While die-hard fans of the classic Indiana Jones films will find the Original Trilogy much more rewarding than ignorant players, drop the license from the product and Lego Indy would still be a bit of a hoot. In Lego Indiana Jones Traveller's Tales have crafted a game so well designed that its appeal stretches far beyond the boundaries of its subject matter.
Most of its success is down to incredible level design. Just like the forthcoming Batman game, Lego Indiana Jones places huge emphasis on co-op puzzles. You can't just bomb through sections blasting away at the bad guys any more. Use your whip to cross a cavern and you'll have to build hanging bars for your partner to follow suit. Stumble upon spike traps and the other character must find an alternate route and clear the path.
The new ability to hot-swap between characters at any time - not just when they're stood side-by-side - means that Traveller's Tales has been able to craft some really interesting puzzles. It's not just a one-trick pony though.
Co-op hi-jinks aside, Lego Indiana Jones is an exemplary use of a license. How we laughed as Indy quivered in the Well of Souls - only braving up once Marion had scared the snakes off with a torch. How we chortled when Dr Jones tried to fob Belloq off with a C3P0 head instead of the real golden idol. How we giggled when... Come to think of it, we laughed, chuckled and giggled a lot. Admittedly the cut-scenes aren't as funny as in Lego Star Wars, but then Lucas' trilogy never featured Willie Scott's glass-shattering scream...
At the risk of upsetting Star Wars fans, Lego Indy's locations are much, much more interesting. Most of the action takes place in recognisable areas (rather than genero spaceship/planet #54), but when the team have had to be creative - such as fleshing out the Nepalese level by including a mountainside temple after the bar fight - it's been done with such care and attention that the switch between movie sets and creative licence is seamless. And thanks to the improved lighting tech it all looks beautiful too.
As most of the action takes place underground you'll often stumble upon ruins where light filters through gaps in the wall and torches illuminate the surroundings with a reddish glow. All in all: absolutely gorgeous. Er, so where's the awesome score?
Unfortunately for Lego Indiana Jones, the challenges turn out to be just too clever for the game's own good. While we absolutely love the focus on co-op puzzles, when tackled alone the partnering AI simply isn't up to scratch. Infinite lives means excessive use of one-hit-kill traps isn't as frustrating as it should be, but the ineptitude of the computer-controlled partner often hinders progress regardless. Put simply, in some levels the single player experience feels butchered. So much so, we occasionally found ourselves switching on a second pad, moving the other character into position and then dropping out afterwards.
It's such a shame a problem this basic mars the experience. In terms of design and use of a licence, Indy is the best Lego game so far, but the reliance on clever puzzles really highlights the incompetent AI. If you're buying it with co-op play in mind (and thanks to Xbox Live it's a strong possibility) then dive right in. Otherwise, it gets a hearty thumbs up, albeit with one very sour-faced caveat.
Lego Indy is impossible not to love, despite its best efforts to put you off.
- Inspired level design
- Best Lego game yet
- Partner AI borked