One year after LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures covered the trilogy, does Traveller’s Tales‘ action-adventure LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues still build (pun intended) and improve on the formula with the newest movie?
LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (PC)
(UK 2009, developer: Traveller’s Tales, publishers: LucasArts (now defunct)/Disney, platforms: PC, Nintendo DS, Wii, PS3, PSP, Xbox 360)
Indiana Jones and his friends again relive the greatest memories of their adventures in LEGO bricks form, while going on a completely new adventure.
Three well-built brick stories and a new not-so-greatly-built story
After having already presented the most memorable scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, one would guess that only the newest one, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, would be featured, making for a very short game. So the fourth Indy adventure was divided into three parts, with many scenes that didn’t happen in the movie added. Of course the most notable ones are still present, but as the movie itself wasn’t the most logical one, storytelling becomes even more convoluted. Despite offering some fun interpretations of certain action sequences, the longer story sections feel unnecessary compared how concise the original trilogy was in LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures.
The storylines of the first three movies aren’t simply retold, but re-imagined. While the overall plots remain the same, the developers take much more freedom with the source material, to the point when the already ridiculous sequences become even sillier. So for example instead of having the Maharajah steal the Ankara stones from the village in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, it’s monkeys who run off with them. There’s even a boss fight with a giant Shiva statue. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, retrieving the diary book of Henry Jones Sr. in Berlin results in a fight against Nazis with bazookas.
If this all sounds highly exaggerated, then it’s because it is. It doesn’t make much sense in the context of the movies, but in the context of the LEGO parody world. Still, it’s obvious that these segments feel like parts the developers cut out from the original trilogy, because they were simply too much, and if one doesn’t know the movies, the stories make even less sense. Despite all these shortcomings, the game still does a good job to capture the Indy atmosphere, as silly as the humor might be. One has to accept the fact that flying elephants are only the tip of the slapstick iceberg, so anyone expecting something that respects the source material will be disappointed, which doesn’t mean that it isn’t funny at times.
Same old brickwork gameplay with more vehicles and combat
The game feels much bigger, but it isn’t necessarily longer with around 8 hours playtime to finish all four movie story modes. The individual chapters are better connected with hub worlds in which one has to buy vehicles or characters and solve puzzles in order to progress. This might seem like an unnecessary and cumbersome method, but it still immerses the player more than simply selecting one level after another. The levels themselves are shorter than in the first game, though. This wouldn’t be a problem if the gameplay would be more original.
Unfortunately, something that was already a low point in the original trilogy returns with full force: vehicle sections. Even if driving different cars is fun at first, the terribly sensitive controls and limited view make it a pain to complete the levels. What is even worse is that the mission goals never change: destroy a certain number of enemy vehicles before more show up, rinse and repeat. A bit of strategy is required, as some vehicles are stronger than others, so one has to jump into a better car, often with shooting abilities. But there are way too many of these levels and they’re just tedious. The same holds true for levels in which Indy has to defeat enemies on foot. Even if some puzzle solving is involved, these levels usually end up in simple and chaotic fist or gunfights. Some enemies have to be attacked with specific weapons, like swords or a bazooka, but getting rid of one army after another is simply not a lot of fun.
Building bricks and solving puzzles
Of course it’s not all about vehicle and combat action, as there are still enough puzzles to solve. Switching between characters with their unique abilities is just as entertaining as it ever was, and despite some less than obvious solutions, it’s not too difficult to figure out what to do. The conundrums aren’t the most original, but it’s still great to get through each level with more than just shooting and beating up brick characters. Even if some of the boss fights, like the giant Shiva statue or a big ant creature, deviate a lot from the movies, using each character’s ability is very satisfying, as working together becomes essential to bring them down. Local co-op play has also been tweaked, as one doesn’t share one screen anymore, but works in split-screen mode. If this really helps to prevent unintentional deaths because of the camera is another matter, though.
The platforming sections aren’t as prominent as before, although there are still enough sections that make one lose a lot of bricks, as it’s difficult to judge distances. The new feature of aiming Indy’s whip at structures to swing over to the other side might give the impression that this is more free form gameplay than simply standing on a highlighted point as in the first game, but it doesn’t necessarily make it more enjoyable and suffers due to fiddly controls. Still, being able to interact more with the three-dimensional environment by picking up and throwing objects to either fight enemies or solve puzzles adds to variety
Big and small brick surprises
While the game world is much bigger, and there are lots of secret bricks and treasures to discover and puzzles to solve with new characters outside missions, the gameplay still remains very linear. Unlike the previous game, one can’t select the movies from the start, but has to unlock them one after the other. This might be logical, but it might put some people off who don’t like a particular movie or game section. Still, persevering through each stage and finishing each chapter or story rewards the player with plenty of opportunities to backtrack and get lost in the big hub worlds. It’s also a nice touch to see each movie or play mode presented as a LEGO box that has to be opened before jumping in.
Build a new Indy LEGO world and story
If the levels aren’t satisfying enough, then it’s also possible to create one’s own stories in a free building mode. Even those not familiar with user-created content will have a fun time, because the tutorials introduce all the mechanics in a mission-goal like way, e.g. placing vehicles next to platforms in the building mode and then switching to the play mode to drive them over there, or dropping all kinds of objects that can be destroyed for a certain number of bricks, or leveling the terrain to have fish on land under water or other objects under water on dry land. Of course there are many other ways to set mission goals, characters, enemies, buildings etc. and even create one’s own characters, so there’s really no better way to convey the LEGO feeling of creating and sharing.
Same bricks and sounds
Presentation-wise, the game looks and sounds identical to its predecessor, which isn’t a bad thing, as some of the environments are quite beautiful and the original music for each story mode is just as great as before. Character animations as well as all sorts of cinematic effects like blurring or zooms further add to the feeling of watching a animated parody of all the movies. As unintelligible sounds replace voice acting, it’s again testament to the LEGO humor that all the emotions and silliness are carried over without any words.
A new name, but still not much of a different game
LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues is more of the same, which can obviously be said about any LEGO game, but in this case it becomes clear that it’s not the best idea to recycle the same movies and add them to a lengthened fourth one. This doesn’t mean that the game isn’t fun. Far from it, as the mix of puzzles, combat, and platforming is still quite nice, especially in multiplayer. But with too many levels relying on the destroy-x-enemies with or without a vehicle, one can’t shake the feeling that this isn’t a sequel that was necessary. However, the inclusion of the free building mode alone will be reason enough for many players to return to it, long after every level is completed and all the secrets are uncovered. All in all, the game provides plenty of opportunities to raise a smile for fans of the movies, but compared to the first game, it simply doesn’t hold that well together.
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