothes, etc. We went with a girl, named her Nelly Burnbane, which sounded pirate-like to us, and headed for the high seas. Seems Nelly, or whomever you create, is in league with that witty, wily anti-hero, the cursed pirate Jack Sparrow, the star of these Disney franchise flicks portrayed by Johnny Depp. But your personal mission nonetheless is to one-up even the famed captain by becoming the most legendary of all pirates.

See, this game is gigantic and takes place in the Caribbean, meaning there's plenty of sea and several islands and plenty of hazards in between that Nelly can go to and explore freely. But first she learns the art of sword fighting, earning a few gold pieces in the process. Then, in further travels, a Sparrow friend gives her a pistol and lessons in its use.

Before you know it, Nelly has commandeered her own small ship equipped with four cannons and fast enough to outrun the Royal Navy's vessels-which are abound. Sailing practice leads to cannon-shooting practice, and that frees Nelly to make sneak attacks on the British Navy!

By that point, players start feeling a bit what it's like to have been a pirate. Really! And Nelly can also start trying to assemble a crew- when on land, stepping up to characters, talking to them (you actually key in brief conversation and get responses), and per chance asking if they'll join the crew. Some accept, some decline. But those who accept tag along with you, even help during fights and attacks, so long as you keep them interested and loyal. What both fun and, at first, unnerving if you're not used to online multiplayer gaming is that some of the people in the game you meet are actually other players trotting around the pirate they created, looking for crew members, bounty and buried treasure just like you are, sailing their ships out to attack and plunder other ships. Oh, and probably looking for Jack Sparrow, just as you are.

There are diversions such as the blackjack game in one pub that not only are a blast but enable you to earn (or lose) some gold. And danger-filled towns, jungles, coves and caves await your exploration everywhere-if not on this island, then on others which are fully accessible by ship.

Upside is that this is a wonderful adventure that can intrigue a child's (or adult's) imagination for the legends and history of those grisly pirates who once sailed the seas, maybe even lead some to off-line reading and research. Downside, which cannot be ignored, is that within this gigantic gaming experience that includes much nonviolent adventures, there is indeed violence. To reach the goal requires cutting down soldiers and bad undead pirates with sword and pistol, slashing and cutting and shooting. No blood. Defeated victims sort of go aglow in flame and disappear. Ships you win victory over don't visually sink, they just go away. So the violence isn't graphic, per se, but it's part of the pirate life-both in history and in this game. So be forewarned, mate, before trying this remarkable game.

Don Oldenburg   ©2008 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

Look for this product at:
Disney Online
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