Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures
For: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox 360
Genre: Action, Adventure, Family
ESRB Rating: Everyone (10+)
Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures
Lego Indiana Jones features the same core gameplay mechanics as the popular Lego Star Wars series -- i.e. little plastic building-block figurines of famous franchise characters bopping around similarly thematic sets, bashing on other Lego characters, collecting Lego pieces, and building Lego props -- but it's not merely more of the same with a bullwhip.
The change in venue, from outer space and pretend planets to ol' terra firma and real world locales, gives Lego Indiana Jones some subtle but significantly altered interactive attributes, all of them good.
First off, the set design of each level is notably organic (gloriously notable in high-def on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3), with your basic landscapes, structure, flora and fauna clearly distinguishable from the Lego-ized characters and key pieces of interactive scenery, which give the whole game a genuine feel of playing with toys in the backyard... if your backyard were full of miniature replicas of Nepal, Tunisia, and Venice, that is.
Secondly, swapping The Force for a Fedora, the action is given to utilize plausible tools and weapons of the 1930's as oppose to the fantastical stuff of Star Wars; shovels and wrenches, guns and, of course, that trademarked bullwhip. Surprisingly (perhaps not), Indy's trust whipsmacker is not much of a weapon as gameplay focuses much more on exploration and environmental puzzles, often calling on the whip to yank levers or pull open out-of-reach trapdoors along with plenty of opportunities for those impromptu Tarzan swings.
A great two-player "family" game -- a title you'll genuinely enjoy playing with your kids, a total guilty pleasure to just play by yourself no matter how old you are -- Lego Indiana Jones always features at least two main characters in play, usually Indy plus one of 60 iconic sidekicks such as Marion Ravenwood, pipsuqeaky Short Round, Dad, etc., each and all always playing on the same screen. If playing solo, you simply swap direct control of each character and then use the unique abilities of each to help the others; women are better at jumping to high-up places, only guys with a wrench can fix motors, and only Indy can crack the whip, and so on.
New to Lego games, tools and weapons dropped by enemies can be picked up and used by the main characters, which gives the action the same make-it-up-as-you-go spirit so integral to the Indiana Jones movies.
The difficulty of it all, meanwhile, is a shade tougher than previous Lego games. Lots of skinny bridges over fatal chasms that must be navigated just so; projectile weapons must be aimed a little more precisely than just "general direction of." It can be a little frustrating for really young or novice games, but it makes the satisfaction of completing any given hop, skip, or jump that much more rewarding, so the gripe's a wash.
Speaking of weapons, Lego Indy is probably more deserving of its "E10+" rating (Everyone 10 years old an up) than is Lego Star Wars. Bullets and firebombs, toy-like though they may be, are more heavy handed than the goofball pew-pew-whiz-buzz of the Star Wars universe.
The intensity is still of the "cartoon violence" variety, no more gratuitous than popcorny pops of colored plastic blocks, and no playable character really "dies" per se, they just drop their collected tokens, reappear and carry on as many times as needed -- there's no "Game Over."
Still, considering the subject matter, the game can't quite completely avoid the foreboding nature of archeological grave robbing, though it excels as spoofing such stuff at every turn -- quite a feat considering the movies are so sardonically humorous in the first place. The Lego series' penchant for plastic parody and slapstick bricks is in top form, needless to say.
Moreover, LucasArts did make a conscious decision to remove almost all religious overtones and every reference to Nazis, otherwise so central to the films. It's a family game, after all, and one that refuses to even pretend to have value as an introduction to theology or as an overview of historical evils. "Our goal was to make a game that was fun and to maintain the same high quality standards and broad age range appeal that is readily apparent in Lego Star Wars," said LucasArts when queried on the matter.
And that's the crux of it, Lego Indiana Jones is a true game in the "fun thing to do" sense of the word. Though you can plow straight through all three stories of the first three films in a matter of hours, it’s a game that maintains a surprisingly high level of engagement for much longer than that. It's simply chock full of hidden riches and buried artifacts on top the expected patent treasures of Arks and Grails, enough to keep you playing over and over as different characters with different sidekicks just to see what this or that pair of displaced adventurers might churn up -- and what laughs they might have along the way.
TIP: When playing Lego Indiana Jones, be on the lookout for five collectible Star Wars characters hidden within the "Free Play" levels (the ones you keep coming back to after playing though each "Story Mode" level). Collecting Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO with unlock that other Harrison Ford icon, Han Solo, as a playable character.