IGN Review of LEGO Indiana Jones
Traveller's Tales is back and tackling the plastic building block world again. After exhausting the Star Wars franchise with no less than three LEGO Star Wars releases, the company has worked with LucasArts on bringing another of its franchises to the peg-filled universe with LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures.
If you've played any of the LEGO Star Wars titles, you'll feel right at home as the formula has largely remained exactly the same, right down to the control scheme. There is a bit more adventuring this time around however, with more emphasis placed on solving puzzles and collecting keys or parts to unlock the next area, though mashing everything in sight and collecting as many Studs as possible is still the main gameplay focus.
The game runs through the original three Indy films and while it follows the stories well, there are some segments that have been added or tweaked to better fit the title. For example, after rescuing Marion from her bar towards the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark, you'll run through a section where you work along a snowy cliff side, take on some Germans and eventually head out of the area. Similarly, the temple at the end of the Last Crusade has much more than three tests to pass, with plenty of mostly non-deadly puzzles to complete before you get to the Grail. This all works well in terms of how the game plays as well as its pacing, and most all of the segments are fun, though there's certainly a bigger separation between game and films than what we saw with the LEGO Star Wars titles.
The Wii version of the game allows you to use motion controls for many actions, though everything is optional as all of the actions are assigned to buttons as well, allowing you to choose how you want to play. Not everything has a motion control, but what's there works pretty well. You can swing Indy's whip by whipping the Wii Remote, attack by shaking it, or even speed up your building and fixing by moving both the Remote and Nunchuck quickly. Our only gripe is that attacking by shaking the Wii Remote with Indy has him use his whip instead of his fists, which isn't nearly as fast as straight up fisticuffs, so you'll likely resort to just pressing Z while using him to throw punches.
Though there's obviously a lack of Force powers this time around, Traveller's Tales has once again done a good job of providing distinct character groups. Indiana Jones' whip always comes in handy, and he's the only one that can open a number of the game's sections thanks to its numerous uses. Thugees, the bad guys from the Temple of Doom, are able to "talk" to statues of Kali and open up secret areas, while people with manuscripts, like Henry Jones Sr. or Elsa, are able to decipher hieroglyphs and open other secrets. Some characters come with shovels or wrenches, which allow them to dig up objects or fix broken items.
The cool thing here is that aside from Indy's whip (or a tiny character's small stature), you're able to find all of these items in-game to help you solve puzzles. So even if you only have Junior and Willie at your disposal, you'll be able to dig up treasure if you can find a shovel nearby, or you can work with hieroglyphs if you can find a book. There are plenty of areas that won't have these things lying around, requiring that you come back in Free Play to unlock more goodies, but the puzzle variety is able to be mixed much better throughout the game thanks to the ability to pick up and use items.
Adding a bit more character to the main cast are phobias that a couple of them have. Indy, for instance, is afraid of snakes, while Willie is scared of spiders. Both will cower in fear when near them, so you'll need to use another character to either clear the way or go ahead and solve a puzzle without them. It's a small touch, but one that works well to bring about some of the characters' traits from the films to the game. Since the characters don't really talk though, Short Round lacks his funny quips and just winds up being short. Oh well.
A somewhat big difference between the Star Wars and Indiana Jones LEGO games is the focus of combat. While most characters either had a lightsaber or blaster in the Star Wars titles, the combat in LEGO Indy is largely hand-to-hand. You can pick up guns that enemies drop, but they're only good for a few shots before they expire. While this is mostly fine, it can be a little frustrating when there are a group of armed enemies on-screen and you have no choice but to repeatedly jump while running at them in order to try and dodge their shots. You will inevitably get hit and probably even die a few times in the scuffle. While you have infinite lives of course, it's still frustrating to know that you don't really have a good chance of coming out unscathed in these encounters and simply have to bear down and charge until everyone is dead.
As mentioned, the game has a stronger focus on adventuring and puzzle solving than what we've seen in the past. This extends to platforming elements, including segments where you have to scale walls while avoiding traps. There are occasions, especially one segment in the temple at the end of The Last Crusade, that are actually pretty tricky and require far more skill than anything else in the game. If you happen to be playing with someone who's only a very casual gamer and isn't so great at platforming elements, they might get completely stuck at a couple sections like this. They're passable, but certainly much harder than anything else in the game.
One area that Traveller's Tales has done a good job of improving upon is its use of vehicles. Controls are tighter and much more responsive this time out, though some rides do take a moment or two to get used to. But once you do, you won't be struggling to get them to do what you want, as has been the case in the past. There are only a couple segments in the game that actually require the use of vehicles or mounts (like horses or llamas), and they work well in tying into the films.
Traveller's Tales has proven itself to be great at creating cooperative games, and LEGO Indiana Jones offers more of the same. A second player can hop in and out of the game at any time, and everything flows exactly the same whether you have two players or one, cutscenes and all (which can't be said about many games). There's no online option this time around for any system however, which is certainly rather disappointing.
In addition to creating great co-op experiences (lack of online aside), Traveller's Tales has also consistently done a great job of offering tons of replayability to gamers. LEGO Indy delivers this in spades, with plenty of stuff hidden away in levels that you'll need to come back to in the Free Play mode to unlock. Many things are nicely teased, with treasures just behind an object that the story members can't break, making you hop right back in when you're done, taking a rocket launcher-wielding soldier to nab the gold, for instance. Co-op really shines here when you and a friend work together to search the levels for every last bit of treasure.
Earning Extras - unlockable bonuses like Stud multipliers or regenerating hearts - is more involved here than simply finding a red brick. Instead, you're hunting down parcels, which you then need to take to a nearby mailbox to deliver back to the college, where you can then buy them. So while you may have access to nab the parcel with a given character type, you might need another to unveil the mailbox to actually earn it. Again, this ties back into the Free Play mode and gives you great reason for going back and collecting everything as most of the Extras that you'll earn are good fun and worth searching for.
One lingering complaint with the LEGO series that is still present here is that the camera still needs a good bit of work. You'll find many times when a second player will be "killed" because you force them off the screen, which is more common here than in the Star Wars titles since you sometimes don't know how far Indy will swing with his whip. The camera issues have never exactly been a deal breaker, but it doesn't seem like anything has been done to fix any of its issues.
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