Short version: Indiana Jones returns to the tried and true Lego format, boasting fun gameplay and a humorous story adapted from all 4 movies. A complex hub system, and rough play controls on vehicle levels might frustrate some, but ultimately Indy’s return to Lego land adventure are the building blocks for a great game.
Indiana Jones might not be as large a LucasFilm property as Star Wars, but it’s a widely popular classic nonetheless. I’m always excited for Indiana Jones news of any kind because when the man with the hat is back, adventure is always right around the corner. The character has seen a myriad of video game releases since 1982’s Raiders of the Lost Ark on the Atari 2600. While subsequent releases over the years have included new adventures of Dr. Jones, the latest title, LEGO Indiana Jones 2 proves that using the films as source material is still the best way to go.
I was surprised to find that the original Lego Indiana Jones would be receiving a sequel. The first game, which borrowed from the successful formula used in the great Lego Star Wars games, had already spanned all three of the archaeologist’s original movies. Beyond incorporating recent Kingdom of the Crystal Skull material, the developer would have to reinvent the original trilogy for the sequel’s new content. The answer for Traveller’s Tales was simple: if the first game was to be a Lego parody of the Indiana Jones movies, then the sequel would be a Lego adaptation. The differences are discreet, but effective when measured against the first game.
For example, the first Lego Indiana Jones featured a level in the Raven Bar which was relatively true to the movie, albeit parodied with the kind of humor typically associated with a LEGO game. This time around, LEGO Indiana Jones 2 portrays the battle for the golden medallion in a new way, although still true to the source material. Other changes include wider use of levels dedicated to vehicle chases much the same way that LEGO Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy expanded this from the first Star Wars game. Each level is available through a series of hub levels which have expanded a bit from previous Lego games as well.
The LEGO games are all unique in that there is a central hub thematic to the game that is intended to help a player navigate the game’s levels. To this day, I’d still say that the original Lego Star Wars game had the most effective, simplistic hub. Each Lego game has featured an expanded hub system. LEGO Indiana Jones 2 is no different, although it takes some getting used to. The game starts in the infamous warehouse found in both Raiders of the Lost Ark as well as the recent Kingdom of the Crystal Skull movies. The various in-game campaigns each represent one of the franchise’s movies, and are represented as crates in the warehouse hub. Players start with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull which unfolds across three crates in the warehouse. The other, unlockable adventures such as Raiders, Temple, and Crusade each receive one crate of levels per movie. After selecting one of the adapted adventures, you are placed into a scaled map which represents each primary location in the game. For example, you begin on the island representing the Raven bar, complete the Raven level, and then take a short stroll over to the desert level where you chase the ark down. Think of this as a version of the old map system from a game like Super Mario World, only here you can run around the map retrieving studs while unlocking vehicles and characters.
Play control familiar to the previous LEGO games is present as well, although the character’s abilities have been upgraded. This time, Indy can spin his whip around his head, or lash onto other characters and scenery with a targeting reticule. Like the other LEGO games, playing is relatively simple and precise when running around on foot, but is a bit unforgiving and slippery when inside of a vehicle. This isn’t too much of a problem although it’s noteworthy enough that the vehicle levels might frustrate some of the younger, less coordinated gamers who are presumably the title’s target audience.
Graphically, the game is very impressive — more than what you’d expect from a simplistic LEGO title. The game also features in-game V-lock and Motion Control options that increase the visual stability in 720p or 1080p resolutions. Each Lego-styled character is well represented, and the backgrounds and textures are fantastic. Actually, some of the backgrounds are so great looking that I’d love to see them in a realistically styled Indiana Jones game! Some of the jungle areas are very dense and detailed, and the games larger visual events are a lot of fun to watch. Scenes like a giant electrical Belloq shocking an entire level after opening the ark, or the gigantic roaming statue of Kali from the Temple of Doom are great pieces of eye candy within the game. Each are charmingly represented against a funny juxtaposition of the relatively ominous Indiana Jones soundtrack. The music says “danger” while the on screen action says “humor”, making for great, fun play-value here.
The game also features a somewhat encompassing level builder. In its own right, this feature is as good as the builder in LittleBigPlanet, but more specific as LEGO themes are prevalent here. Although this feature is kept separate from the game’s primary campaigns, it includes another component that die hard Indiana Jones fans might love. There is a “Build Your Own Adventure” feature allowing players to string together both in-game and custom-built levels, all while hunting for a Magoffin of your own choosing! Indiana Jones fans are well aware of George Lucas’ notion that the hardest part of writing an Indy movie is finding something for him to chase, so this addition should be a welcomed one for fans of the franchise.
It is this mixture of elements where the game succeeds the most. Indiana Jones fans will pick up the game for the character driven adaptation of Indy’s adventures, and appreciate both the overt and subtle humor in the game. For example, in the Cairo hub you’ll find yourself securing T.V. antennas to rooftops — a bit of an inside joke referring to how the crew of the original movie had to remove antennas from rooftops all over the city when shooting. Casual adult gamers who become bored with the simplistic nature of the game will actually stick it through just to see its humorous adaptation, and kids will want the game for the large scope of adventure that Traveller’s Tales have squeezed into the LEGO layout.
The first Lego Indiana Jones game was great, but if you can guest past extensive use of hubs in this game, then players will find that this sequel is far more encompassing. LEGO Indiana Jones 2 will be released this Tuesday, November 17, 2009 on all platforms.
Images courtesy of Traveller’s Tales