The videogame industry may need a new mantra: Just because a property can be turned into a Lego game doesn’t mean it should be. LucasArts’ disappointing “Lego Indiana Jones” is a case in point. Extremely repetitive and severely lacking in the cute factor that made “Lego Star Wars” a hit with auds of all ages, this new title has little to offer that hasn’t been done before and better. Initial interest may be high due to the box office success of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” but ultimately, this is more a cash-in than a solid addition to the Lucas/Lego family.
Those who have played either of the two “Lego Star Wars” titles will recognize almost the same game, adapted to the world of Nazis and whips instead of storm troopers and light sabers. Once again, gamers play through a trilogy of films — “Crystal Skull” doesn’t have a presence here — where every character and most objects are built out of brightly colored, breakable Lego pieces. Gameplay is extremely simple, with an emphasis on puzzle solving and collectables. Co-op play is a constant option, though annoyingly, developer Traveller’s Tales still hasn’t made it possible online.
Fundamentally, Indiana Jones and his pals are just poorly suited for the Lego videogame world, which depends on breadth and cuteness. “Star Wars” has the advantage of dozens of identifiable characters and settings, many of which already look like they could be built out of blocks. “Indy,” on the other hand, has barely a handful of memorable characters and few locations of particular note or that could be classified as “adorable.” Indy, Short Round, Marion and Henry Sr. hardly stack up as Lego characters to Luke, Chewie, R2-D2 and the Ewoks, nor are deserts, jungles and libraries nearly as fun as the Death Star, Hoth and Jabba’s cruiser.
The only element of “Indy” that translates well into Legos is the series’ tongue-in-cheek humor. Spielberg’s and Lucas’ trilogy is such a send-up of the adventure genre already that Traveller’s Tales barely need to crank things up here to make it amusing for kids.
“Lego Indiana Jones” relies on just a few basic puzzle tropes, most of which are solidly executed but done to death by the end of “Raiders” and thus particularly intolerable when they show up again in the “Temple of Doom” and “Last Crusade” portions of the game. Finding a hidden key, memorizing a short pattern on an ancient relic or using two characters to simultaneously pull chains are interesting only so many times.
In most cases, the game uses lighting to make puzzles easy for young players, but a few levels are bizarrely bereft of hints as to what one is supposed to do (the final battle on the bridge in “Temple of Doom” is particularly indecipherable).
“Indy”-specific elements are integrated with mixed success. The hero’s whip adds a new element to some puzzles, but can be frustrating in combat, since it has a mind of its own as to whom it hits. The famous mine-cart chase in “Temple of Doom” is a major disappointment. While it looks fantastic, there’s really nothing for players to do but lean one way or another to hit things as they’re carried along. There are a number of nice character-specific touches, though, such as Short Round’s kicks, Indy’s habit of giving enemies noogies and Henry Sr. grabbing his back after carrying a heavy Lego piece.