As a reward for doing some school approved work books over the summer, my daughter got to pick out a new video game for the Wii.
With a little guidance from daddy, she opted for LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures.
That meant talking her out of Sonic and the Secret Rings and Mario Super Smash Brothers Brawl because, well, the former sucks (my opinion, obviously) and the later because I wasn’t sure she understood what sort of game it was. She was interested in those two titles because she wanted something with Sonic the Hedgehog in it, which came about because Sonic and his pals now have a cartoon on cable TV.
We got past that, but ended up ordering the game online as it seems to be full retail price, $49.99, on the shelf at most stores in our area. Amazon.com saved me $10.
It is a lot of fun.
You probably guessed I would say that, especially if you have read my write ups on LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy or LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Merely involving LEGO makes a lot of headway with me. And once we started playing, my daughter was anxious to play every evening when I got home from work.
If you have played any of the LEGO Star Wars games, you know why I find it fun. You break stuff, fight people, solve puzzles, and generally run amok in a world full of LEGO creations.
The game plays smoothly, better than LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, which had a bit of stuttering at points, and they got the colors and textures just right, fixing another gripe I had with The Complete Saga.
They also added in some new game mechanics. Obviously, the force, which played a big part in the Star Wars games, is out in Indiana Jones. Instead there are additional tools in the game. There is a shovel for digging up buried objects, a wrench for fixing broken machinery, a book for deciphering hieroglyphics, and Indy’s whip, which can be used to swing over large gaps or grab objects.
The puzzles are fun, but not too challenging. We went to the internet five times while running the missions to get past a point at which we were stuck, and of those, twice it turned out we were doing the right thing, we just needed to keep going.
The usual solution, when stuck, is to start breaking up the scenery. Most things explode into a shower of LEGO pieces, and once in a while yield something that you need to continue.
There are only a few true tests of your ability to jump like Mario, which is fine by me. I prefer to break stuff up than jump.
In addition to the missions, there are the usual side quests. You have to collect enough studs, the little round LEGO pieces that fly around when you break stuff, to make ‘True Adventurer’ on each level. There are treasure chests to find. There are special feature unlocks in the form of hidden postal packages that you have to place in mail boxes that you also have to find in a level.
And, of course, there are the character unlocks. Again, these are in the currency of the game, the little LEGO studs, but the prices are more reasonable. There are no million stud characters to unlock. The most expensive one is 100,000 studs. That is a bit of relief, as it takes a while to collect a million of anything.
I really want somebody to do a booklet on how to create a lot of things in game with real LEGO bricks. Some, like the flying wing plane, I imagine are not possible to duplicate in reality, but others I know I could build out of the pieces we have if only I could get a closer look.
Of course, we have some of the LEGO Indiana Jones kits, so I already have some of the things shown in the game sitting at home! (And they have gotten a lot more play time as well since we bought the game!)
And the retelling of the first three Indiana Jones movies is quite well done, in the same style they did the Star Wars movies. No spoken dialog, just actions and non verbal communication that add up to silly, campy, and fun versions of the movies.
One of the reasons that this game works so well is that the Indiana Jones movies, at least two of the first three, are pretty well known. Like the Star Wars movies, most people know the story. It is almost a shared part of our culture.
Of course, that makes me wonder a bit about the next game in this series, LEGO Batman. We all know who Batman is, but he has so many different flavors, which one will they pick? I think that shared vision of an IP, something I mentioned in my LEGO game wish list, is a requirement.
As with LEGO Star Wars on the Wii, the game does not really make use of the Wii’s unique controller system in any meaningful way. Instead, you control the game with the Wii remote and nunchuck acting as a substitute for the more traditional game pad. Okay, maybe it is the price you pay for a cross platform game, but they managed to do a lot more platform specific stuff for the Nintendo DS version.
Then there are some game mechanics issues. My daughter and I played through the whole game in co-op mode, which was great, even with the usual tug-of-war we sometimes enter into. The camera has to keep both players on screen, so when you run opposite directions, you both get thwarted. And therein lies a problem. There are points in the game where the level design keeps you from being able to do things, or at least do them with any reasonable chance of success, unless one of you drops out of the game so the camera can close up on the other player.
Finally, the game also feels a bit short. Compared with LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy, and especially LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, there is not as much content. There is the same format of 6 missions for each of the three films, for a total of 18, but some of them feel very short. My daughter and I made it through all the missions in a week of short play sessions. For a $50 game, that does not seem like enough content.
Yes, we still have to go back and finish all the unlocks in free play mode, but just finishing up all the missions showed us at 67% complete with the game. I think with the Star Wars versions of the game we were barely past 40% when the missions were done.
If you have never played any of the LEGO games from Traveller’s Tales, go pick up a copy of LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Of all the LEGO games, that one delivers the best bang for the buck.
If, however, you have already played through the LEGO Star Wars games and are looking for more of the same kind of action in a different environment, LEGO Indiana Jones is there waiting for you. Go get a copy.
Just look for one on sale, because there just doesn’t feel like $50 worth of content in the game to me.