How can a game that’s identical to the brilliant LEGO Star Wars in almost every respect not be as good? Simple - the setting. The Star Wars universe is vibrant, colourful and fantastical, while Indy’s real-world ’40s setting is more subdued. This works in the context of the films, but recreated in LEGO it has none of the outlandish flair of Lucas’ galaxy far, far away. Same goes for the characters - the Star Wars cast have lightsabers, force powers and blasters, some of them can fly and there are dozens of droids, aliens and oddballs to control. In Indiana Jones they all seem to have similar abilities and unlocking, say, Indy’s buddy Sallah, doesn’t come with quite the same thrill as spending your studs on Boba Fett.
The DS version suffers more than its console siblings because it has less to offer audiences. Cutscenes have been shortened; the level designs and puzzles have been chopped to a bare minimum and the character models are a whole lot less interesting when shrunk to fit the upper DS screen. Also, the stylus has been replaced by your thumb and the things you’re asked to do with your thumb on the touchscreen feel every bit as tacked-on as any other ubiquitous DS port - so, really, what’s the point of trying to fool us into thinking this game is a unique DS experience? Little snags in design like these totally drag the game down from its lofty LEGO pedestal and so you'll notice we've scored t his one a lot lower than the console iterations.
Above: All images in this article are from the 360 version, so don't expect it to actually look this good
Let's talk about what LEGO Indiana Jones does well. Firstly, the puzzles are brilliantly imaginative and mix a number of elements - building objects, revealing hidden keys and driving around in vehicles including speedboats and forklift trucks. Then there’s Indy’s famous bullwhip, which you use to swing across gaps and pull switches. The solutions require a reasonable amount of logical thinking, although since it’s primarily a kids’ game the puzzles are never really that taxing. Once we even noticed the game moving us to the next section after failing a few times - the most glaring example of which was the famous boulder chase from Raiders. We fell down a pit three times and suddenly a cutscene played indicating that we’d done it. We’d have liked the option to switch this off, rather than being shoved through like giant babies.
The best thing about LEGO Indy is its attention to detail. Key scenes from the movies have been lovingly recreated in LEGO, and the slapstick cutscenes do a brilliant job of telling the story without voice acting. You also get to explore Barnett College, where Indy teaches in the films. This serves as the game’s hub, much like the Mos Eiseley Cantina and Dexter’s Diner did in the LEGO Star Wars games. Here you can view collected treasures, explore interactive maps of all three films and create your own characters. As in previous games, there are an obscene amount of things to collect. Some are so well-hidden, you have to replay certain levels in ‘free play’ mode and employ other characters to get them - using Short Round, for example, to crawl through small gaps.
But love for the subject matter aside, the problems we mentioned at the start of the review make LEGO Indy the worst LEGO game to date. The levels aren’t that interesting, the mixture of real-world textures and plastic LEGO pieces jars and the characters are nowhere near as desirable as the Star Wars gang. It’s just never that exciting, which is surprising considering what a constant thrill the films are. It’s fun in small doses, but not as consistently entertaining as LEGO Star Wars.
June 4, 2008