Lego. Once the plaything of children, and something painful to stand on when it’s hidden in carpet, has become something of a stroke of gaming genius. First it was Star Wars, then it was Star Wars again and now the latest lego-based movie adaptation is upon us. Behold the plastic hat and whip of one Henry Jones Jnr.
If you’ve played any of the Lego Star Wars titles then you know exactly what you’re going to get, if you haven’t then you’re very bad people. Lego Indiana Jones takes each of the three movies (yes folks, we’re pre-Crystal Skull in the game) and splits them down into six levels apiece, seperating each level with genuinely funny, tongue-firmly-in-cheek, cutscenes. You start, of course, at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, making your way through the jungle to retrieve the golden idol and avoiding large rolling boulders but once this level is out of the way you can choose to carry on through the rest of Raiders or pick one of the other movies to play through.
Gameplay is brilliantly simple and works along the same lines as that of the Star Wars games. If you’re playing on your own, you’ll start off as Indy but should the need arise, you can swap to his companion. If you play co-operatively then you each play a character (which can lead to fights over who gets to crack the whip as Indy). Each character has different skills – Indy, obviously, has his whip which he can use to swing across chasms or pull items closer, while the female characters are more nimble so they can jump higher. Anyone can excavate or mend items if they pick up a shovel or spanner, which means that every character can be useful in some way – unlike the previous Star Wars titles where you pretty much had to play as someone with Force Powers to get much done. Some of the characters also have phobias, as you’ll know if you’ve seen the films. Go near a snake as Indy and he starts cowering and moving really slowly, with no other actions available, meaning that the other character has to come in and bail him out. This for me, was a brilliant gameplay addition, particularly during one level of the Raiders story where snakes are dropping out of holes in the walls and Indy is pretty much next-door-to-useless. It’s up to poor Marion to swing around the level closing all the holes and dispatching the snakes before he can really do anything.
As with the Star Wars games, playing through a level in Story Mode opens it up for Free Play. In this mode you can take any character you want (as long as you’ve unlocked them) into any unlocked Free Play level. This allows you to go back and explore any secret areas that you’ve missed, or were unable to get to, because you didn’t have a character with the right skills.
The levels themselves are well presented, and the puzzles are occasionally challenging while you try and work out exactly what it is you’re supposed to be doing in order to progress through the level. There’s a lot more emphasis on the co-op side of the game, as more of the puzzles seem to be geared towards working together. One puzzle, for example, sees one of you pressing switches to retract rows of deadly spikes to allow your partner to pass through a tunnel. I have found a few times in single player where the computer controlled character won’t quite do what you want but nothing that impacts on the gameplay too much.
Jumping is, on occasion, a problem as it’s not immediately obvious if you’re in the right position on the screen to land on a platform or vine which may lead to an untimely and slightly frustrating death. The camera in co-op mode feels restrictive as well, with one player occasionally being dragged to their death because the other is just a little bit too far across the screen. These are minor niggles though, there’s really nothing wrong with the game. It’s what we’ve all been expecting, and it’s brilliant fun.