Nobody wants to play as Shia LeBeouf
The Indiana Jones series has some memorable moments. From solving the gun vs. sword dilemma, to a layman’s guide to heart surgery, to what happens when you board a zeppelin without a ticket, the first three movies have left their mark on the cultural landscape. Then along comes Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, where we are shown why it is always best to buy the nuclear bomb proof refrigerators…
[image1]It is a rare feat for a game based on a movie to be better than the movie itself. Chronicles of Riddick is the last time I remember this happening, though that was due to the fact that it had a completely different plot then its cinematic counterpart. Since the first Lego Indiana Jones covered the first three movies scene by scene, its sequel had to be the fourth movie. Stuck to working with an inferior storyline, the designers of Lego Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues decided that just because scenes were retold in the last game didn’t mean they couldn’t retell them again [Reretell? ~Ed ]. By using new gameplay design and features, they turned what could have easily been a rehash into the best parts of the new game.
The Lego game formula has now been in enough games that its almost a genre of its own. Players are quite familiar with collecting the little plastic studs by destroying everything while watching their favorite characters doing their best Mummenschanz impersonations. While the last Lego Indiana Jones stuck to this formula to a tee, due in part to a ridiculously short development cycle, Lego Indiana Jones 2 has refined the experience in new ways that are a great change of pace.
Instead of just having each scene from the movies playable from a central hub, they are instead broken up into “playsets”. Each playset covers part of the film, has its own characters to unlock, and acts as a hub for both the storyline missions and all the bonus hunts we expect from a Lego game. As you earn studs, you unlock more and more special characters and vehicles that, in turn, allow you to unlock and solve the bonus missions. As you play through the game, you unlock new playsets, including playsets that cover the previous movies. Each playset acts like a standalone game, so much so that the game credits play every single time you beat a playset (thankfully skipable).
[image2]Since the primary audience for this game is kids, the difficulty is mild to begin with but will adjust itself to more veteran players. If you’ve played any of the previous Lego games, the gameplay will be joyously familiar, with some tweaks that allow for a little more interaction with the levels and new ways to solve puzzles. The designers have done a great job of improvement without losing any of the joy from the previous games.
The biggest change to the gameplay comes in the form of multiplayer. Previous games in the Lego series have forced the two players to always be on the same screen, sometimes causing fights when players want to go in different directions. In a welcome change, Lego Indiana Jones 2 took a cue from the classic Toejam and Earl and have a dynamic split screen that activates the moment you get too far from each other. Whichever direction you wander off in, even a diagonal, the screen splits seamlessly along a perpendicular line between the two characters. Once they come back together, the line blends back in at the moment the two characters come in contact with each other. It was amazingly well done and should serve as a model to any other attempt at a top down split screen multiplayer.
So, with the same fantastic gameplay and excellent split screen, Lego Indiana Jones 2 is the best, right? Unfortunately, as Kingdom of the Crystal Skull illustrates, Lego games rely on the subject matter to truly make the story. The Indiana Jones universe is simply a more difficult Lego conversion than the others (Batman, Star Wars) since it really only has one main character.
[image3]Every time I played multiplayer, there was always a battle over who got to be Indy. This lack of defined additional characters is stark at the beginning of Lego Indiana Jones 2 when you have the choice of being Indy or a Janitor… seriously, a janitor, I’m not kidding. Even when you do get to later levels, given the choice between playing as Indy or someone else, everybody will choose Indy.
While I normally would not knock a game for its achievements/trophies, I have to wonder for who the designers thought they were making the achievement list. Achievement for beating your first mission? None. Achievement for unlocking new characters? Nope. It wasn’t until I beat all the story missions on the first level that I heard that distinctive noise. While I’m not asking for Avatar easy achievements/trophies, the designers have to remember that they are making a game for kids and having a couple easy ones balances the overall play.
Lego Indiana Jones 2 is yet another solid addition to the Lego games formula and a great game for the younger gamers who might have liked Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The gameplay improvements were a welcome change and the new split screen is an essential new addition to Lego games. However, without the characters or story to hold it up, the game doesn’t reach the height of its predecessors. The Lego series have been on a roll lately, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.