For as long as I can remember, I've loved Legos and the original Indiana Jones trilogy has held a place in my heart. Combine the two in a video game format and you’ve got something interesting with a few wrinkles to iron out, but still fun altogether.
LEGO Indiana Jones is among the latest LEGO conversions of popular movies and characters into a platform-based video game. Targeted towards a wider audience than many video games, the game takes the Indiana Jones universe and translates it into a fun, satirical, accessible LEGO format.
Like the other LEGO games focusing around a trilogy (such as LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Star Wars II), players can open the application and pick a movie to begin playing through. From the opening screen, players can jump into their favorite part of the "Indiana Jones" trilogy and begin playing through Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom or The Last Crusade, picking up and leaving off as they complete levels within each movie.
LEGO Indiana Jones is representative of the true platform/adventure game format wherein players both fight through the levels as well as continuously solve puzzles to make it to previously inaccessible areas of the screen and/or snag critical items to open a door or defeat a boss. Like the other LEGO titles, LEGO Indiana Jones pairs the player off with at least one computer-controlled ally at any given time. Players can usually switch off between Indy and the other character(s) to use their special ability. Where Indy can use his whip to pick up items from afar, swing across pits or pull down certain platforms, other characters from the movies can use their own abilities to help progress through a level (such as Willie, who can shatter glass with her voice, Short Round, who can crawl through small areas and Henry Jones, Sr., who can translate hieroglyphics to open doors).
Like the other LEGO movie adaptations, this title manages to recreate its trilogy and actually goes a bit beyond expectations. The models are detailed, the textures reflect the moods that need to be expressed at any given point and the game is as warm and visually appealing as one would expect. Still, it’s the audio elements that carry the day with the title. Given that the LEGO movie games are typically non-verbal, language and expression is carried with grunts, sighs, amused or thoughtful sounds as the situation requires them. This is carried out humorously and top-notch voice acting expresses the dialogue and movie events being shown at any given time via the game’s cut scenes. A score of John Williams music rounds out the acoustical element and brings the old-school Spielberg/adventure movie grandeur to the title as expected.
Gameplay in LEGO Indiana Jones brings a console-like simplicity that’s both rewarding yet can also drive the player somewhat insane. Enter a new screen, run around and the initial tasks tend to be the following: defeat whatever’s attacking you, break apart every container you can for bonus points, health, weapons and items and begin trying to solve every puzzle at once. Combat is usually fun and easy with a few swift punches or a whip/punch combination from Indy being enough to take down a standard enemy. Snag a weapon such as a gun and an auto-targeting system will place crosshairs on wherever the round will go, a system that works for the most part but has its drawbacks.
It’s the puzzles that make the difference in the game and there’s some interesting concepts here. While the building puzzles are fairly self-explanatory, the larger jumping and platform puzzles challenge the player and make them step back and look over the situation. Ok, you’ve broken open every container on the screen, grabbed everything you could, built part of…something…and now you don’t know how to activate a switch on a platform you can’t reach? This is the part of the game that makes the player try something new and unexpected or even pause the game, walk away for a bit, then come back and try a new idea that seemed unlikely but actually works and advances the game and the puzzle that made you want to scream at your Mac and/or the game is now resolved.
The original Indiana Jones movies dealt with some fairly mature topics at times (Karen Allen’s liver by itself could kill 50 nearby bar patrons in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the heart-removal scene from Temple of Doom scarred many a young viewer and the wrong-choice-of-the-grail-equals-zombie-death/disintegration bit from The Last Crusade) were a bit much to handle, but the game does this well. Though much of the game is refined slapstick and physical comedy, the title manages to step around the more adult elements of the series and does this well.
In cases where a controversial point might emerge, the game designers found a way to find the humor in the situation or still convey the same story without delving into controversial material. Though the heart-removal element may be gone from the “Temple of Doom” segment, players will still laugh at the recreation of the “chilled monkey brains at dinner” sequence which still features…chilled monkey brains, but done in a light and fun style, especially with the characters’ reactions to the situation. The humor is there and younger players can enjoy it with their parents not having to worry in the process.
If the LEGO movie series games prided itself on anything, it was the replay and unlock value. This remains as players can either take on a level in Story Mode or Free Play mode. Once a level has been unlocked, players can play it over again with different characters while using their special abilities to unlock new areas and bonuses. Throughout the game, players can collect artifact pieces to build larger treasures and unlock even more features. Even if the standard story only provides about eight to nine hours of gameplay, there’s something to go back to and this makes a fun game that much better.
Another cool thing: six save slots. Whether you’re an obsessive gamer working on multiple attempts through the game or buying the title for the family, there’s a slot for every situation and this should come in handy.
Unfortunately, there are some bugs that take their toll on the game. LEGO Indiana Jones shares deep console roots and as a result, players will be that much better off using a USB controller or game pad as opposed to the keyboard to control the character. Though users can easily remap the keys, the game’s multiplayer configuration requires two users to share the same keyboard, an awkward proposition at best. Other frustrating shortcomings become present with the game’s auto-aiming feature that frequently targets computer-controlled allies, almost-impossible-to-drive vehicles and a respawn bug where an obstacle might kill your unit. Instead of coming back to life a respectable distance away, the bug will spawn the character almost impossibly close to the thing that just killed it. Even if this situation can be gotten out of by switching over to a different character or reloading the game from a previous save point, it’s a bug that should have been patched a few versions ago.
The Bottom Line
Even with the bugs that need to be sorted out and some very difficult puzzles needing to be resolved, LEGO Indiana Jones is one of the most fun titles I’ve played in a long time. There’s a solid platform/adventure game to be had here, complete with its own sense of warmth and humor that keeps the player coming back for more and this can’t be denied.
At $40, it’s hard to go wrong, especially with a beloved trilogy involved. That being said, it’s time to go back and beat the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" module. Bad guys needed pummeling and I think I thought of a way around that puzzle that last night...