Review: Lego Indiana Jones (Sony PS3)

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


I hate platformers. Let’s get that out of the way right now. I hate the horrible camera angles. I hate the insane jumping puzzles that either kill you or take you back to step one if you are off by the slightest pixel. I hate the god awful amount of backtracking and the fact the games are generally quite short but they force you to redo levels multiple times in order to get a 100% completion. I especially have a problem with the last bit as I don’t have OCD. If I’m going to go back to something, it’ll be because of branching storylines or multiple endings.

I should also point out I never really liked Legos as a child and I like all three Indiana Jones films well enough – just not enough to own them.

By now you’re probably wondering why the heck I agreed to review this game, right? Well there are several reasons.

1) I heard a lot of praise for both Lego Star Wars games. Well, aside from the complaints about the camera angle and gameplay that is. I was never interested in those games because I HATE Star Wars and again, I have no emotional connection with Legos. Still, the footage I saw looked cute and I decided Indiana Jones would be a better fit for me.

2) Although I hate platformers, I’ve always been able to put aside my personal opinion and review the games with a critical eye. It is after all, what a reviewer is supposed to be able to do. If you can’t remove your own prejudices or fanboyisms when you review, or at least be upfront about them to your reader without the slightest bit of subterfuge, you shouldn’t be doing it.

3) This will be the fifth platformer that I have reviewed in five and a half years of doing this. I feel it is important to step outside of one’s comfort zone on an occasional basis. Trying new things is important for growth. Even if that does mean trying ugh…platformers. Still, that outlook of mine has helped me to discover some quite excellent platformers like Psychonauts and The Haunted Mansion. I loved both of those, even though they were in a genre I normally hate.

4) I feel we’re lacking in PS3 reviews and I needed to make use of that system for something other than a Blu-Ray player. This killed two birds with one stone and now I have something else for the system besdies Lost, Folklore, and Dark Kingdoms

Hopefully you agree those are some pretty decent reasons for reviewing Lego Indiana Jones Adam Powell is reviewing the Wii version and Aaron is reviewing the PSP version, and both of them are far kinder to platformers than I usually am. Check for those later this week for a potentially different opinion than my own..

So did Lego Indiana Jones join my pile of “Platformers That Don’t Make Me Want To Regurgitate?” or is this a definite check in the “Licensed Crap People Buy Because They Want Style Over Substance” column?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Have you seen the first three Indiana Jones movies? I can’t imagine there is anyone out there reading this that hasn’t at least seen one of them.

LIJ basically follows the plots of the first three movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade. Each of these movies have six levels devoted to them. You have to play the first level of RotLA first, but then from there you can start in on either of the other two films. After you beat each level, you can then access the following level. You can also retry levels you have already beaten with Free Play mode, which are the same levels sans cut scenes, but with the ability to use different characters.

The game does a really good job of “Legoizing” the Indiana Jones films. It’s literally the films acted out with Lego characters and backgrounds. Now some things have been changed, such as certain gruesome death scenes being turned into silly slapstick, but I couldn’t imagine it being done serious with Legos to begin with. Part of what drew me in were internal questions like “The whole Bruno getting chopped up by an airplane propeller. How will they do that?” Same with everyone melting when Ark of the Covenant was opened. I really wanted to see Lego Ghosts leading to Lego melting. For the most part Traveler’s Tales did a good job. The game was funny and cute and yet still managed to hold true to the Indiana Jones mythos.

There were a few gaping holes that I noticed. In the movie version of ToD, Indy gets zombified for a while, but that never happens in the game. That entire aspect of the movie was cut out. It’s too bad, as it would have made for a good level, seeing as you’d have to play as Willie and Short Round and it would have been a break from all the other levels in story mode where you HAVE to play as Indiana Jones. I was disappointed by this, but for the most part, Traveler’s Tales kept pretty close to the movies.

There are also some nice unlockable story bits and levels like a nod to the old Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series from a while back. TT really went out of its way to give fan service to every aspect of Indiana Jones that it could.

The game is pretty cute and amusing storywise on your first playthrough, but with repeated playthroughs of certain levels, I found that charm wore off pretty quickly. Especially as you can’t skip cut scenes in the game. Great job for the most part and I found myself quite fond of the story and production.

Story Rating: Great

2. Graphics

When the game opened with the first ROTLA cut scene, I was floored. I had seen the footage before on YouTube, but I never imagined the high definition version would look THIS good. The game’s cut scenes were crisp and vibrant. The non-Lego backgrounds were stunning and I was quite amused at all the different things built out of Legos. This really was a beautiful game. I haven’t really been that impressed by the visuals on the PS3 so far, but this was truly striking. Please note this doesn’t mean that I think Lego Indiana Jones is the best looking game ever. It’s not. I was just really impressed with the the jump in visual quality.

The game does suffer from the occasional slowdown and the occasional visual glitch, but for the most part it is quite pretty. The game also has some shading/shadow issues, leading one to thinking a jump is safe when it is not or that something is a ladder or a staircase when it just a poorly done shadow. Again, these are rare issues, and by no means standard fare.

Obviously as much of the game is made of Lego’s we’re not talking about lifelike character models or super impressive rendering. It’s simply a good looking cute game that oozes style. That’ll all graphics need to be.

Graphics Rating: Good

3. Sound

There isn’t any real voice acting in the game. Lego’s don’t talk after all. There is the occasional sound effect to mimic vocal noises like a smooch or laughter, but that is as close as it comes. It’s cute and fits the mood of the game perfectly, but at times I wish they had taken vocal samplings from the movies.

Thus the entirety of this category really rests on the musical score. Unlike samples of the voice acting, Traveler’s Tales has used the score from the Indiana Jones movies and it’s some of the most recognizable pieces of music from cinema. The main overture sticks in your head and it always remains catchy whether it is the first or one millionth time you’ve heard it. We throw around the word “Classic” a lot, but the music from the Indiana Jones movies, and thus this game, truly fits that description.

Sound effects are almost an afterthought in Lego Indiana Jones which does lower the score a hair here. It’s pretty much the same explosion noise for everything. It doesn’t matter if you shoot a fuel tank with a rocket launcher, or if you punch a desk, you will get that same sound effect. This can get old quite quickly, but thankfully as soon as you’re becoming annoyed with the sound effects, the score reminds you why the game deserves high marks in the auditory category.

Sound Rating: Classic

4. Control and Gameplay

Here is where everything gets flushed down the toilet. As cute as the game is, this is one of the worst games I have PLAYED in a long time. The camera angles are awful, and although the right stick is supposed to be your stick for controlling said camera, you can barely move it. Even then it is only temporary. Because of these awful angles, you end up losing perspective, depth perception, or the ability to perceive where one is supposed to go next.

The game is also a glitch filled mess. Lego Indiana Jones obviously didn’t go through playtesting as the title is already infamous for its glitches. Three different times I had to restart the game because of a glitch. Here is a list of what I ran into:

1) In the Temple of Doomstage, “Freeing the Slaves,” I had to restart the game. Why? Because when I lowered a particular cage, I was supposed to get a mini cut scene of a squalid Hindi orphan escaping the cage and opening a door for us. Well, I lowered the cage, but nothing came out, so I was stuck. I had to look online to see where I was supposed to go next only to become irate over the fact that it wasn’t an Alex Lucard error but a BAD PROGRAMMING ERROR. I would have been far happier if it had just been me having a brain fart. Instead I had to replay the level.

2) In the second stage of The Last Crusade I had to restart at the very end because when I pushed this chair across the screen it was supposed to open a staircase. It didn’t. Again, due to a glitch in the game, I had to reset. This was another of those “I am completely lost” moments where I had to resort to looking online for a hint (something I abhor), only to again find out it was an error with the game itself.

3) With the Jehovah puzzle in TLC, I accidentally jumped on a wrong letter and the entire puzzle started flashing, meaning I couldn’t go on. At least this time it was a less subtle glitch. It still meant I had to restart the level though.

When I was looking online for hints one and two, I came across a plethora of glitches, game errors and bugs that have already been reported in Lego Indiana Jones. There is no excuse for ANY game having this many errors in it and it makes me physically sick that people are willing to overlook a half-assed programming job simply because a game is cute.

I also took issue with the controls. My main problem was that the triangle button is the button you use to switch between your characters. HOWEVER, it is also the button you use to get into vehicles or ride animals. Well, having that be the same button led to a LOT of detection errors on the game’s part, which also led to me dying several times. “Oh, I’m Indiana Jones. I think I’ll get on this elephant. Oh wait. The computer decided to switch me to a different character…WHO FOR SOME REASON IS STANDING IN QUICKSAND! Now I am dead.” Another memorable time was the boss battle reenacting the plane meets burly German steroid abuser skull scene in RotLA. I’ve got Marian trying to get in the plane, but the game kept choosing instead to switch me to Indiana Jones who, thanks to an utter lack of computer AI, is standing around being pummeled by the aforementioned roid rager and his Nazi chums.

A similar problem came with the circle button. I want to dig? Well I’ll press the circle button. Of course, this is also the button for Indiana’s whip, so the computer chooses to whip three or four times before getting the hint that I want to dig. Same with trying to fix something with the wrench and instead having to hear Willie’s high pitched scream.

That’s not to say the game is unplayable. The game plays decently most of the time, but when it messes up, it messes up big time and in ways that should have been caught long before the final product went out.

Other than that you have you usual platforming jumping puzzles and a lot of backtracking in order to proceed to the next part of the level. It’s a very standard platformer, but with a nice Lego twist as sometimes you’ll have to build things out of Legos. That never got old for me, and I never really liked Legos growing up. I was more a Transformers and G.I. Joe fan.

I did like how each character had their own specialty. Girl characters can jump higher, Indy has his whip. Belloq and Dr. Jones Sr. have a translation book automatically instead of needing to find them. Even Short Round is useful!

Oddly enough my favorite character in the game is Willie, who is my LEAST favorite character from the movies. She has the jump factor all female character have, but also a Black Canary like sonic scream that can break glass and, when you unlock it, does damage to enemies as well. Careful with it as if you have “Super Scream” turned on, there is yet another glitch I discovered, such as her killing all the orphans in a cage which led to me not being able to move on. Oddly enough, this was a different “orphans in a cage” glitch then the one mentioned earlier.

On a pure gameplay perspective, Lego Indiana Jones is bad. It has all the things that can be found in BAD platformers, and even some new awful issues that are unique to this game. I have heard that Lego Star Wars had this same issue, and it makes me wonder why Traveler’s Tales didn’t bother to correct them.

I’m sure there are some gamers, maybe even a lot of gamers, who can overlook the severe issues this game has, but I can’t. Game stopping glitches are never acceptable, no matter the genre or developer. Let’s just hope you don’t run into any, because they really do suck the fun out of the game.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad

5. Replayability

In order to get 100% in the game, you’re going to have to play every level multiple times. At least once in Story Mode and then again in Free Play. You’ll be looking for mailable parcels, artifact pieces and coins to gain a “True Adventurer” ranking. If you complete enough artifacts, you’ll have access to bonus levels. If you’re lucky enough, you just might run into Star Wars characters and even Santa Claus of all things!

With over 60 characters to unlock, 80 parcels to mail, and 180 artifact pieces to find, you can get a lot of mileage out of Lego Indiana Jones. I can’t say it’s perfect as many of the unlockable characters are just the same character with a different costume or characters that have the same special ability as a dozen others, but at least you can play as 7 different Indy’s if you want to.

Replayability Rating: Great

6. Balance

Balance is another area where I found issue with the game. Some of the puzzles require you to be a pretty big Indiana Jones fan boy. I think I’ve seen all three of the movies in this game…twice? Maybe three times for Raiders of the Lost Ark, which means that if you’re unaware of the movies or haven’t seen them in a while, you might be stuck on a puzzle.

I remember with the first level of ToD, there was a guy with a machine gun and no matter what, I just couldn’t hurt him. The solution was to throw a chair at this window and jump out it. Okay? There is no way I found to have come to that particular conclusion. I tried breaking the window with a sonic scream, but it didn’t work, even though the game says “Willie can break anything made of glass.” It also turned out you couldn’t hit the window with the chair. No, you had to throw it. I discovered this utterly by accident and was totally frustrated with that part. I’m sure if it hadn’t been more than a decade since my last viewing of ToD, I would have caught that, but that’s a pretty harsh learning curve right there.

AI is the other big area where I had an issue. Let’s say I needed to leave one character hanging from a rope while I used someone else. More than half the time the Computer would make its newly controlled character JUMP OFF THE BLOODY ROPE. Again – Frustration City, population: Me. Some times your partner will help you fight, but most of the time it just stands there letting itself be punched. I have seen partners run and jump into pits, lava, spikes, and fists for no reason other than the game was poorly designed in this manner. VERY disappointing.

The glitches in the game also take the balance down a bit, but we’ve already covered that.

What I do love about the game is that you can’t really die. When you die, you just respawn immediately with a little less coinage then you had before. if you ever reach 0 coins, your “True Adventurer” total is simply reset to 0. That’s the only punishment. This means you don’t have to restart from a far off checkpoint or even at the beginning of the level. I really like that. It also makes the game far more accessible to younger gamers.

The game has its balance issues, and at times they are maddening with a lack of logic regarding what to do next or what the correct answer is, but that can be said about most platformers. LIJ does try to give gamers some interesting twists by throwing in gameplay like the mine race. The game is never truly hard on its own, as it is a pretty easy title when it isn’t glitching or leading you to your doom with a bad camera angle. You might want to keep note of forums or online walkthroughs just in case you hit a glitch and have no idea that something was supposed to open and didn’t. Those game halting glitches will leave you with a feeling that the game is a lot harder than it really is. Instead those issues and the poor AI drag down what was otherwise a decently balanced game.

Balance Rating: Poor

7. Originality

I can’t truly compare this game to either Lego Star Wars, but this is the third straight title by Traveler’s Tales using the same gameplay, engine, and styling. With Lego Batman coming out in a few months, that will be four Lego X titles in as many years from this developer, meaning the series is going from cute and refreshing to becoming yet another series of rehashes pretty quickly.

The thing is TT is very good at making platformers that are familiar feeling and yet original. I loved Muppet Monster Adventure and the Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the Sega Genesis. This dev team has talent, I’m just afraid they are relying on the Lego franchise and whatever license is being teamed up with it to sell titles rather than improving the series. Everyone I’ve talked to says this game is pretty much LSW, right down to the laws, meaning someone at TT has decided to pull a Tomb Raider on their fans.

Hopefully Lego Batman won’t suffer the same fate.

Originality Rating: Poor

8. Addictiveness

As much as I HATED this game at times, it was hard to stop playing it. For all the issues I found with the title, the charm of Lego Indiana Jones always managed to win me back over. It’s very cute and I always wanted to see how the game would follow the movies, if it did. I liked the unlocking of new characters and trying out new powers, even if the new powers were the bane of my existence (I’m talking to YOU, “Ice Rink!”).

There was always something new to see and do, and every time I discovered a new hidden secret, it made me want to play just a little bit longer. Even though I don’t see the appeal of “Star Wars” it was awesome to run into C-3PO and Luke Skywalker in Free Play. Of course, this led to the unlocking of a very special character which made a lot of sense in a knowing sort of way.

LIJ is a good little game in the respect that you want to keep playing it even when the flaws are staring you in the face. That’s pretty impressive indeed.

Addictiveness Rating: Good

9. Appeal Factor

Pretty much every gamer will have fun with this title. I HATE platformers and I enjoyed the majority of my time with Lego Indiana Jones. There’s something about Indy that makes people love the character even when it’s not in the best production (See ToD or even the recent Crystal Skull.). The same holds true for this game. You have the cuteness of Lego with the amazing score of the Indiana Jones movies mixed with classic characters from pop culture and film. Adding all the pieces together creates a title that one can’t help but appreciate even when its being frustrating and buggy.

The only people I can say wouldn’t have a smattering of fun with this title are the same people who whine about Pokemon being “only for kids” because of the cute factor, or who hate Mario because he is a character they used to enjoy when they were 7 or 8. That and people who hate platformers even more than I do, if such a thing exists.

Appeal Factor: Great

10. Miscellaneous

The game features a decent amount of extras. I like that there are extra levels that can be unlocked, which offset the boredom of having to replay certain levels just to get one last artifact piece or to mail a parcel I couldn’t reach in Story mode because I didn’t have the appropriate character.

Lego Indiana Jones was a game I found to be really cute as first, but then I found myself hating more and more as the game went on because I don’t have a platforming mindset and I grew frustrated with the bugs. About halfway through the game I found myself liking the title again. Why? I think it’s because I finally grew accustomed to the play style of the game and the fact some of the puzzles made little sense logically. I also feel the cut scenes and style won me over in spite of the insipid gameplay issues that bogged this title down. It’s very rare that ANY game can get me to look more as the fluff instead of focusing on the meat and heart of the game, but LIJ was indeed such a game. I’m still not going to ignore those issues down, and in the end, it keeps me from a full on recommendation of this title.

Is this a game that I will ever pick up again? No, it was a one shot and now it’s off to the trade bin for when Blast Works comes out, but I don’t regret playing the game, and I will happily admit I had fun with the game, unlike most platformers.

Miscellaneous Rating: Above Average

The Scores
Story: Great
Graphics: Good
Sound: Classic
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Great
Balance: Poor
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Great
Miscellaneous: Above Average
FINAL SCORE: 6.5 (ENJOYABLE GAME)

Short Attention Span Summary

Lego Indiana Jones is a title with some serious glitches that can halt progress in the game altogether. It hasn’t even been out a week and yet it’s hard to encounter someone who HASN’T had an issue with this title so far. In spite of these issues, LIJ is a typical platformer that suffers from the usual foibles of the genre that make most of these titles unappealing to me. However, LIJ also manages to counter some of these issues with some interesting level design, a lot of bonus material, and a level of cuteness that can not be ignored. Platformers may not be my genre of choice, but if you’re a fan of them, this is certainly a game to try out, if not out right purchase. Just be forewarned of those glitches and decide if you have the patience to deal with them.

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