Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures Review

Sloppy controls and a lack of cooperative play hurt Indiana Jones' first Lego adventure, but the humor and puzzles still make this worth playing.

Now that Traveller's Tales has conquered a galaxy far, far away, it has set its sights on giving a Lego makeover to a more terrestrial franchise. Lego Indiana Jones: The Complete Trilogy lets you reenact the key scenes from the first three Indiana Jones movies, with a blocky twist only Lego can provide. The idea of children's building toys pasted atop action-packed adventures may seem strange--and seeing a Lego monkey is rather unnerving--but the enduring charm of the movies is the perfect foundation for some small-scale tomb robbing. An insatiable love for all things Indy isn't a prerequisite to enjoying this game, though. Even with camera and control issues, the clever puzzles and silly atmosphere should be enough to draw even the Indy-ignorant into the experience.

Like the Lego Star Wars games, Lego Indiana Jones is primarily a puzzle-solving game with light combat and platforming elements. While the core experience remains largely unchanged from the previous games, the puzzles are constructed in a much more intelligent and logical manner this time around. Despite the organic design of the puzzles, the small size of the PSP screen can make figuring out exactly what must be accomplished slightly more difficult than in the console versions. Trying to identify a millimeter-high switch hidden in the background can be an exercise in frustration. This problem could have been avoided had you been given more control over the camera, but by keeping the same zoomed-out view found in the console versions, Lego Indy makes solving puzzles pretty annoying at times.

We have top men working on it right now.
We have top men working on it right now.

Though the puzzles are organized in a much more streamlined manner than in past Lego games, the obstacles are still quite diverse. Every level seems to throw a new trick your way that will continually keep you on your toes. The most amusing puzzles involve the severe phobias with which certain characters are cursed. Indiana has no fear swinging across molten lava with his whip or leaping over spikes while being run down by a giant boulder, but if you put a snake in front of him, he'll become nearly catatonic. The boss battles also provide a unique twist in every encounter. From having to figure out how to hurt a man who can regenerate his health to fighting against someone who won't stop jumping, these encounters serve as a fun diversion you'll have to solve quickly, lest you find your Lego head popped clean off. Other sections have you using elephants to cross mud, driving a motorcycle while being chased by a group of bikers, and trying to get a monkey to part with some dynamite. There is also a nauseatingly awesome mine cart ride in The Temple of Doom section that, though brief, is quite exhilarating.

Though the puzzle aspects alone are enough to make Lego Indy worthwhile, the humor makes it enjoyable even when you're cursing the camera. The silent cutscenes take you through the journey in a much sillier manner than Steven Spielberg originally envisioned. No, you won't see the Lost Ark melt some unfortunate Lego person's face, but you will see Indy's father fall asleep (because he's old!) and even the Harrison Ford look-alike donning a blonde wig to deceive a foolish guard. The humorous touches go beyond just the cutscenes; there are funny nods all around you. If you have time to marvel at the decor when trying to escape from a burning castle, you might see a painting of the Sphinx with a Lego head. Traveller's Tales also included a few references to its previous Lego games. You can see soldiers wearing Darth Vader masks, Belloq mocking C-3PO, and a clever homage to Hoth hidden away in one level.

It's worth playing the levels a few times just to pick up on all the references, but there is a much more tangible reason than that: They are jam-packed with hidden goodies. It's actually impossible to get all the bonus items your first time. There are a number of different character-specific traits, so you'll have to unlock Free mode to see all that every level has to offer. The different traits help keep the tasks varied throughout the game. Indiana has his trusty whip, which can not only help him swing across gaps and grab objects from far away, but can also bring the ladies closer (for him to steal a quick kiss). There are also scholars who can decrypt hieroglyphics, smaller-sized characters who can squeeze through tiny spaces, craftsmen equipped with a wrench or a shovel, and bad guys who can enter secret Thuggie doors. You'll be lucky to finish 50 percent of this game your first time through, so it's overflowing with replay value.

Lego elephants are eager servants.
Lego elephants are eager servants.

A few problems seem to pop up in every Lego game. The artificial intelligence is particularly awful. You'll need an AI-controlled character to help you solve certain puzzles, but you'll find your pal less than willing in a few cases. Unfortunately, the PSP version lacks cooperative play, so you'll just have to grin and bear it while your AI partner repeatedly halts your progress. Trying to coax the AI to do your bidding can be aggravating. The fighting can also get repetitive, especially when a swarm of enemies continually runs at you while you're trying to solve a particularly complex puzzle. Finally, the jumping portions can be very inconsistent. It's not always possible to judge how far away you are from a platform, which leads to many untimely deaths and arduous retries. None of the flaws destroy the enjoyment, but they can make solo adventuring a bit trying.

The PSP version is also quite sluggish in the controls department. Turning a crank or swinging on a vine requires exact placement, precision that is simply not possible in many situations. After finally locating a tiny switch buried in the background, you'll spend many frustrating seconds trying to trigger the darn thing. With a little patience it's possible to overcome this problem, but it's a glaring fault that isn't present in the console versions.

Lego Indiana Jones on the PSP takes a step back from its console brothers, removing the cooperative play and keeping the camera way too far from the action, but the rest of the game survives the transition intact. It's not the hardest game, but it has enough hidden goodies to make you play through more than once. Both newcomers and diehard fans of Traveller's Tales' previous Lego offerings will find plenty to enjoy here.

The Good

  • Very funny
  • Fun puzzles
  • Tons of replay value

The Bad

  • No cooperative play
  • Lousy friendly AI
  • Camera is too zoomed out, making it hard to see important details
  • Controls are sluggish

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