So, where do you go after conquering the Star Wars franchise with a multi-million selling Lego-based title? Well, for Traveller’s Tales, the answer lies in sticking with what they know best, and jumping on the Hollywood (and indeed specifically George Lucas) bandwagon once again; but this time with everyone’s favourite misunderstood scholar. Coinciding with the wave of nostalgia as the fourth installment hits the cinema screens, Lego Indiana Jones puts the kid-friendly formula to good use once again, albeit with some slightly lesser-known source material to work with. Trading in the blaster for a crossbow and the light saber for a whip won’t please everybody, but for the other ten million of you out there, it’s just the ticket.
“Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.”
Lego Indy doesn’t ever stray far from the blueprint that made the other titles the success that they have been. Each film from the original trilogy is tied in to it’s own six-level adaptation, complete with the same brand of humour and cutesy storytelling that wraps up the light-hearted and simplistic puzzle and combat mechanics. In general the cinematics hit the same bar of quality throughout, with some genuinely funny homages and re-workings of crucial plot points. Instead of the Mos Eisley Cantina we end up with Barnett College as a hub this time around, and although smaller, it contains enough distractions to make it a time-consuming diversion between each campaign session.
The puzzles in this installment usually take the same approach as the Star Wars titles, offering up a brief but logical challenge, albeit with a few head-scratching moments in each session. Individual skills play a much greater role here though, with each primary character having their own unique ability to be worked into the gameplay. Most of the female characters can jump higher for example, whilst the Temple of Doom’s ‘Willie’ can shatter glass with a high-pitched scream. The scholars – such as Belloq and Jones senior – can decipher heiroglyphics to open passages, whilst the host of new tools (such as spanners, spades and books) also play into the environmental obstacles.
Indeed that’s probably the biggest alteration from the formula at this point. Whereas the Star Wars titles often saw a mad dash from one side of the level to another – stopping briefly to sort out some minor puzzles along the way – Lego Indy fairly often relies on multi-part conundrums, usually set within a confined arena. Fixing a plane might require the construction of two new engines for example, one of which can only be reached by a specific character after building a path with the special abilities of another. Once you’ve got the engines mounted you might need to obtain a spanner to fix them, which will involve trading a banana with a monkey to obtain the item you need. Reaching the banana will require the specific skills of another character… and so it goes on.
“Snakes… Why did it have to be snakes?”
Perhaps the best indication of Traveller’s Tales dedication to wringing every last ounce of authenticity out of the franchise comes with the introduction of phobias for each character. Indy, for example, has his trademark hatred of snakes recreated here, with specific puzzles that require navigation through rivers of the plastic serpents. Willie has the same conundrum with Spiders, and you’ll need to find a way for her to get around or through without cowering in fear. Characters don’t just take damage when they go near their own brand of psychological Kryptonite, they simply stand there shaking, adding another level of charm to the experience.
It’s a puzzling approach that works surprisingly well for the trilogy of films on which the game is based, with a slower pace punctured by the occasional chase scene or fast set piece. Unfortunately it’s during the quicker sections that the game falls a little short of the mark, with some regrettable vehicular control and specific highlights such as the mine cart scene reduced to something far too simplistic. What should end up as the perfect action foil to the platforming and puzzle-solving sections quickly devolve into missions that you simply want to get through to end up back in the main experience.
Obtainer of rare antiquities
As ever, Traveller’s Tales have also offered up an incredible selection of unlockable content within each episode, with ‘free mode’ abuse necessary to obtain each hidden item. You’ll occasionally see hidden paths or small doorways throughout the main story mode, but it’s only on completion that you’ll be able to venture back with the specific character that you need to unlock the content. Whilst the amount of replay value isn’t as great as the Star Wars titles (and let’s be honest, there are nowhere near as many characters that you’ll actually want to unlock), Lego Indy still offers up enough of a catalogue to keep the OCD sufferers amongst the audience busy for a good week or so.
The drop-in drop-out cooperative mode is ever-present of course, and playing through with a friend always boosts the experience past the initial single-player charm. Indeed it’s positively a bonus this time around, as the AI of your CPU controlled comrades can be a little infuriating at times. Whether that’s a by-product of the slightly less linear level design or not is uncertain, but simply getting them to stand in the right place often requires manual intevention.
All of which is strikingly familiar to the previous games then. If you’ve played the original Star Wars titles, simply transplant the characters and scenery from Indiana Jones into the same game, and you’ll not be far off the mark here. Unfortunately it’s a graphical engine that gives scant consideration to tearing issues, which are more prevalent here than ever before (the included V-sync option destroys the framerate, so isn’t really a viable alternative). On the whole though, if you can look past those technical issues and you don’t mind shelling out for essentially the same experience that you’ve already played through, then you’ll certainly find enough value here for a nostalgic weekend.