We've been anxious to get our hands on LucasArts and Traveller's Tales' latest tag-team effort, Lego Indiana Jones, since the game was first announced last year. The publisher-and-developer pairing has yielded some Voltron-like results with the Lego Star Wars games, so we've been understandably curious to see what happens when you mix Legos and Indiana Jones. A recent trip to LucasArts' offices finally let us try out a work-in-progress version of the Xbox 360 game which, while a little rough around the edges, is on its way to matching the appeal of the Lego Star Wars games.
For those who haven't followed the news around the game, Lego Indy is taking a Lego Star Wars: The Complete Trilogy-style approach to the classic trilogy of films starring Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. The game will offer 18 levels, with six based on each of the films in the series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade. In addition, you'll find some bonus levels in there to add some excitement. You'll make your way to each set of levels via the game's hub based on Jones' day job as a professor at Barnett College. Our hands-on time let us try out the first two levels in the game based on Raiders and have a stroll through Barnett.
The first level in the game was pretty familiar to us because it was the level demoed for us during Game Developers Conference and based on the opening of the first film. You'll take control of Indy and his "friend" Satipo as they enter ruins in search of a gold relic. Obviously, the level played out a bit longer than the movie sequence, courtesy of a much richer, more involved route to the relic. New gameplay elements, such as ladders, swing points for Indy's trusty whip, and new collectibles were all on display in the level. They also featured a colorful look with a few placeholder elements here and there. In keeping with the whole explorer vibe of the movies, the level featured a number of different puzzles; some you could solve solo and others that required cooperating with your artificial intelligence controlled buddy.
As with the other Lego games, the action was given a goofy and humorous spin courtesy of some fanciful art direction. This also included silly, humorous cinematics that move the narrative along. Once you successfully guide Indy through a deadly gauntlet of the iconic moments from the film--including natives and a giant Lego boulder--you get to head out on Indy's plane. This latter part of the level showed off some of the flexibility that's been added to the various playable characters. While each character will have his or her own unique special ability, as we've seen in previous Lego games, it's also possible for Indy to temporarily get some additional abilities by picking up an object. In this case it was a wrench, which allowed him to repair his plane.
Once we wrapped up the adventure, we had a quick stroll around Barnett College, checking out the different themed rooms. These rooms offered access to different pieces of content, such as collectibles, cutscenes, and a shop where you can use your collected studs to purchase extras, including playable characters. The area was fairly spacious, with a good amount of nooks and crannies to explore, though the graphics weren't final yet.
Following our quick tour, we went to a map room and selected the next level by moving a magnifying glass. The level finds Indy checking in with old flame Marion Ravenwood at her bar in the Himalayas. As in the film, the reunion takes a turn for the worse as the evil Belloq shows up to cause problems, along with a plethora of henchmen (no, not Nazis--the game is steering clear of that topic). Clashing with Belloq's cronies offered a good showcase for the new swapping feature, which doesn't require you to be in as close proximity as in previous Lego games, and the slightly different bent that combat has in this game.
Playing Lego Indy is a much more melee-centric experience that incorporates objects to pick up and throw. The level also highlighted temporary item-based abilities again, with Indy gaining the dig ability from picking up a shovel, which you need to deal with a puzzle when you're outside the bar. The last bit of the level we played had us facing off against Belloq in a boss battle that required us to make use of the environment to dole out some damage to the fiend. In playing Marion, we also noticed she's able to jump higher, apparently a special trait of the playable ladies in the game, and she throws a mean right cross to boot.
Overall the visuals and general presentation in the game are looking good. There were obviously some rough edges due to unfinished elements and the occasionally awkward camera. But overall, the game is looking sharp and comes packing a good amount of personality. The characters have expressive faces, uttering the odd grunt here and there for effect. The cinematics are the expected mix of faithful reproduction of key moments mixed with original tomfoolery worthy of a chuckle or two. The game unabashedly wears its goofy heart on its sleeve like all the other Lego games, and it works well.
Based on what we played, Lego Indy is looking like it's going to be a whole lot of good-natured fun. The game tweaks the already solid Lego Star Wars mechanics to better fit the Earth-based adventuring. The results so far are promising and feel like a good fit. Traveller's Tales is clearly getting more comfortable with the Lego formula it established and is starting to have more fun with it. We're anxious to see how the game shapes up and how much it can be polished. If you're fan of the previous Lego games, you will definitely want to keep an eye out for Lego Indy when it ships this June for a veritable bevy of platforms: the Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, DS, PC, and PSP. Look for more on the game in the coming weeks.