Review: Lego Indiana Jones (Nintendo Wii)

Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures
Publisher: Lucasarts Entertainment Company
Developer: Traveler’s Tales
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 5/3/2008

I, like so many others my age, was raised on George Lucas movies. To this day, I can quote the entirety of the cantina scene. And, boy oh boy, do I love me some Indiana Jones. I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark countless times as a kid, watching it on TV with my dad. What else did I love? Legos. Is there anything more quintessential to my childhood than Indy and Legos? I think not. Well, maybe Michael Jackson, but that’s for a different review site…

Mining my own particular childhood loves is Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures, which turns the original Indy movie trilogy into your typical platformer -this time in Lego! TT promises to up the ante by introducing a wide variety of character abilities and items. You have your typical action genre weapons (and, of course, Indy’s iconic whip) but you also need to dig, translate, and tinker with machines to complete the levels.

So, did Lego Indiana Jones live up to Fate of Atlantis? Or does it fail in one big yodel-odel-URK!?

Read on to find out…

Story/Mode
The story of the game mimics the story of the movies. Which is to say, its excellent. Assuming you love the movies, you’re going to love the story in the game. It tends to follow rather closely to the events of the films, but there is quite a bit of injected humor. The humor does tend to be on the slapsticky end (hey, this game is E for everyone, after all) but it doesn’t devolve entirely into kitsch; much like the movies themselves, the game knows not to take itself too seriously and the self-referential jokes tend to serve the story well. While certainly short on out-and-out originality, seeing everything redone in Lego is a fun way to relive a childhood favorite.

Score: Unparalleled, for punching up an already fun trilogy.

Graphics
The graphics on this game look fantastic on the Wii. Everything is exactly how it should be in a Lego game: bright, colorful, and blocky. Backgrounds of the non-Lego variety look great as well; its almost as if they took an already great-looking backdrop and dropped in Lego versions of the scenes.

Score: Classic, for the rich colors that made me buy a Super Nintendo way back when…

Sound
Even if you absolutely loathed, say, the Phantom Menace, you must admit that LucasArts and its subsidiaries know what they’re doing when it comes to sound. This game is no exception. The original John Williams score is well represented and well-placed. When enemies show up, the music amps up the mood appropriately. Sound effects themselves are also pretty decent. Smashing Lego bricks with your fists never sounded so good. They DO tend to get a little repetitive, though, as there are only a few minor variations on the smashing noises. Overall, everything sounds pretty good and is spatially appropriate in the stereo field. The game, like the Star Wars Lego remakes, has no real voice-acting, but the whimpers, groans, and moans, all do well to service the characters’ emotions during cut scenes. The Lego games mastered long ago how to convey an entire line of dialog in one downtrodden moan, and this game is no exception. Most importantly, of course, that whip sounds like an Indiana Jones whip.

Score: Classic for WHIPCRACK!

Control & Gameplay
This is one area the game does not particularly excel in. While control is, in and of itself, reasonably easy and straightforward, this game lacks Wii-appeal in the same way many multi-system ports to the Wii do. The Wiimote/nunchuk combo is a thing of beauty, and it is sorely underused in Lego Indy. This is understandable, of course, but I tend to grade Wii games from a Wii frame of reference. The one fun thing to do via Wiimote is Indy’s whip. The developers did a great job simulating the feel of a real whip (Yeah, don’t ask…). Another slight drawback is the lack of camera control. While I found most of the auto-follow camera well-suited enough to not inhibit playability, there were a few spots here and there where I would have liked the ability to tweak it. Of course, this is a little contrary to the secret-finding aspect of the game, where treasure is often deliberately hidden via camera angle. There are also a few times of definite frustration in the platformer sense of the word… A few jumps can be frustratingly difficult with an odd combination of camera angle and 3D environs. This is, of course, virtually a staple of the genre, but that doesn’t make it any less prone to my almost joining the ranks of wiihaveaproblem.com. I did find one glitch in the gameplay (others have apparently found more. Check Lucard’s review…apparently my Wii loves me and I lucked out) where a puzzle was sort-of half reset while I wandered around and I had to restart the level.

Score: Above Average for crack that whip!

Replayability
This game is specifically designed to be replayed. There are treasures to find! Lego models to build! And, of course, just as in the other Lego adventure games, you lack the ability to grab everything during your first run through regular story mode. So, to be a completist, you must return with a full set of characters with different abilities in order to solve every puzzle on the level. For a reward, you get various Lego representations of artifacts from each level. This will demand 2 or 3 times through every level before a modicum of satisfaction can be reached. A nice switch, though, I was generally annoyed at some of the Lego Star Wars levels for being rather difficult to complete the “Ëœtrue jedi’ lego stud collection numbers. Thus far, I have not encountered that problem in Indy. I also recently replayed the old LSW games and found them just as enjoyable on the return trip – a result I fully expect from this game as well.

Score: Great, for making me a Lego completist.

Balance
This game doesn’t particularly maintain a good balance – all levels are essentially the same difficulty – easy. Many levels are fairly simple platformers punctuated by the occasional insanely tricky puzzle. I had a really hard time beating the shirtless Nazi from Raiders until I looked up online and learned that the plane can shoot. There are several moments like this in the game, which can be frustrating, especially given how simple the rest of the levels can be. I know the movies incredibly well, which I hear helps make some of these puzzles pretty easy, but even I had some difficulty figuring out a few of the tricks to take out a boss every now and then.

Score: Mediocre, for making me remember how to best Mola Ram.

Originality
We already know this has been done – I’ve played both Lego Star Wars games to near 100% completion. But, this game does add quite a bit of functionality to its predecessors. Digging, fixing, translating, and the like all add to the puzzle solving complexity that seems appropriate for a game featuring an ostensible archaeologist as the main protagonist. There seems to be a greater emphasis on teamwork in some of the platforming puzzles as well, which did not weigh quite as heavily in the Star Wars games. Overall, while the title of true originator lies with the first Lego Star Wars game, this title manages to add quite a bit of variety to a tried, if amusing genre.

Score: Mediocre, for variation on a theme

Addictiveness
As a sure sign of addictiveness, when I am not playing this game, I am thinking about playing this game. 12 hours away is too long. I want more, more, more. I should have prefaced that by saying I am an absolute sucker for the SW games and fully expected this to be no different. But, if not for “work” and “needing money to eat,” I would sit and play this until I beat it or until I died from exposure, whichever came first.

Score: Classic, for I can’t be the only one that loves Lego Marion Ravenwood.

Appeal Factor
While Indiana Jones may not be Spielberg’s largest grossing movies, the game versions of them do offer quite a bit more playability and appeal than if, say, someone developed an E.T. game for the Atari. Considering the success of the current Crystal Skull movie (which, another caveat, I loved), this game has massive appeal to kids newly acquainted with the Jones films and with nerds my own age. This isn’t a game that the nursing homes are likely to grab up like Wii Sports, but nearly everyone else is going to at least be curious.

Score: Good, for Henry Jones, Sr., and Henry Jones, Sr. alone, would not waste time on frivolities such as this.

Miscellaneous
Like the original Lego adventure games, this one absolutely excels at cute humor. Seeing my favorite childhood scenes redone in slapstick Lego is enjoyable in ways I would never have anticipated loving so much as an adult. Typical Lucas/Spielberg cross-referencing is a great find. Was that….was that Hoth Luke outside Marion Ravenwood’s place? Why, yes. Yes it was. Much like the Star Wars games, the cut scene directors did an astounding job recreating memorable scenes from the movies with absolutely no dialogue and more than a little bit of cutesy slapstick.

Score: Classic, for Lego Ghosties.

The Scores
Story: Unparalleled
Graphics: Classic
Sound: Classic
Control and Gameplay: Above Average
Replayability: Great
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Classic

Final Score: Very Good Game

Short Attentuion Span Summary
I may be a little softer on this game than some reviewers, but this is a slice of my childhood embodied in a wholly addictive, cute little platformer.

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