Lego Indiana Jones
My one word review of Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures would be something that rhymes with “hawesome.” But really, that’s not going to give much of an impression as to what’s really going on.
I must first say that if one is familiar with the various Lego Star Wars games than little will be here that is “new” in game play style (off the top of my head, there is a new “reading runes” mechanic, and Indy’s whip as a weapon, and . . . and I think that’s it).
This is not, however, a bad thing. It is, in fact, a very good thing.
Wait. Lemme rewind.
Abstract: “Lego Indiana Jones is a 3D platform game with a heavy emphasis on puzzle solving accomplished through unique abilities given to each character in the game as well as building shit out of Legos.”
Now, even if most of that sentence was “meh” to you, the phrase “building shit out of Legos” should at least work it for you. If it doesn’t, then you’re a loser and deserve to die in a fire.
(It should be noted that all traces of the Nazis have been removed. There are no swastikas anywhere, and the bad guys are just, I dunno. “German.” No one talks in anything save “grunts” and “hmmms”, so there aren’t any accents to pin on anyone).
The game is set up into three “episodes” (one for each of the original movies), and each one is further divided into six chapters. It doesn’t care which order you do the movies in but you have to play the chapters in each movie in order. Completing a chapter unlocks it for “free play” (more on that in a bit).
I played them in the order that I like the films. “Raiders of the Lost Ark“, then “The Last Crusade“, then “Thuggies with the Screaming Chick that I can’t Stand and the Annoying Sidekick that I also can’t Stand“. I think that going through the “story” mode took about 5, maybe 6 hours total over three days. That’s not very long, and normally I’d be bitching up a storm about the tendency for stunty gametime, but the Lego games are really only 1/3 done after the story gets completed.
See, much like the Metroid series of games, the Lego games are really about continual “re-discovery”. Each level you play has tons of secrets and neat puzzles, and you can’t get to them all until you’ve unlocked all the special powers. You will cruise along inside the Nazi^H^H^H^HGerman U-Boat dock, and see a small ventilation shaft that you can’t fit into. Whoops. Have to come back in free-play mode with Short Round and have him go in there (he’s smaller than the average bear).
Here are the basic “powers”, and the primary archetype that holds them:
Indy has a whip. The whip is bad-ass. It allows him to grab stuff from a distance and also swing over chasms. Unsurpisingly, this is your “go-to” guy.
The Various Female Sidekicks (Marion, Willie, and Elsa) can all jump really high. The game explains this as “females are more agile” which I’m not entirely sure is true from a human biological standpoint but we’re talking about little plastic people with spherical heads and clamps for hands so I guess that’s okay.
Willie has a special power, though: she can scream loud enough to shatter glass. I am going to assume that the developers knew how much I loathed her screaming and made a joke about it.
Pa Jones can translate runes (this is basically the game Simon). Anyone can do this if they have a “book” but Pa Jones, Elsa, and Marcus Brody come with them stock.
Short Round is, uh, short. He can get into small places.
Other than that, there are “tool” powers that give you abilities if you have them. Shovels for digging, wrenches to repair stuff, bazookas to blow up shit, Nazi^H^H^H^HGerman hats to get into Nazi^H^H^H^HGerman bunkers, and thuggie caps to worship Kali with.
Some characters have phobias. Indy, for instance, is paralyzed around snakes and Willie freaks out over spiders. This becomes part of the puzzles (in one level, I had Indy, Willie, and Short Round in the jungle, surrounded with both snakes and spiders, so the little kid had to beat everything to death with a shovel).
One makes their way through the game utilizing the correct tool for the job. I found that I spent most of my time controlling one of the female characters because I’m a jumpy kind of guy and they move fast. You will always have at least two characters in your party and can (in single player mode) switch between them at will. The AI for the other one is actually pretty crafty – there were thankfully very few “albatross” moments.
The puzzles themselves aren’t quite up to Portal levels of goodness but they’re still hella fun. I didn’t find any of them “Nintendo Hard” to solve – if it wasn’t obvious what was needful, I could usually figure it out in five minutes.
The game has a “drop-in” co-op mode that was simply fucking genius when it was in Lego Star Wars and is still simply fucking genius today. Say you’re sitting on your couch and then your friend stops by with a bottle of wine because you were supposed to hang out and maybe make dinner and watch Pan’s Labyrinth. You say something like “yeah, just lemme finish this level,” and then they just pick up controller #2 and press “A”. BAM. Now they control the second dude and four hours later you’ve killed the wine and ordered a pizza instead. Solving puzzles in co-op is so phenomenally fun that the words “phenomenally fun” don’t do it justice.
Here is a little video that pretty much shows the game play. It’s a co-op game – the AI isn’t that good. (It’s not spoiling anything – I mean, seriously, if you haven’t seen Raiders in the past twenty-five years, I can’t help you.)
Here’s the bad, because this is where I can try to be funny:
The camera behavior is so deeply retarded that it needs constant supervision by an army of nurses. I have no idea why Traveller’s Tales thinks we don’t need a fully 3D camera. I want to find the person who makes those decisions and punch them in the ovaries. I know they could give us a camera. Hell, there are four unused buttons on the damned controller – even if you don’t want to use up a thumbstick (and you’ve got an extra), at least give me a “camera mode lock”.
The number of times I fell into lava or alligators or ran over one of my mates with a truck because I couldn’t see where I wanted to go was more than I thought necessary. Note that this isn’t a game killer – it’s something you get used to. But you know: I could “get used” to eating poop sandwiches every day. That doesn’t mean I want to.
If the camera is the drooling child of Pa Clampett and his daughter Mae, the vehicle behavior is kind of like, I dunno. The slightly less-retarded cousin who moved to the next town over. In many ways, this is almost *because of* the camera behavior – vehicle movement is totally non-intuitive.
In the year 2008, we have developed a language for vehicle controls using a gamepad. It (usually) follows thus: one thumbstick steers, the other controls the camera (which tries to float above and behind the vehicle). One button accellerates and another brakes (and puts the vehicle in reverse if stopped). Simple. Elegant. Every driving game on the planet uses this (GTA IV uses the triggers, but six-of-one, half-dozen the other).
In Lego Indiana Jones, however, you just use the thumbstick. There isn’t any reverse, and the camera is always . . . well. It’s always south(?) of you. Or something like that. So going forward is not always “push thumbstick to 12:00”. Sometimes going forward is “push thumbstick to 5:25.” There’s no reverse – so what happens is that you end up spending five minutes driving in weird circles trying to line your motorcycle up to jump a ramp (that you can’t see the other side of, because the camera won’t let you pan).
And. . . well. That’s really it for the bad. Some people could argue that the game is a clone of the Star Wars games but I totally loved them so fuck those people. They can die in a fire along with the other non-believers.