The golden rule of LEGO: the more bits there are, the better the model will inevitably be. Bits mean more work. More fun. We love bits. Traveller’s Tales love bits too: LEGO Indiana Jones 2 has thousands of the blighters. Let’s look at the numbers: six hubs, each with five story missions, five puzzle scenarios, and five level creator levels. Within the hub are around 15 secret characters, seven or eight unlockable vehicles, three power bricks (unlocking secrets, one of which increases the speed of unlocking unlockables), several races and ten minikits that, of course, unlock more levels. There’s probably no other game on Wii with this much content.
After four identical LEGO games Traveller’s Tales have branched out, refusing to build the picture on the box, but freestyling with random parts. Hubs are no longer single locations, but an entire film plot condensed into a landscape. The Raiders hub, for example, shows Marion’s bar next door to the Cairo bazaar, itself – somewhat improbably – next to the island where all those horrible Nazis got their melt on. Enter a notable location within the hub and a traditional level kicks off. Stay outside and you can unearth other levels, complete basic races to win more characters and hunt for those elusive power bricks.
Problem is, Indy’s not about going small and many levels feel a bit, well, Short Round. Investigating John Hurt’s Crystal Skull prison cell? Two corridors and a room. Escaping Cate Blanchett in the jungle? A minute-long punch-up outside her tent. When the minor ‘jocks versus greasers’ scuffle from Crystal Skull – yeah, that one – becomes a whole level, ‘grasping’ and ‘straws’ come to mind. Too many stages are quick fights or a room of basic puzzling; stitch them together and you’d have a traditional LEGO level. So why chop them up? It’s not like the loading screen is any great shakes.
Vehicle levels exist at the other end of the spectrum. Broadly designed as grand racing circuits, they’re easily the biggest open spaces Traveller’s Tales have conjured to date. Alas, they’re blighted by the horrible handling that Tales have worked so hard not to improve since the first LEGO game. Steering and acceleration is all on the analogue stick, which probably explains why we spent so long careening into the scenery, getting jammed and trying to glitch our way back into the game. Seriously, the driving has more bugs than the Temple of Doom.
Larger vistas also reveal a rather haggard game engine – an ironic tribute to an aged Harrison Ford perhaps? We’ve always felt that LEGO’s natural home was on the graphically humble Wii – next-gen gloss is superfluous – but this is the first time we’ve noticed the old girl starting to wheeze. Less noticeable in the myriad bite-size levels, chug-o-vision proves a mean partner in crime for vehicle handling, turning what should have been (and what Traveller’s Tales believe to be) the big set pieces into ugly, jerky nightmares.
That said, taken together, the vehicle stages amount to 2% of the overall package. And those bitty levels are still overflowing with character and glorious studs – yes, all the LEGO paraphernalia is back and as compulsively addictive as ever. Several levels feature over a million studs to find. You practically can’t move without a constant stream of goodness click-clacking into the score meter.
And although it’s a little convoluted to use (you carry pieces of scenery around with an in-game character), the level creator has huge potential, as proved by impressive in-game stages built with the tools.
There are interesting parallels between LEGO Indy 2 and Crystal Skull. Both boast powerhouse turns from their respective stars – Ford and studs – but everything is undeniably creakier. Just as Spielberg diluted Indiana Jones with CGI prairie dogs and Ray Winstone, LEGO Indiana Jones 2 focuses on extraneous hidden treats without a meaty adventure to hang them from. Both seem to concentrate on the minor details, forgetting the broad strokes that endeared them to us in the first place. We came for a big box of popcorn, but we’re forced to microwave each kernel at a time.
Nov 18, 2009