LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (360) – Review

cover LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures is another LEGO-based game from Traveler’s Tales, who have previously done both LEGO Star Wars games.  While there are several elements that are reused, and much of the general gameplay hasn’t changed much, they have refocused the general approach on the adventure genre and solving puzzles to progress in the game, making it feel pretty fresh and showing that the series has more legs with other popular franchises.  The game is generally on the easy side and is a bit short, but it is entertaining throughout.

Story: A

I don’t think I need to go into the story that much, as it works pretty much like the previous LEGO Star Wars games, capturing the main points of the first three Indiana Jones movies through 6 main set pieces each, while taking liberties with the content as to either make it family friendly (there are  no “Nazis”, just blue-eyed, yellow-haired “army” foes) or to fit within premise of LEGO bricks, such as Herny Jones, instead of getting a bullet wound at the end of Last Crusade, simply is separated from his legs.  For the most part, the game does focus on the most exciting sequences that translate well into the gameplay, though some sequences are rather extended (for example, while the bar fight at the start of Raiders is a good sequence alone, there’s an entire level that takes place in the mountain region, so it wings a bit from the movie).  The typical humor that Traveler’s Tales has used before persists here, in addition to the humor from the movie.

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Gameplay: A

LEGO Indiana Jones may be easy and short, but it is a pretty fun game overall.  The gameplay is pretty consistent with the Star Wars games as well, though adds in the right elements to capture the spirit of the movie series.  In the main game mode, you play as Indy, teamed up with one or more other characters to work your way through the various levels in the game.  To go along with the theme of the movies, more of the focus on this game is on solving environmental puzzles, with occasional breaks for combat.

The bulk of these puzzles typically are based on building usable objects from special loose piles of LEGO bricks as to allow further progress in the game, such as a platform or a vehicle.  However, getting to such loose piles may requiring using special skills that each character has, or can be helped with tools that may be found around the levels.  Indy, of course, is unique with his whip action allowing him to swing across gaps.  The female characters have the ability to jump higher, while the children (such as Short Round) can get through small doors to get to special positions.  Shovels can be used to dig up bricks, wrenches used to break malfunctioning machines, and special hieroglyphics can only be understood by those holding books.  Several puzzles require two characters to complete, such as holding down two switches at the same time, or having one character operate a device to raise another to a different level.  When playing alone the game makes sure that when this process is being done right, the other character is in the right position to help.  However, at other times, it is useful to switch between characters, which is also provided as needed.  The game translates Indy’s fear of snakes nicely into a gameplay element where certain characters have phobias and cannot cross an area filled with those creatures (such as snakes for Indy, spiders for Willey, and rats for Elisa) and need to have another character clear it out.  It’s hard to say whether its intentional or not, but also giving Willey the ability to shatter glass with her screams is also pretty funny.

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Besides puzzles, you also have combat, which works pretty well.  Indy and his friends are mostly hands-on, so your combat does a lot of melee attacks, but you can use Indy’s whip or any of the tools as weapons.  Additionally, there are guns and swords that can also be picked up and used for a limited number of times.  Combat is typically very easily, unless you are being fired upon from afar but even then is it easy to dodge bullets.  But even though you may die, you will come back a few moments later, so there’s really only a minimal challenge here to complete.  However, there are some nice combat sequences that occur on moving vehicles (from Raiders and Last Crusade) that play out nicely.   The only annoyance is there are sections which are puzzle solving areas, yet enemies continually respawn to distract from this.  There are times where you need something from the spawned enemies (such as a “army” hat to fool guards) but when they are just there to annoy you, it does get boring.

Story mode mimics the movies, so your choice of characters is locked in, but once you complete the levels you can also play in Free Play mode, where you can select two characters and the computer provides several others such that all the special areas on the level are accessible.  This allows you to explore each level fully, and more specifically to complete three special objective that each level has.  Each has a special parcel that can be found and delivered to a mailbox that typically also has to be found, which enables a cheat-like function for the game – such as increasing how fast a character digs.  Each level also has ten special golden chests to be found to complete an artifact that is put on display at the Barlett College, which acts as the hub within the game.  Finally, as you go through each level, you collect LEGO “studs” (the equivalent of money) that can be used to buy additional characters from the game, but within each level, there is a target amount that represents a “True Adventurer” that you need to collect.

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A nice aspect of the game, and which the series continues to have, is drop-in co-op play, which works in either mode, allowing the other player to control another character.  This is great for friends as well as for parents and children (though the game is rated E10+).  The only downside is that this is only available for local play.  It would be really nice if they could ever figure out how to do this over Xbox Live or other networks.

The game is surprising fresh despite the previous two LEGO Star Wars – the transition from a sci-fi drama with the focus on combat, to adventure, adds just the right elements to keep the concept interesting.  Some players may miss the space battle sequences (there are vehicle sections but they are certainly not comparable to the battles) but there’s really no comparable aspect to the series that could be added here.

Value/Replayability: B+

It is still a short and easy game: I ran through the story mode in about 8 hours, but as noted, there’s a lot to go back to do to get full completion (I ended just about 50% complete with that, but I suspect that there would be a bit more than just another 8 to get to that point).

Graphics: A-

I found no major problems in the graphics: everything looks great in LEGO form.  The only persistent problem is that some jumping aspects lacked enough light and depth perception that caused me to fail the jump; a temporary annoyance, but an annoyance all together.

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Sound: A

It’s hard to argue about using the actual movie soundtracks through most of the game – and where new music is used, it’s the right tone for effects.  Add on the right sounds that LEGO bricks make when you use them, and pretty much there’s no major problems in the sound area.

Overall: A

LEGO Indiana Jones does an excellent job of keeping the same fun and enjoyment as the previous LEGO Star Wars games, and translating the format to match the general concept of the Indiana Jones movies.  It is easy and short, but when a game is generally fun throughout this period, these issues can be overlooked.  With another new format, LEGO Batman, looming around the corner, I have a feeling that Traveler’s Tales can continue to expand the series, though I would be interested to see if they can take the same approach but with a unique story of their own.

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