Star Wars and LEGO. They're as natural and tasty a combination as peanut butter and chocolate, but what about Indiana Jones and LEGO? LucasArts and Traveller's Tales felt they could recapture the magic of the LEGO Star Wars games by mining another cult classic. And why not? The first three Indiana Jones movies are nearly as iconic as the first three Star Wars movies. LEGO are LEGO and who wouldn't love to see an Indiana Jones mini-fig in action?
LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures looks like and plays like the Star Wars games, but is it as fun controlling a mini-fig Short Round as it was controlling the blocky, arm-ripping Chewbacca? Read on to find out.
Art Design: Traveller's Tales nails the look of this latest LEGO adaption of a beloved movie franchise. The mini-figs are lovingly detailed, from the large-dot stubble on Indy's chin to the trim of Willie Scott's dress. The environments are naturally more organic looking than those found in Star Wars with plenty of plastic spiders, bugs and snakes crawling around amid lots of jungles. And the traps, from spears to spikes to saw blades, add a much needed sense of trepidation to the game.
Fun Abilities: Any first-timer with the game is going to want to bogart Indy and run around whipping things, anything, because it's that much fun. But the other characters also have some fun abilities. Satipo comes equipped with a shovel for digging things up, some of the female characters can jump higher, Thuggees can access secret passage ways behind statues, Henry Jones Sr. can solve hieroglyphic puzzles, to name a few. My favourite? Willie Scott has a button dedicated to her famous scream... and it breaks glass.
Phobias: Call them anti-abilities, but some of the characters in the game have phobias that have a pretty sizable impact on gameplay. Indiana Jones' famous fear of snakes, for instance, is so strong that when he approaches one, or hundreds, he covers his eyes and walks around in little circles moaning until they move away. But his is not the only phobia in the game.
Lots of Depth: It may not have taken me much more than a few days to make my way through the three movies, but there's still lots to explore. A typical play-through of a chapter meant I found maybe a third of what was there for me to do. All of the chapters, once unlocked for freeplay, are going to require going through multiple times with different characters to find everything.
Happy Easter: Apart from the depth of the game, the ability to replay levels over and over again just to find everything Indiana Jones related, this game is packed, absolutely packed with Easter Eggs. Everything from out of time, out of space characters to whole scenes from other movies make appearances in the game and uncovering them is always a delight.
Plot Change: LEGO-fying a movie gives developers a lot of latitude about what they can deal with without getting a higher rating, I suspect. This game manages to deliver decapitations, people being crushed to death, impaled on spikes, all in a way that I allowed my 7-year-old to watch. So why did they decide to remove crucial scenes from the movie in this adaptation? How can it be the Last Crusade without Nazis? How can it be the Raiders without face melting? The only heart plucking going on in this trilogy is the one the developers did when they created Temple of Doom without its most memorable scene.
Perspective Issues: As with the LEGO Star Wars game, Indy has some issues with perspective. While platforming through levels, the odd perspective makes it almost impossible to tell if you're going to land on solid ground or thin air. Fortunately, this doesn't happen enough to bog down the whole game and the developers did add some visual cues to help locate hanging objects.
Not So Funny: Maybe LEGO Star Wars set the bar too high, maybe there isn't a lot of inherent comedy in a story about a death-defying archaeologist wrestling with supernatural powers and (ahem) generic German bad guys, but I really didn't find a lot of opportunities to laugh in this game. Part of the problem, most certainly, was their decision to cut some pretty memorable scenes, which would have been quite funny played out in LEGO. I also think that the writing never quite finds the proper pacing.
Weak Multiplayer: LEGO games, while fun alone, are really about playing together, often, at least in my house, with family members. It's disappointing that the game not only maintains the two-player drop-in cooperative play cap, but loses the online multiplayer ability.
LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures is a blast to play and a fun way to be introduced or reintroduced to the Indiana Jones trilogy, but it doesn't quite live up to Star Wars. I suspect the problem is more with the source material than the developers. Indiana Jones doesn't really have a lot of memorable side-kicks. You've got Short Round, several woman who scream a lot and a bunch of faceless bad guys. Fortunately, what set-backs and problems the game has are more than made up for by the stunningly detailed set pieces and intricately detailed mini-figs. Rats, snakes, spiders, intricate puzzles, traps and phobias, they all help vividly capture a trilogy deserving of good games. I'd call it stunning, but deleting some of the most memorable scenes of the movies prevents it from quite delivering that accolade.
Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures was developed by Traveller's Tales and published by LucasArts. Retails for $US50. Available on DS, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PSP, Wii and Xbox 360. Played to completion on the PlayStation 3. Played half with my son and half by myself.
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