The Lego series of games pulls in a pretty big name franchise with Star Wars, both the original and the prequel series of movies has been given the blocky treatment by Traveller's Tales and now it's the turn of another great trilogy (yes, I know there's a fourth, but that doesn't matter at the moment since I haven't seen it) to be immortalised in the series. It's time for me to grab my hat, my whip and head off in search of the Ark, a sacred stone and of course the Holy Grail, all in a day's work for intrepid archaeologist action hero: Indiana Jones.
The newest game spans all three movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom and the Last Crusade and the story is advanced by the medium of non-spoken cut-scenes where various visual in-jokes are told using the Lego characters. Some of these moments made me smile actually and it's obvious the game's pretty kid friendly, of course. Yet amongst all the kid friendly, there's actually a damn good puzzle game. The temptation is to compare this to previous Lego games (Star Wars etc) and I'm not going to do that. I'm going to look at what sets this game aside from the others.
It feels to me, and I might be wrong, that the gameplay has been sharpened a lot more in Lego Indiana Jones. The controls remain largely untouched with a few tweaks; there are no force powers in the game so some characters have been given special abilities to compensate. Thankfully there's no Jar-Jar in the game and the super-jump character has been replaced by any female character (they jump higher). Characters like Willy (the woman from #2) have a scream that they can use to break glass objects (useful for solving certain puzzles)
Indy has his whip and the game has a plethora of unlockable characters to keep you coming back for more. In fact one of the biggest strengths of Lego Indy is the fact it's packed with lots of things to find, from hidden characters, packages and artefacts to secret rooms where you can see replications of some of the famous movie locations, like the map room at Tanis. You will have to play each level multiple times depending on how you approach the game, if you're a person that likes to complete things to 100%, you're going to have to unlock all the signature characters to allow you to get at every artefact and solve all the side puzzles.
There are utility characters, Satipo has his shovel, and Jock has a wrench that can be used to repair broken machines. Belloq has a notebook that can translate hieroglyphs and the puzzles are often multiple stage combined affairs that require you to explore the environment, find the right objects and manipulate things in the level until you can progress to the next room or trigger an event that allows you to solve another puzzle. The puzzle elements of the game are excellently done and they bring a sense of reward when you finally figure them out. I should also point out that some of the puzzles do actually make you think.
There's a fair bit of combat in the game, there are guns, bazookas and of course Indy has his whip (which isn't as effective as it could have been) which can entangle enemies and navigate environmental swing-points. Most of the time its guns, swords, fisticuffs and several of the levels have respawning waves of enemies during the boss fights (a lot of these are puzzle based too).
The environments are made up of realistic backgrounds, not Lego, and Lego items and features are easy to spot against these backdrops. They appear garish and bright (as they should do) and there's a lot of destruction to be had, breaking Lego is rewarding as it unleashes a rain of different studs to collect and use later in the game to buy extras, new characters and so on. Each level has a specific number of studs that must be collected to achieve the True Adventurer score and if you die, you lose a few coins that reduce your amount of coins.
The graphics to Lego Indy are excellent, TT really has the Lego look down perfectly and the characters/animations are all of a suitably cartoon quality, especially in the Lego cut-scenes that retell certain key events from the three movies. The main meat of the game is in the singleplayer campaign and of course you can play on the same console with a friend, who can jump in at any time with a second controller and help you get past some of the trickier parts.
Of course there's no split screen so you'll end up having to work closely with the person you're teamed up with. There is no mp across Xbox Live and there's no system link either. The major gripe I have with the Lego series is that the camera has always been a bit of a pain, it can be sluggish and it can also swing around to the wrong angle when you're trying to make an important jump. In Lego Indy they've smoothed out the camera but it's still fairly tricky at times.
Overall it's a great game and certainly offers a lot of whacky Lego Indiana Jones movie inspired fun. The puzzles will test your brainpower some and your ingenuity in certain levels, so it's a good game for kids as well as adults that are fond of things like the Incredible Machine, where you have to slot parts together to make Rube Goldberg style device. It has a lot of replay value in collecting the various side items and characters.