Given the lack of an official videogame based on the recently released fourth Indiana Jones movie, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, LucasArts has taken it upon itself to return to the original, classic trilogy of films in Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. Built using an updated version of the Lego Star Wars II engine, Lego Indiana Jones aims to provide more of the same light-hearted, Lego-centric experiences as its spiritual predecessor, but does it succeed?
Lego Indiana Jones' Story Mode consists of eighteen chapters, six for each of three films upon which the game is based (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and the Last Crusade, respectively). Each chapter can be accessed via rooms in Barnett College, the game's main hub. Upon starting a new chapter for the first time, players are put in control of Indy, with the option of 'tagging' (swapping with) a secondary character on the fly. Each playable character, of which there are a great many, has his or her own special abilities and weapons. For example, Indiana can use his trusty whip to subdue enemies and cross chasms, while Marian can throw bottles at distant enemies and destructible objects.
Unfortunately, the character you'll be spending most of your time with (at least on your first play through of the Story Mode), Indiana Jones, is actually one of the least satisfying characters in the game. Whereas the Jedi characters in Lego Star Wars offered enjoyable lightsaber attacks, force powers, and laser-reflection capabilities, all Indy has is his whip (which is admittedly quite fun when used to strip enemies of their weapons) and his bare hands. The latter of which results in far more inane button mashing during combat than we would have liked. It is possible to pick up certain weapons throughout the course of each chapter - swords and guns, for example - but these are generally few and far between.
It's not all about combat, though. Each chapter also contains a series of simplistic puzzles that involve tasks like finding blocks of Lego and moving them into certain positions, pushing switches, blowing out torches, and so on. Many of these rely on simple touch screen interactions, but the game's developers have kindly included the option to bypass the touch screen almost entirely, allowing players to simply opt for a quick button press instead. Somewhat irritatingly, however, the same cannot be said for the semi-regular occasions on which players are required to blow into the microphone. We found blowing out a flame manually to be mildly grin-worthy the first time around, but eventually it proved to be little more than an unnecessary gesture which we would love to have been able to skip.
As you progress through the main story you'll likely notice that most chapters feature a handful of areas that cannot be accessed with the default characters at your disposal. The only way to access these areas, and the treasures contained within, is to return to the chapter in question in Free Play mode, which is unlocked upon a chapter's completion and allows you take in a character of your choosing. This fact - combined with various hidden artifacts, map pieces, Studs, and Gold Bricks needed to unlock certain extras, such as mini-games - adds up to a whole lot of potential replay value, particularly for the completionists out there. Of course, if collecting tons of goodies isn't really your cup of tea, you will probably end up whizzing through the Story Mode in a matter of hours.
Ultimately, though, the problems we've discussed don't stop Lego Indiana Jones from being a truly enjoyable journey through the films many of us have been in love with since we were kids. The humorous take on previously dramatic moments is something that simply wouldn't be so pleasing without the use of Lego. And, despite their somewhat low quality as a result of compression, each of the game's cut scenes are often laugh-out-loud funny, and contain more than a few in-jokes for fans of the original films. The game's 3D engine is also as solid as ever, managing to look great and provide everything the player needs to navigate standard and platform-centric arenas. An impressive feat for a handheld title.
Solid is the word of the moment here, as well. Playing as Indy consistently can become repetitive due to limited combat options, but the wealth of unlockable characters gradually fixes that problem.
Extremely solid. Character models looks great (for Lego) and environments are surprisingly expansive and detailed. Nary a hint of slowdown to be found, either.
All your favourite orchestral pieces from the original films are here, including the undeniably fantastic title music. Alas, some tracks appear to have been cut short (perhaps due to size constraints) and end up looping rather regularly.
There're a ton of unlockables (including mini-games) for those that enjoy that sort of thing. For everyone else there's still an incentive to play through the main Story Mode again with extra characters in order to discover new areas.
Lego Indiana Jones, while extremely competent, isn't quite as exciting as Lego Star Wars was simply because it feels like we've been here before. The basic gameplay is the same, both titles use an almost identical in-game engine, and even John William's compositions sound incredibly familiar. Ultimately, we also found playing as a Jedi to be more fulfilling than playing as an archaeologist. But despite all that, it's difficult to condemn a game for being similar to such an excellent title (last year's installment, that is, not the bug-ridden original). As such, if you're an Indiana Jones fan and you've never played Lego Star Wars, (or if you have, but were left wanting more) then you won't be disappointed with Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures.
I haven't played the DS one - I still remember the reviews for the first Star Wars one on DS. Good to see they've pulled their socks up a bit. They seem to be relatively identical across the board now. The Wii version's a perfectly average game that's elevated by my fondness for the films. The cute little comic moments only just manage to cover-up the monotonous gameplay this time round though. I'll be giving Lego Batman/Harry Potter/Spider-Man/James Bond/A-Team/etc a miss.