Indiana Jones games: “LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures” (PC)

Traveller’s Tales‘ action-adventure LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures shows that the movie trilogy also works quite well with bricks.

LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (PC)
(UK 2008, developer: Traveller’s Tales, publishers: LucasArts (now defunct)/Disney, platforms: PC, Nintendo DS, Wii, PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox 360)

Indiana Jones and his friends relive the greatest moments of their adventures, while building and destroying LEGO bricks.

Bricks storytelling made for fans
There’s something inherently charming about using LEGO characters, as it can make even the most touching, dramatic, and violent scenes of a movie fun and suitable for children. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything for adults to laugh about, because the humor without voice acting works wonderfully. It’s all too easy to use slapstick and silliness, but it takes a true understanding of the source material to prevent it from becoming a parody or lame joke. Fortunately, almost every memorable sequence of all three movies (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) is left intact and is only made fun of without destroying the atmosphere. It’s also remarkable that the game chapters stay very true to the trilogy, so even if one doesn’t know it too well, it’s easy to follow the plot, although it’s clear that this is aimed at fans of the movies first and foremost.

Anyone who’s watched the movies will have a great time seeing everything re-enacted in bricks, as the action set-pieces are just as spot-on as all the characters, heroes and villains alike, minus the swastika symbols and obviously bloodshed. Violence is kept to a characters-exploding-into-bricks or characters-losing-some-of-their-body-parts-and-still-running-around minimum, and it works wonderfully. Despite some of the scenes being taken straight out of the individual movies, there’s always something happening in the background, as even the villains’ henchmen have their own quirky personalities.

Strong brick personalities and abilities
Speaking of personalities, these are quite important for progressing in the game, as each character has unique abilities and also phobias. So Indy can use his whip to pull objects or overcome chasms, but won’t move forward if he encounters snakes. The female protagonists, like Elsa or Marion, jump higher or shatter glass with their high-pitched screams, but stop dead in their tracks if they see scorpions or rats. Indiana Jones’ Chinese sidekick Shorty can fit through small entrances, while Henry Jones Sr. can decipher hieroglyphics with a book and Sallah can dig up buried treasures or objects. At some points one can also pick up enemy hats to trick security to open gates or in the case of the Thuggees pray at Kali statues and trigger something in the environment.

Using each individual skill is just as essential as switching between characters and also sometimes working together to pull levers and ropes, stand on platforms or move a character from one place to another. While the solutions to puzzles aren’t too tricky, there are still a few instances when it’s not clear how to progress. Only by being aware of one’s surroundings, e.g. picking up tools like a shovel to dig, a wrench to repair, and even a bazooka to destroy objects is it possible to reach new locations. Hitting every destructible brick isn’t only for collecting enough currency to later buy additional characters or unlock extras at the Barnett College that serves as a hub to enter each movie, but sometimes this is necessary to build something else. The mix of environmental puzzles, brick building, and action-platforming is great fun, although it doesn’t come without its problems.

Dying brick-less
The camera is the biggest issue, because it either zooms out too much so that distances when jumping become difficult to make out, or it zooms in too much so that one can’t see everything of the environment and especially enemies. As some of them carry heavy weapons that can make the player’s character explode with one or two hits, evading or attacking them turns out to be a hectic affair. It’s fun to use one’s fists or even feet and see Indy use all sorts of combat moves that are both comical and stay true to the movies, except maybe for rubbing an enemy’s head while holding it under one’s arm. Pulling them in with the whip, disarming them or simply picking up pistols, machine guns, swords, etc. adds a bit variety, but the number of enemies is sometimes too overwhelming to use anything resembling strategy.

There are a few boss fights, and these are refreshingly different than one would expect. Even if it’s usually about depleting the enemy’s energy bar, these come in various stages in which one has to solve puzzles, switch between the available characters, and evade the enemy’s attacks or other dangers. It can become rather hectic and it’s not often clear what to do, but the solutions to these problems make each encounter memorable, especially since they deviate somewhat from the movies’ simplistic beat-up-the-bad-guy mechanics. Some arcade-like sections, like the famous mine cart chase scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or fighting on top of trucks while jumping from one to the other and even driving them also break up the monotony of destroying endless bricks, but these are anything from perfect due to the camera and wonky controls, which become extremely annoying when one drives around a motorcycle or car.

Brick playtime isn’t over until it’s over
Even after completing the game it’s possible to go back in the free mode that offers the opportunity to choose different characters and access areas that weren’t possible before. As there are so many secret bricks to discover, the roughly 10 hours playtime can be much longer if one wants to collect everything, including a few puzzles at the Barnett College as well, where one can also create one’s own character with all sorts of silly outfits, re-watch the great cutscenes, and discover some more secrets.

Twice the fun with another brick player
The game is a perfect fit for multiplayer. Despite only offering two-player local co-op play, the easy drop-in drop-out mechanics work well to beat up enemies or solve puzzles simultaneously, although one should stay together, because both players share the same screen. In the heat of battle or during platforming sections, frequent unintentional hits or pushes from one’s friend aren’t rare, either, with the limited space in which one moves. But this doesn’t prevent the game from being a lot of fun with younger and older players alike, because figuring out together how to progress is just as cool as fighting or collecting bricks side by side. This doesn’t mean that the game is too easy, because there are difficulty spikes. Being forced to complete each chapter in one go isn’t great, either, because despite only being around 20-30 minutes long, the option to take a break isn’t viable, as one has to replay everything and watch cutscenes that can’t be skipped.

Bricks looking and sounding good
Graphics-wise, the game still impresses. Even if they’re just bricks, the characters’ facial expressions and especially movements carry all the comic atmosphere one would expect from an animated movie. As the characters don’t speak, or at least not in a language one understands, it’s all the more important that these animations are enough to see all the emotions if one can’t hear them, and it works great. The levels are colorful and a good imitation of the scenes they recreate from the original movie trilogy, complete with all kinds of funny details like paintings with LEGO characters. Some of the water and lighting effects are also quite good, with Venice being particularly beautiful to look at. There is a bit of slowdown at times if too much happens on screen and too many blocks are destroyed, but except for that it’s quite nice to see how the characters build objects or how they use their special abilities.

The music perfectly captures the cinematic experience, mainly due to the original movies’ scores and the Young Indiana Jones TV show’s soundtrack as well. This makes the more action-heavy scenes that bit more thrilling and the exploration parts as atmospheric as they can be with the environment and characters made out of bricks.

A fantastic brick movie adaptation
Even after 10 years, LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures has lost none of its charm. It might have its camera problems and unfair passages, while destroying and building blocks can get somewhat repetitive. But as the puzzling, platforming, and action remains fun in small doses, especially with another player, there’s no better way to experience the original trilogy than this. Considering that everything consists of bricks and no voice acting is involved, this is still the best tribute the Indiana Jones franchise has seen in licensed games, as it stays true to the source material and still provides enough funny scenes for players of any age.

Score: 8/10

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Official website

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GOG Bethesda weekend sale + return of “Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth”

The recent GOG release of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is already reason enough to celebrate the Bethesda weekend sale, but even greater news is that another great Lovecraft game is made available again.

When I thought about making a list pf Lovecraft-inspired games for a gaming special, I couldn’t find Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, a game I was quite excited about when GOG released it. But due to some legal/licensing issues (whatever they might have been), it had disappeared. Now it’s finally available again, so hurray to that! There’s even a 50% discount for it now, so grab it while you can!

Of course there are also many other RPG or FPS titles in the Bethesda catalogue, like the Fallout series (up until New Vegas: Ultimate Edition), the Elder Scrolls, Doom and Quake titles. So why not browse through the discounted games before the sale ends on August 20th, 10pm UTC?

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG links and buying the products also helps ;).

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GOG release: “The Bureau: XCOM Declassified”

2K‘s tactical sci-fi shooter The Bureau: XCOM Declassified sets DRM-free foot on GOG.

In 1962 America during the Cold War a top-secret government unit, The Bureau, investigates mysterious attacks by alien forces, and it’s up to agent Carter and his team to fight for humanity’s survival. Unlike the classic XCOM games, this doesn’t involve turn-based strategy gameplay, but third-person cover shooter mechanics, although this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any thinking involved.

Controlling Carter, one can enter Battle Focus to slow down time during which squad members can be given commands to, e.g. flanking the enemy or retreating and defending. But one should be careful, as permadeath means that losing a team mate during a fight results in not being able to pick him again. Training squad mates into specializations with different skills adds to varied gameplay which is a mix of action and strategy, depending on the A.I. of course. It’s certainly a different type of game than the hardcore strategy series is known for, but the 60ies atmosphere and some cinematic set-pieces should still make this an interesting proposition for sci-fi fans, even if XCOM: Enemy Unknown might be a more accomplished game.

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified might be a bit old and received mixed reviews, but it’s still great to see another title from the 2K catalogue make its way to the digital platform (fingers crossed for the Bioshock titles). It’s now available with a 80% launch discount that will last until August 20th, 6pm UTC, including all the DLCs Light Plasma Pistol, CodeBreakers, and Hangar 6 R&D.

Official website

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG link and buying the product also helps ;).

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Indiana Jones TV shows: “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume 3 – The Years of Change”

Indiana Jones slowly but steadily finds his road to adventure in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume 3 – The Years of Change.

Sean Patrick Flanery takes up the role of the young Indy in the chapters Tales of Innocence, Masks of Evil, Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye, Winds of Change, Mystery of the Blues, The Scandal of 1920, Hollywood Follies. After his war adventures of the previous volume, he pursues archeology but also other paths of life to more or less satisfying degrees.

Treasure of the Peacock’s Eye is the best example of what the series could have achieved if it followed the treasure-hunting template. Even if it’s not the most suspenseful story, at least it evokes a bit of that Indiana Jones feeling for which one persevered through all the preceding episodes. But this is only the exception, because the rest of what’s on display is a boring if truthful journey through the historic 20ies that only has Indy’s failed attempts to connect with his father as a redeeming feature.

It’s clear that ideas were running out for this compilation, as the storylines become more ridiculous, as can be seen in Indy’s encounter with vampires. But at least this was a more entertaining episode, as the rest is such a mishmash of lame ideas and too much comedy, often with changing love interests one couldn’t care less about, that one wonders how Indy would become the part-time professor, part-time adventurer the audience loves so much. Jazz, broadway shows, and film-making are all well and good, but if the main character is portrayed as helpless and rather stupid at times, there’s definitely something wrong with the scripts. At least Harrison Ford can be seen at the beginning of the Jazz feature, and even if it’s a very short appearance it shows that there are huge gaps between the TV show and the movies.

Score: 5/10

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Indiana Jones TV shows: “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Volume 2 – The War Years”

Indiana Jones didn’t only have to deal with WWII, but also the First World War as a much younger version in the second volume of The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones.

Unlike the previous volume, it’s only Sean Patrick Flanery playing the young Indy, but one that has grown to be a war and espionage hero, as can be seen in Trenches of Hell, Demons of Deception, Phantom Train of Doom, Oganga, The Giver and Taker of Life, Attack of the Hawkmen, Adventures in the Secret Service, Espionage Escapades, and Daredevils of the Desert.

There’s obviously much more action this time, but the depiction of war isn’t entertaining, usually questioning superiors’ decisions and the quality of life, especially in an episode when Indy means Albert Schweitzer who tries to save as many lives as possible. However, while the Indy movies have always handled violence and some war themes, they haven’t been this explicit. This wouldn’t be so bad if the main actor didn’t have those helpless puppy eyes, again showcasing that he simply isn’t convincing, which is true for his inadequate fighting skills as well as his behavior in political conversations or in the matters of the heart.

What is even worse is the way some of the humor is handled. So in one episode the whole espionage is shown as an absurd bureaucracy thing that is made even more prominent when parallels to Kafka’s The Trial become part of the plot. This would be okay if Indy wouldn’t meet the author himself and engage in some terrible slapstick sequences. So despite all the emotional war stories, there are always instances that feel out of place, and as adventuring doesn’t necessarily mean firing a gun, it also becomes questionable in how far the TV show reflects what made the movies great. Except for some action scenes and great music, there isn’t a lot that makes this different from any other war movie or TV show.

Score: 6/10

Buy the DVD on
Amazon Germany (import)
Amazon UK
Amazon USA


If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
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