By this point, the good folks at Traveller’s Tales can just about make LEGO games in their sleep. They’ve mastered the formula: a little platforming, a little beat-’em up, a little adventure, a little puzzle-solving. Thankfully, though, their latest block-based adventure, LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues, tweaks that recipe a little bit. Not all the changes are successful, and this is certainly no must-buy, but it is an entertaining and fun game that nudges the franchise forward a little.
Indiana Jones 2 is as much a remake as it is a sequel. The first game gave players a hub through which they could access any of the three original movies; this game lets players choose between six hubs with five levels each. The first three hubs take you to movies from the original trilogy, featuring some of the same scenes as the original game did, but with all-new levels. The other half of the game is dedicated to re-telling The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the most recent (and the most poorly received) film in the franchise.
The new hubs have their good and bad points. On the plus side, they’re big and have plenty of interesting scenery and side missions. On the minus side, they’re a little too big, and with no navigation help, you’re often left wandering around, unsure of where to go next. Also, it’s a little weird to play new versions of scenes that were in the original game, and the new movie doesn’t exactly give the developers a whole lot of good material to work with. In short, the basic idea is good, but the implementation has a long way to go.
Some other things have changed as well, and most of the new features have a similar blend of positive and negative. For example, to unlock new characters with fresh abilities, you have to defeat them and purchase them. You can also buy vehicles. That’s great, but unfortunately you can’t swap between characters at will; you have to go back to find them whenever you need them and they’re not around. Another change is that the boss fights are a bit more epic, often requiring you think about what to do next, and sometimes even just try all your abilities on everything you see. This is usually fun, but sometimes it’s frustrating.
The developers tried to refine the game’s action elements as well, but they didn’t even come close to getting the controls right. For example, you’ll pilot a whole bunch of vehicles in the course of this adventure, but they’re practically impossible to control thanks to the bird’s-eye third-person view. Likewise, you can now move a targeting reticule to aim Indy’s whip, but it’s way too tedious to work during a hectic fight. Why can’t we have an over-the-shoulder view for driving scenes and shootouts? A little Burnout and a little Gears of War wouldn’t be bad for the LEGO formula.
Other changes fare much better. Most important, there’s a ton of content here, with side missions, unlockables, and hidden secrets galore. You can beat the basic story in a work day or so, but 100 percent completion is a hefty task. Multiplayer aficionados will be glad to hear that two players can explore different areas at the same time; the screen splits to accommodate wandering, then merges back together when you’re near again. Also, there’s a level creator that walks the thin line between “too complicated” and “not comprehensive enough.” The sole problem with both the multiplayer and the level creator is that there’s no online capability.
Also noticeably improved are the graphics. The slapstick comedy of the cutscenes has never looked more lifelike, and the in-game contrast between the realistic backgrounds and the LEGO constructions on them has never been more stark. One hopes the LEGO series will take on more special-effects masterpieces in the future.
Despite all these changes, the basic soul of the LEGO series is there. The cutscenes are amusing, with LEGO figures acting out not-particularly-faithful recreations of well-known movie scenes. They still talk in that cute LEGO language of grunts and murmurs, and as soon as the cutscenes end, you still proceed to smash everything you see in search of those tiny LEGO studs. There’s still the occasional offbeat touch; for example, Indy’s fear of snakes from the movie makes it into the game and plays a role in some puzzles. When you die, you’re still slapped on the wrist with a fine (paid in studs) and placed right back where you were with full health. The soundtrack still features the well-known music from the films in question, not to mention that indescribably heartwarming sound of LEGO blocks clinking off each other.
A few old annoyances stick around as well. The screen still tears now and again, though if you’re willing to sacrifice some framerate, there’s an option to fix this. In single-player mode, your A.I. partner still can’t seem to handle the simple task of following you very well. He’s always getting stuck somewhere, and if you switch characters to help him out, sometimes your own character will get hung up in the same place. Most of the puzzles are still painfully easy, also, which is probably less of a problem for the game’s target audience than it is for us.
Whatever its flaws, this game does a decent enough job of walking the line between sticking to the formula and mixing things up. The developers will need to refine some of the changes in future installments; in particular, the “where do I go now?” problem is serious, especially for very young children with short attention spans. Regardless, it’s refreshing to see them try something new for a change, and given the constant stream of LEGO-themed games, the franchise has aged surprisingly well.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
The slapstick comedy of the cutscenes has never looked more lifelike, and the in-game contrast between the realistic backgrounds and the LEGO constructions on them has never been more stark. 3.0 Control
Basic navigation is a breeze, but driving and fighting feel really clunky. 0.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack still features the well-known music from the films in question, not to mention that indescribably heartwarming sound of LEGO blocks clinking off each other. 3.5
There’s simply a ton of stuff to do here, though the game’s problems get in the way of enjoying some of it.
3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.