Gamers love to argue about replay value, which, in layman's terms, is basically how long one can play a game before it gets boring. But sometimes talking about replay value might be a little... presumptuous. For example, what if a game was so dire that you didn't want to slog through it in the first place, let alone do it again and again? There wouldn't be much replay value then, and sadly, such is the case with Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest for the PSP. A tie-in to the recent movie, upon first glance Dead Man's Chest looks almost competent, but it's soon betrayed by some of the lamest gameplay on the PSP.
Like most movie-based games, Dead Man's Chest generally follows the plot of its filmic source material, placing players in the role of the not-quite-right Captain Jack Sparrow. Starting out in a jail, he'll hop around the Caribbean on his quest to escape the curse of the supernatural Davy Jones, crossing swords with pirates, natives, zombies, and anything else with two legs.
While similar brawling hijinks proved a decent basis for the PS2's recent The Legend of Jack Sparrow, the same can't be said for Dead Man's Chest. Here, Sparrow controls sluggishly and meanders about as if he's actually drunk... as does the misbegotten camera system. And his trademark charm is missing in action: the mumbled, understated one-liners are more cringe-worthy than humorous. Although most levels have a puzzle or two, "puzzle" is a charitable term. Beyond those, each level of Dead Man's Chest is little more than a series of identical sword fights; survive enough, and you'll head to a new level with different scenery, differently attired enemies (maybe), and more of the same basic action.
That focus on brawling might've been fine if the fighting were up to snuff, but Dead Man's Chest suffers from the lamest fighting in ... well, possibly ever. Try to follow along. It features three enemy types. The first variety can only be killed by pressing X, X, X, Square, Square Square. The intimidating second type requires Square, Square, Square, X, X, X. Last but certainly not least, the trickiest foes can only be vanquished if you start off with a tap of Circle. Hit the right buttons and you'll slay your foe every time. Press a wrong one and they'll magically land an attack, lowering your life. This completely rote, brain-dead combat system would be laughable if it didn't cost $39.95 to experience, or if many free Internet Flash games didn't have better mechanics.
Unfortunately, it does. That's the game. It's Dragon's Lair disguised as a brawler. There are a few extraneous bits like endurance arenas (beat them all to unlock the final boss!) and ship-based multiplayer combat (also not terribly well thought-out) but they can't distract from the fact that the core brawling gameplay is an absolute mess. Dead Man's Chest doesn't deserve a purchase so much as a massive black spot. Send this one back to the depths.