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