Inside Pulse 12

Review: Lego Indiana Jones (Sony PSP)

legoindycoverLego Indiana Jones
Developer: Traveler’s Tales
Publisher: LucasArts
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 06/03/08


I thoroughly enjoyed Lego Star Wars. I found it to be a fun and unique game with a lot of charm. Apparently, so did the rest of the world, as the two games (plus compilation) have sold millions across all platforms. Traveler’s Tales has taken the success of these games and is expanding the Lego brand to other iconic franchises. First up is Indiana Jones, with a Lego Batman hitting stores sometime this fall.

So it was with great anticipation that I picked up Lego Indiana Jones for the PSP. After all, LSW gave me hours and hours of fun on the go, and I’ve seen and liked the Indy movies. TT has already proven they know how to make their game work, so Lego Indy should just as good if not better than its predecessors, right?

Let’s take a look:

Story

If you’re not familiar with the original Indiana Jones trilogy, (which is pretty hard to believe) you’re going to get quite lost here. You see, every scene is played out by Lego men who can’t speak, but rather mime out conversations and point to things across to get the…..well point….across. The game follows the plot of the three movies pretty well, with some parts glossed over or removed. (Such as the guy getting his heart ripped out; a scene that was single handedly responsible for the PG-13 rating.) As such, the characters are often extremely underdeveloped, and you have no idea who people are and why you are fighting them. If you haven’t the movies, it is just going to be a whole lot of nonsense to you.

Still, for those of us who do know what’s going on, there are some fantastic jokes to be had. For instance, when Indy’s father gets shot in The Last Crusade, his legs just pop off and start running around on their own. Somehow, a body being cleaved in two becomes cute and comical. Also, there are a number of Star Wars references scattered throughout, from Indy pulling a C-3PO head out of his pocket, to a shadow that looks suspiciously like a famed Sith Lord.
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You’ll have to play the first level of Raiders of the Lost Ark first, but from then on you’ll be able to play any of three movies whenever you wish. This does cause a couple of problems, such as silly tutorial messages telling you how to switch characters popping up in every scene, but it’s a nice feature nonetheless. Each film is broken up into six levels that try to recreate scenes from the movie. Some succeed, such as Indy’s heroic battle in Shanghai, while others are pitiful (the battle with the boxer from “Raiders.”

Mostly, it’s a charming story with a few holes that can easily be forgiven.

Graphics

Here’s where the problems start.

When they made the PSP version, all they did was compress the hell out of everything. Cut scenes are ugly, with compression artifacts galore and an overall hazy looks and vertical lines clearly running through it. I have low standards when it comes to visuals, but I was appalled by what I was seeing here.

From the gameplay standpoint, everything is mostly OK, but you still get some of the vertical lines running through the screen at points. There are sections where it’s not clear what’s background and what’s not, leading to some awkward deaths and frustrating moments where you think you see a ladder and continuously try to climb a solid wall.

The effects in this game are pretty nice. Exploding Legos are still a sight to behold, and what animations are there are pretty solid. It can become quite confusing, though, when you kill an enemy soldier that is supposed to drop a hat you need. Body parts will go everywhere and you’ll spend a few moments looking around for it before the game sticks an arrow over it so you can’t miss it. There’s nothing technically marvelous about this game at all. It’s mostly simple graphics that suffer from a poor port to the PSP.

AudioLegoindy2

There’s definitely some good here. You’ve got the classic John Williams score to lead you throughout the game, and it’s still as fantastic today as it was in the eighties. The sound effects are hit and miss, but the sound of legos flying everywhere is still sharp. It can be a bit annoying how everything you destroy makes the same explosion sound, but it’s a small complaint in a game like this.

The problems arise when it comes to actually implementing the sound. For one, I noticed a ton of skips and lags during gameplay. The music needs to be constantly streaming, and when it’s also trying to load the next section, that becomes a bit difficult.

Also, if you utilize the PSP’s power save feature, you risk the chance of the cut scenes suddenly becoming devoid of all sound. If you go to Barnett College (the game’s hub), be prepared for complete audio lossage whenever the game saves. It takes the game about twenty seconds before you can hear anything again. First you get the music back, then the explosions, and then finally the sound of studs being collected. It’s just weird.

There’s no voice acting. Instead, we get a much of muffled noises that resemble speech. Its nothing too bad, and it fits with the game, but still isn’t too great.

Just like the graphics, the transition to the PSP was not good for the audio of Lego Indy.

Gameplay

Wow. After playing this, I realize that I let Lego Star Wars get away with a lot of crap because of how charming it was. There are so many flaws and bugs with this game that I am honestly shocked it ever made it to store shelves. Traveler’s Tales should be ashamed they shipped this garbage.
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First, the not so bad. You’ve got eighteen levels of platforming and combat to play through. You control using the analog stick, which could be bad if you never got used the PSP’s nub. Square is your all purpose attack, X is jump, and circle is your special. Triangle is used to switch characters.

Oh yeah. And to get into vehicles. This causes a few problems as you could imagine. The game told me to press triangle to jump in a raft, but instead, I switched to my other character who for some reason was playing tag with a crocodile. Yeah. Of course, this brings into question not only the button layout, but also the friendly AI. For one, they can’t kill enemies, but can stun them. However, they’re more likely to get in the way than anything else. Also, there are several puzzles that require you to perform an action with one character, like jump on a rope, and then switch to the other character to jump across a platform the rope lowers when pulled. However, once you switch, you risk the chance of the AI letting go of the rope, which more than likely will lead to your untimely death. It’s just completely useless.

There are tutorial style hints EVERYWHERE in the game. Even if you’ve played through 17 levels, you’ll still get the same message that says “Press Triangle to switch characters.” You can’t turn them off.

The game features a ton of jumping from platform to platform, where a single misstep causes death. Well, despite your best efforts, you’re going to die a lot because the edges of every platform seem to be made of Teflon. I can’t count the number of times I made a jump, only to inexplicitly slide right off into a pool of lava. Another hit detection issue arises whenever you want to use the circle button. If you’re carrying a shovel and want to dig, you have a 35% chance of whacking your AI partner. Same if you’re trying to use a wrench to repair something or another.

The level design can also be brought to attention here. The boss fights in particular are some of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in a game, and I’ve played Celebrity Deathmatch! In an early battle against the boxer in “Raiders”, you have to get him to punch anvils that you build by using a giant plane to shoot trucks. You can’t use the propellers to chop him to bits, like in the movie, so you’re left to figure this out and scratch your head. Also, said boxer can’t seem to cross a silver circle in the middle of the area. If you go outside of it, he just ignores you. What, has he got a shock collar on or something? Then there’s the boss fight with the heart ripping Thugee priest. He can’t be hurt unless you rapidly switch characters and attack. It took me well over ten minutes to figure that one out. Forgive me for assuming that a human being wouldn’t be able to withstand a sword or arrow to the face. I guess we’re supposed to realize that a short Asian kid could get the job done as long as I just switched to him.

The whole thing reeks of lack of creativity, which in a game made of LEGOS, blows my mind. There is only one set way to do anything, and if you try to think outside of the box, you are punished with death and a loss of cash. Beaten, mugged, and humiliated, I still hate myself a little for forcing myself to play this through.

There were some good parts. When you first get to use the whip, it is a ton of fun. Of course, when you discover the whip is almost useless as a weapon, you just might cry a little. The game can be fun when it isn’t failing on a fundamental level.

I even came across instances where characters froze in place or where trapped under the level and could only fall off of some imaginary cliff and cost me more studs. Oh yeah, and the game crashed my PSP; something that has never happened in the entirety of the time I’ve owned it. I want my money back you bastards.

Replayability

I’ll give Traveler’s Tales credit here. This game has a ton of content and plenty of reason to go back. Each level has dozens of secrets to find and finding them all will give you the ability to unlock all kinds of playable characters and cheats such as Ice Rink, which expands the Teflon-like surfaces of the platforms to the whole game, and the treasure multiplier that can give you True Adventurer status in ten seconds.

There are over sixty characters to unlock, and while a surprising number of them are different versions of Indy and his female companions, you’ll also just about EVERY single character that ever appeared in the movies. Even the Grail Knight. The characters might not be as interesting, but you should be able to find someone you like to use.
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All told, the main quest will take you somewhere around eight or nine hours to complete. Add in the freeplay mode, which is something I wish more games had, and you’ll more than double that easily. If you’re not like me and can stomach the experience, you’ll get plenty bang for your buck.

Balance

Dying is of no consequence and the game knows it. Death only causes you to lose a few studs, which can mostly be reained much like the rings in Sonic. So, in order to compensate, the game throws a ton of gun wielding Nazis at you. I mean a ton. If you manage to steal a gun from one of them, you’ll be better off, but if you’re stuck with a whip or a shovel, expect to get mowed down. And if they’ve got bazookas, say goodbye. Of course, in freeplay mode, YOU can get the bazooka, and then your nigh invincible. So you’re either overpowered or overwhelmed. There’s never a good balance.

Originality

This is Lego Star Wars palate swapped with Indy characters. It is the same game with different art and terms.

Addictiveness

After the first few levels, I wanted to put this game down and forget I ever played it. Unfortunately, in order to give this game a fair review, I had to play through the whole thing. Just trust me when I say that the game doesn’t encourage you keep going for long.

Unless of course you can ignore the flaws and glitches. In that case, the game does a pretty good job of rewarding you for exploring each level to the fullest. It can be a little fun to find a secret area and find all of the artifacts. So for those that like the game, you’ll have a hard time putting it down.

Just don’t ask me to pick it back up.

Appeal Factor

Indiana Jones is one of the biggest movie franchises of our time. Adjusted for inflation, the four films have grossed over a billion dollars in profits. The original trilogy DVD was one of the most anticipated collections in recent memory. They made Harrison Ford a star and made the whip cracking character one of the most recognizable fictional characters ever.

The Lego games franchise if relatively new, but it’s already a heavy hitter. Not only is it kid friendly, it also appeals to all ages and types because of how accessible it is. Anyone can play and anyone can enjoy Lego Indiana Jones. I expect it to sell truckloads. Legoindy5

Miscellaneous

Lego Indy fails as a portable title. With half hour long levels, a plethora of glitches that activate is you try to use the power save feature, and no way of saving your progress mid level, you’ll have to be able to commit to a long gaming session if you want to get much done.

I haven’t seen load times like this since Madden and Smackdown Vs Raw 2008. They try to hide them by copying the red line from the movies that shows Indy’s movement from one country to another. Of course, the loading isn’t done there, and you’ll spend twice as long watching black footsteps circle around your location. Hell, it even takes about two minutes for the main menu to come up. I hope you enjoy watch a Lego biplane fly in place, as that’s all you’ll be able to do.

The Scores
Story – Decent
Graphics – Below Average
Audio – Mediocre
Gameplay – Awful
Replayability – Great
Balance – Bad
Addictiveness – Mediocre
Originality – Worthless
Appeal Factor – Great
Miscellaneous – Awful
Final Score: Poor Game!!!

Short Attention Span Summary

diehardjackIt seems I can’t get a break recently. I’m starting to wonder if I can review a game that doesn’t turn out to be a stinker. If Traveler’s Tales doesn’t start to fix the bugs in their engine, they’re going to start feeling it in the sales department. Lego Indy has some charm and would be a great game for a hardcore fan, but anyone else should seriously reconsider before dropping down forty bucks for the PSP version. If the other platforms don’t have all these glitches, (which I’ve heard they do) try one of those first.