Archaeology is the search for Legos... not truth.
Hello, loyal readers and fans. Today I'm going to do something a little different. I'm going to review Lego Indiana Jones (LIJ) from two perspectives at the same time. No, I haven't gone insane, and no, I'm not talking about letting the voices in my head have a say in the editorial process. The two perspectives I'm talking about are as a gamer and as a parent. Yes, my followers, I am a parent, and part of my excitement for the release of LIJ comes from my respect for the Lego game versions of the Lucasfilm franchise for many of the reasons that follow this boring introduction that will probably get edited out by Duke
Blake Nick (Oh no he didn't! ~Ed.) anyway.
Lego Indiana Jones follows the footsteps of the previous Lucasfilm and Lego mergers. Yes, like chocolate and peanut butter... like Oreos and milk... like beer and video games, Lego and Lucasfilm pair together seamlessly to form a brand so powerful, it might just knock you on your butt. And keep you there for quite a while as you thumb your way through the wacky world of Dr. Henry Jones, Jr.
LIJ encompasses the first three films of the Indiana Jones tetralogy. Much like Lego Star Wars, from which LIJ takes much of its structure, rendering engines, and play mechanics, the game is divided into three adventures, each of which is divided into chapters. Each chapter has tons of collectibles and secret areas that can only be accessed by playing through the story as different characters and in different modes. This lends itself to plenty of replay value for a game that probably won’t have any downloadable content.
Burnett College acts as a home base for Indy in between levels. This is where you save, create characters, buy unlockables, enter cheats, and view your spoils and thorough collection of artifacts. It also acts as a level in its own right. The characters and collegiate environment are destructible, and the Lego bits actually act as coins in this one. It's just fun to run around with no objective and break stuff.
The gameplay is nothing less than addictive, and with the drop-in/drop-out cooperative mode, you don't have to wait for your buddy (or child/parent in my case) to run off for snacks or bathroom breaks, as players can simply pop out of the game and have the computer take over. However, the computer is not very intuitive and can't be relied on to get you through hairy spots. Then again, the A.I. of the enemies isn't all that great either... they simply come at you in hordes and attack you.
Speaking of attack, Indy has some sweet hand-to-hand combat moves like the full nelson, the body slam, and other grappling techniques. It's hard to perform any of them deliberately as combat is really just button-mashing. Weapons aren't part of Indy’s (or his cohorts’) style, so the only guns (and rocket launchers!) you get to use are those dropped by the pesky Nazis and Arabians. However, Indy does pack a mean whip that he uses to swing across gaps, collect treasures and puzzle parts, and if you're feeling suave, capture his female partner for a quick smooch! Yep, animated Lego movie character smooching is part of the game... eeeewww… cover the kiddie’s eyes. The parent in me is thrilled to see “death” as enemies exploding into their respective Lego parts... so that they’re not “killed” necessarily but “disassembled” and tossed back into the bucket with the rest of the bits. Something about this makes this game, which is mainly about destroying enemies with weapons and fisticuff techniques, not seem fraught in the “video game violence” that supposedly corrupts children (as some now guilty parties think).
The sound is amazing on a 5.1 system with good speakers. Dramatic sonatas accentuate vibrant landscapes with grace and panache. Okay... what I meant to say, in real language, is that the music fits the game. This is, after all, Lego Indiana Jones we're talking about. Game sounds are movie inspired and your basic well-funded and creatively backed 3D platformer fare.
And it's apparent that the game was designed by fans of the movies, since all of your favorite scenes are rendered in Animated Lego-Vision. Remember when Indy ran through the Egyptian Bazaar and confronted the sword-wielding thug, only to draw his pistol, and shoot him dead? It's there, except that this time the thug explodes into a pile of bricks. The propeller death... yep... again is rendered in Animated Lego-Vision (time to copyright that word and make millions). Indy is afraid of snakes, and other characters must complete the areas where they reside - all of the quirks of the movies have been written into the game.
The game boasts “over 60 unlockable characters”, which is pretty amazing since the movies are focused around just a few central characters and the rest are in the background. 60 is a stretch in my mind. Sure, you get to play as the main guys you'd expect - Indy, Short Round, Indy's Father - but the “extras” unlocked in the course of gameplay are mostly costume changes for the ladies - you know, like vodka drinky girl, and lady-in-the-mine-cart. It’s dull and rather pointless. No new features come from Willie wearing a nightgown instead of a dress. The real treat comes from the hidden characters from the Star Wars universe. So far I've found Luke and C-3PO, but rumor has it that the rest of the gang can be found sprinkled throughout, and when they are all unlocked, Han Solo becomes a playable character. There’s even Santa Claus.
New to LIJ from LSW is one of my son's favorite features. The art department is where you can mix and match Lego parts to create your own character, which you can use in “freeplay” mode. In the other Lego games, you could only run around the home base level with your creations. Also new is the ability to pick up objects and throw them as weapons... like bringing a broken bottle to a gun fight.
Normally, Lego Indiana Jones would get an A-rating from me. However, being the third in the Lego franchise based on Lucasfilm movies, there is not enough innovation here to warrant more than a B+. The addictive gameplay, well-rendered graphics (even on an aged system), easy control scheme, innovative cooperative features and tons of replay value make for a winner. I am a pretty critical guy when it comes to games, but playing this is just too much fun.