Indiana Jones would seem like the perfect property off which to make video games. And there certainly have been a fair few of them made over the years, ranging from adventure to learning titles. However, ever since the fun but utterly wasted Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb from five years ago, Indy seems to have gone into hiding from the gaming world. That is, until now. Inevitably, with the cinematic release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull just around the corner, some Indy games are on the way.
If you cast your mind back to 2005, two Star Wars games were released in conjunction with the final cinematic release. One was a movie tie-in and one was based off the popular children's toy, LEGO. On the back of this Indiana Jones release, it seems to be following the Star Wars trend, and we have one game tentatively titled Indiana Jones and another title named LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. However, the former has been in development for a long time and is yet to find a solid release. The latter is due for release two weeks after the movie, and Activision recently gave us a chance to check out the latest from a LEGO and gaming joint venture.
As the title would imply, LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures covers the original trilogy of movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade. The final game is said to be divided up into eighteen levels and the movies will cover six episodes each. However, in what was still a relatively early build, we only played through the first two levels. This included the famous opening scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indy tries to stealthily replace an artifact with a stone, followed by the boulder chase.
Since there were two of us, we spent our entire session in co-op mode. Progress in the game stemmed off two things. Either the ability possessed by Indy's 'Swiss-army whip' or the ability of the character partnering Indy at the time. In the first level, we were initially partnered with someone that had a shovel. At one point, he was able to dig out an artifact that was used to complete a puzzle. Later on, a lady character had an ability to jump higher and reach places that Indy couldn't. Once you had figured out the abilities and the visual clues, the puzzles were fairly intuitive to solve.
The second part of the progression came in the form of LEGO building. You'd come across a pile of LEGO bricks and by holding B, we were able to build something. Sometimes, you'd build a structure such as a raft that would help you get across an otherwise inaccessible point. Other times, you'd build a platform and attach it to a structure that would look incomplete. From there, re-building the engine next to it would restart the lift. So as you've probably gathered by now, the formula is rather similar to LEGO Star Wars but the entire setting has been transformed.
The game had some rather floaty controls that would cause us to do silly things at times, but for the most part, they actually suited this style of play. It's clear that the game is almost specifically designed for co-op play, and you'll get the most out of it by playing through with a buddy. There were countless times during our short play session that we were able to help each other out in different ways. However, the single player seems to be structured in a way that the 'hot-swapping' between characters would be too cumbersome or require too much backtracking. Still, we think that co-op will end up being more enjoyable.
In terms of presentation and features, LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures retains the characteristics of previous LEGO titles. In terms of features, you'll be able to mix, match and play as a whole host of franchise characters. However, this time around, it seems that the game has been built for the HD consoles, as opposed to being scaled up. There were some very sharp textures, nice effects (such as the lighting) and more importantly, a smooth frame rate. The game is still saving on voice actors with a rather Sim-lish take on character voicing, but it has an uncanny charm to it.
Overall, we're not sure how appealing or what kind of a following Indiana Jones has with the youngsters these days, but LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures could be as good and popular as LEGO Star Wars was. In the very least though, the game seems to have the foundations for a very solid and enjoyable co-op adventure, which will likely be even more enjoyable for fans of Indy. Hopefully it won't end up being just another movie cash-in.