Easily one of the biggest success stories of recent years comes in the form of the LEGO Star Wars series. Initially released on the PlayStation 2 and giving gamers the opportunity to play through their favourite Sci-Fi epic in a LEGO inspired universe, the game seemed to be targeted at Star Wars fans; but it was the LEGO theme that kept everybody coming back, along with the fun cooperative gameplay of course. It spawned a sequel covering the remaining Episodes of Star Wars, along with a re-release combining the two games together in the one experience and adding in fancy next-gen polish and online features to boot. While they may have run out of Star Wars related storylines, Travellers Tales are back with their LEGO universe, and have their aim fixed squarely on the Indiana Jones movies for their latest release: LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. Is it more of the same, or has the figurative old dog been taught some new tricks?
If you're unfamiliar with the way the LEGO games work, basically the entire world you're playing in features objects, characters, buildings and vehicles that are all made of the building blocks we all loved to play with as a kid. This gives the entire game a unique feel unlike any other, with colourfully animated worlds created entirely with LEGO. It's not just aesthetic, of course; when using your characters attacks (ranging from your basic punches to weaponry you can shoot), you're able to literally destruct almost everything in sight, including plants, barrels, enemies and basically anything else that isn't bolted down. Destroying objects causes them to leave 'studs' behind, which you must collect throughout each level to earn unlockables and other bonuses, and combined with some extra hidden bits and pieces to find and some very appealing platforming and puzzle elements, the game is very addictive to say the least.
The best thing about the game by far remains to be the fact that you can play the entire storyline cooperatively with drop-in and drop-out play, both online and offline. This obviously adds to the fun-factor, but also highlights that some of the puzzles require some team-work to complete. It could be something as simple as having two characters pulling two switches at the same time, or something a bit more complicated such as needing one character to control a crane while the other navigates across some movable platforms. The cooperative gameplay is present throughout the entire game, and the fact that each character has different abilities means that teamwork is integral. Indy's whip for example is important for pulling switches and objects from a distance, whilst Marion's ability to jump higher makes her very useful for traversing different climbable sections.
There are also a number of other elements which come together in LEGO Indiana Jones; weapons of many different types can be picked up, including a variety of guns, and there are lots of different types of transport which you will be able to use throughout the game, ranging from cars and bikes to more adventurous things like horses and elephants, and some of them are important pieces to some of the many platforming puzzles you'll come across, such as using elephants to travel safely across what would otherwise be a deadly pit. A new feature is also the fact that characters have 'phobias' about certain things - Indy has a fear of snakes, Marion has a fear of spiders, and so on. When a character encounters their respective phobia, they will be stopped in their tracks and won't be able to progress unless their partner smashes said phobia to literal pieces. While it may sound like a small addition, it becomes very important to the progression of the game and allows for some unique puzzles to best make use of specific characters unique skills.
As much as we truly enjoyed our time with LEGO Indiana Jones, much like we did with previous LEGO titles, there are some niggling issues and frustrations that can be difficult to ignore. The camera is annoying at times, sometimes not showing you everything you need to see, and often positioning itself so that you can't quite tell where things are in your depth of field. Ropes and platforms to jump on are sometimes slightly to the left or right of where you jump, turning it into a leap of faith at times where you really require precision if you don't want to lose your life (and unnecessary studs). It can be funny to plummet to your death repeatedly in front of your friends, but it does get frustrating when it happens continually. As a single player experience, the game also falls flat. While it's still playable and you have the ability to swap between your two characters to solve puzzles, it's simply nowhere near as enjoyable as playing with a friend, which quite frankly is how the game was designed in the first place.
With all three original Indiana Jones films present and split into episodes of six each, the game's designers have done an excellent job of recreating them in a LEGO themed universe. All of the cut scenes have been remade with the same cheeky sense of humour that was seen in the LEGO Star Wars games, in a way making fun of the plotline while still being faithful to the story. Any violence from the films is handled in a cute and humorous way as well, which all fits in perfectly with the style. The game is technically impressive as well, with crisp and polished visuals combined with some entertaining sound effects and a soundtrack that will be familiar to anybody who has watched an Indiana Jones movie before. Each character will move in a certain way as well, especially Indy, who dropkicks enemies, slides down ropes the coolest way possible and uses his whip in a very over-the-top and entertaining fashion that we'd expect from such a dynamic character.
The biggest issue with LEGO Indiana Jones is that it's not really that much different from its Star Wars counterpart. While the game is definitely the kind of simplistic and crazy fun that stands out in an industry with so many 'realistic' titles available, it's nothing we haven't seen before. Sure, there are some additions such as phobias and specific character abilities that we haven't seen before, and some of the new puzzle ideas are definitely inventive, but the bottom line is that it feels like the game is just going through the same paces with an altered, adventure-style coat of paint. Don't get us wrong; LEGO Indiana Jones is the kind of game that the whole family can enjoy, and is simple and casual enough that even non-gamers can find something to like without it being too complicated. Just don't expect anything drastically different from LEGO Star Wars, or you'll wind up fairly disappointed.