We’ve been rumbling over the block-fused adventures of our favourite archaeologist for more than a few months now, so it was a safe bet to assume we were more than excited to sit down with the final copy of the game when it arrived at AusGamers HQ.
As most of our coverage thus far had involved timed play sessions and single-player hands-on, I took the initiative and teed up some coop play time with our friend over at IGN AU, Cam Shea. Given the Lego titles have always promoted playing through with a friend, we both wanted to see if Traveller’s Tales had gone the same route as their last Lego titles or upped the ante with Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures.
So, together with controllers in hand at AGN HQ on the couch in front of our huge AusGamers 50” plasma (that’s right, we’re better equipped
than our News Ltd buddies;), we fired up the latest Lego adventure and jumped right into Temple of Doom (the only chapter of The Original Adventures
either of us hadn’t had a look at yet).
I’m gloating about the TV because I can’t stress enough to you just how pretty this game is; the juxtaposition between richly detailed backgrounds (torn straight from environments of the Indy films) and hilariously placed Lego pieces strewn about not only remind you you’re playing a Lego title, but also show just how much effort TT have put in here. That said, despite the simple shapes and design of the Lego pieces, they’re also incredibly detailed with super shiny surfaces that reflect the immediate environment and each and every piece looks
like the real thing.
As with all other Lego titles, pretty much anything in the environment that is made from Lego can be destroyed (via comedic explosions) which then reward you with studs. Studs are the currency in the Lego universe and can be used to unlock secrets, new characters and more. It’s a massive collect-a-thon and should be prescribed to anyone suffering from OCD through its tantalising host of secrets. Indeed, seeing parts of the level on your first run through you simply can’t reach because neither character you’re forced to play as (assuming you’re playing through Story Mode) has the ability required will be planted firmly in your brain for your second run through with the right character in Free Play.
This is the crux of play here. Running through all three chapters and finishing each will only net you a less than 50% game completion rate, the real meat is revisiting levels and fleshing out the game’s hub through the myriad of secrets on offer and the more challenging puzzles presented this time around.
What equally stems from this is a bigger focus on coop play because Lego Indy offers almost no help in the form of puzzle solving and many puzzles have different approaches or require outside-the-box thinking. A good example saw an out-of-reach platform holding up a mailbox (more on these shortly), neither of the characters we were using could reach the ledge and once we’d destroyed everything in the immediate area all that was left was a barrel.
Barrels can be flipped up and worn by a character to stay hidden from enemies, when you take the barrel off it’s flipped up over your head. As a complete last ditch effort (and thinking it wouldn’t work), Cam put the barrel over his character and I jumped on top of it, then timed a jump off it as he cast it off giving me that tiny little extra boost needed to reach the ledge. At no point anywhere else in the game was this ever shown as a way to reach higher points but the fact the mechanic existed shows the level of lateral design on offer when solving puzzles cooperatively. You couldn’t possibly perform an action like that playing through in single-player proving TT have pretty much designed the whole experience to be one shared.
There were other puzzles on offer that needed thinking outside-the-box like the one mentioned above which made it far more rewarding and engaging playing with a friend (and fuelled our desire to probe every potentially hidden element of the game far more than if we were playing on our own).
Levels are designed with the coop mechanic in mind with very few instances of awkward cameras or one person getting too far ahead of the other popping up. Everything is fairly self-contained in moderately sized play spaces with a ready host of intermittently interrupting bad-guys coming at you, but you can wail on them in a variety of different ways in keeping with the Indy theme.
Indy, for example (and as mentioned in my previous write-ups), has his trusty whip but will also perform film-esque battle moves such as drop kicks, throwing oncoming baddies up and over his shoulders or, unfilm-esque like, grab them in a headlock for a bit of “noogie” action. Willie, his lady interest from Temple of Doom, however, has a piercing scream she can use to stop bad guys in their tracks while Short Round from the same film, will perform a variety of martial arts moves against bad guys.
Beyond signature moves, you can also beat bad-guys up with shovels, spanners, guns, shotguns, bazookas and pretty much anything that can be picked up in the environment. Some bosses will even specifically require you to take them out with projectile pieces such as chairs, bottles or spears. Unfortunately, one of the game’s most annoying features is its boss-battles that tend to ignore much of the puzzle-solving logic of the rest of the game, instead throwing oddly designed (and very inconsistent) patterns at you that are almost impossible to work out.
The bridge sequence torn from Temple of Doom is the best example of Lego Indy at its worst.
Still, the crappy stuff is far outshone by all the good bits here. Each and every level has been designed for more than one play through, and completionists will find themselves searching every nook and cranny of the game with its 60 different characters on offer. Willie’s aforementioned scream, for example, can shatter glass, while Jock’s permanent spanner means he can fix machines in an area where you may never actually see a spanner pop up to use. It’s through elements like the variety of different tools and abilities each character has and the way in which they can be used in the environment that make this game so compelling.
That said, playing through cooperatively with a friend isn’t exactly a major cerebral challenge. Some of the puzzles will definitely keep you on your toes, but for the most part it’s the sheer fun of smashing up the environment, building Lego pieces and finding all the hidden treasures.
Each level has a set number of items to find. So there are 10 Artifacts to uncover with each chapter (that are then constructed and displayed in the Treasure Room in the game’s hub, Bartlett College), a set number of studs to be recognised as “True Adventurer”, Mailboxes and Parcels as well as items or items to be constructed (usually three) that go towards finding Atrifacts. You won’t actually be able to gather all Artifact pieces on a single play through, again opening up the game for copious amounts of replayability (a good thing because you’ll finish each chapter in anywhere between an hour to three, depending on how thorough you are).
In the end, Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures is a game that combines two of the most iconic elements of most our youths together, and this works oddly well. Having access to the original scores while reinterpreting film sequences in comedic Lego fashion immediately makes the title utterly endearing, while the level of visual polish and OCD inspired collectionism should have you and a friend exploring and uncovering, cooperatively for quite a while. Traveller’s Tales have easily raised the Lego videogame bar substantially here, hopefully the forthcoming Lego Batman can maintain this new high standard.