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TVG raids the lost ark on a last crusade to the temple of doom, as we bullwhip our way through Travellers Tales' latest bricked up adventure...
- Thoroughly charming adventure.
- Lots of replayability with the 60+ characters.
- Camera issues still a problem.
- Some bosses could frustrate younger gamers.
- No online co-op.
You've got to hand it to Traveller's Tales, they've really struck gold with their family-friendly LEGO-related titles. Having already secured a strong partnership with LucasArts and Eidos with the two LEGO Star Wars titles, the studio is now turning its attention to another Lucas property: the adventure-loving archaeologist, Indiana Jones. Timed to near-perfection with the release of the fourth Indy movie, LEGO Indiana Jones takes a trip down memory lane, travelling back to the original three stories. But with another LEGO-based romp later in the year in Warner Bros. Interactive's LEGO Batman, is this a brick-building adventure too far?
We Named The Dog Indiana!
Naturally, the award-winning formula of LEGO Star Wars has barely gone untouched. Each of the three original adventures are accessible from a hub, in this case Barnett College (Indy's place of work when he's not bull-whipping his way through a third-world country). The college also hosts extra features such as the library (used to unlock characters), a museum that shows off some of the artefacts pieced together during the eighteen chapters, and the mix and match 'Create a Character' from LEGO Star Wars II.
Collecting LEGO studs remains at the heart of the gameplay, with the regular slew of destructible objects helping to boost the bank and the player's chances at becoming a 'True Adventurer'. Finally (to cap it all off), the drop in/drop off co-op gameplay of the previous games make a return, again helping to make the LEGO even more enjoyable.
But there are one or two new features...
Perhaps it's not genre defining, but the additional phobias that some characters suffer from, such as Indy's fear of snakes and Willie's fear of bugs, at the very least hints at the detail TT Games has gone into. Getting a little close to their worst fears makes them quake in their boots, too scared to move any closer. Like the rest of the LEGO series of games, it all adds to create an endearing game to play through - although thanks to the adaptive AI, there's a scalable challenge for a broad range of gamers.
As with its Star Wars brethren, LEGO Indy throws in some character specific abilities, for instance, Indy's whip to swing across context-sensitive areas or Short Round's ability to access hidden areas thanks to his pint-sized stature. Other characters can temporarily pick up the abilities of others, such as Jock the mechanic's engineering skills or Marcus Brody's ability to read mysterious glyph puzzles, but only if they find a glyph book or spanner in the game map. Usually nothing more than devices to solve puzzles than really expanding the gameplay, these abilities at the very least ensure that there's enough variety between the 18 missions in the game beyond the block building and bashing.
The Free Play mode of past titles also makes a return, allowing characters not involved with the true story to take part (like playing as Shorty in Raider of the Lost Ark, or Mola Ram in The Last Crusade). Far from being a tacked on feature just for the sake of it, Free Play also allows players to access areas they couldn't reach in the main Story Mode; unlocking Thuggee statues, exploding locked areas with enemy bazookas, or shattering glass with Willie's scream, all help players polish off their artefact collections back at the mueseum. It's a formula that remains fun and frivolous, with the adaptation of Indy's adventures feeling more than at home in the LEGO world.
X Marks The Spot.
Unlike the LEGO Star Wars titles however, there seems to be much more impetus in the game's chapters, helped in no small part by the addition of some classic set-pieces from the original movies, which pepper the adventures in the LEGO world. For instance, the iconic escape from the giant boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the mine cart 'rollercoaster' ride from Temple of Doom are two missions that really stand out in the game, mainly thanks to the change in gameplay they provide. Other memorable sequences include short vehicle sections in The Last Crusade, featuring Henry Jones Jr. and Sr. on stolen motobikes, and several boss battles that normally require the use of the 'lock on' ability and heavy object in order to be defeated. The game is largely 'rinse and repeat', but it's so engrained with character, that it's difficult not enjoy it right from Indy's search in the Amazon, through to his slurp of water out of the Holy Grail.
For all its fun and innocent gameplay however, there is one area where LEGO Indiana falls slightly foul. The same camera weakness that's plagued the previous LEGO instalments remains here, with the occasional dodgy angle interfering with some jumps or obstacles. Three instalments in and perhaps TT Games could be expected to sort the issue out, but when the bulk of the gameplay is unaffected (and remains so fun regardless), it's actually quite difficult to really give the game too much of a knock. Also, some of the boss encounters can get a little tricky on occasion, and are puzzles within themselves more often than not. It's easy to see some of the younger gamers getting slightly frustrated by these, although thanks to the local co-op functionality, older siblings or family members will surely be able to help out.
The lack of online co-operative gameplay is also something of a disappointment, especially when all the current consoles sport parental controls that help protect children. The fact is that LEGO Indy, like its Star Wars cousins before it, is much more appealing during co-op play - so linking up for online co-op would have meant that there'd be a higher chance of getting the full experience. Hopefully this is something that Travellers Tales will look into for their next adventure in LEGO, revolving around DC Comics' Batman, which is due to arrive this Autumn...