Crispy Gamer

LEGO Indiana Jones: The Videogame

Traveller?s Tales surprised nearly everyone when LEGO Star Wars dropped in 2005. Who could have imagined that a game saddled by the requirements of not one but two enormous franchises could turn out to be anything but average? Against all odds the scrappy developer was able to take one beloved franchise, infuse it with all the freewheeling imagination and fun of a beloved toy line and come up with something that lived up to both. Now, they?re taking aim at another classic LucasArts property and, unlike Indiana Jones, it doesn?t look like they?re making things up as they go.

LEGO Indiana Jones will cover the original trilogy of action films. That means we?ll be riding mine carts with LEGO Short Round, chasing the grail with LEGO Sean Connery, and running from Hovitos with LEGO Alfred Molina. In fact, the game digs deep into the Indiana Jones character pool, allowing players to play as folks as obscure (and undeniably awesome) as Captain Katanga. Our GDC preview held at the LucasArts studio in San Francisco?s Presidio provided a look at the "Raiders of The Lost Ark" portion of the game. A cute, but scruffy-looking Indiana Jones pushed his way through a Peruvian rainforest with Yagua guides and his sidekick Satipo in tow. After a run-in with a colony of bats, Indy and Satipo poke their heads into the booby-trapped temple of the Chachopoyan Warriors, where their adventure begins.

The play in LEGO Indiana Jones is slightly different than what we?re used to in LEGO Star Wars. That?s because our intrepid archaeologist doesn?t use the Force. He?s armed with a pistol, which behaves similarly to the blasters in the Star Wars game. Of course, hooked onto his belt is Jones? signature weapon -- a leather bullwhip. When Indy snaps an overly aggressive spider, the creature explodes into LEGO bits, which can be collected for later use. Satipo isn?t half as helpless (or self-serving) as he was in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." He can excavate the temple floor, discovering important keys. Sallah will have this same skill, but don?t expect the jolly Egyptian to help out if pit he digs up is full of asps. Many characters will be vulnerable to their phobias. Willie Scott will freak out around arachnids, Henry Jones, Sr. will have trouble around rats, and Indiana, of course, will freeze up around snakes.

LEGO Star Wars was known for its solid co-operative play. LEGO Indiana Jones hopes to continue the trend. The game will feature hop-in, hop-out co-op throughout, with the second player taking the role of one of Jones? many allies, sidekicks and love interests. Rumors of four-player multiplayer were just that -- rumors.

Single-players will find that the game?s co-operative artificial intelligence is more help than hassle. During the brief play-through, we saw the computer-controlled character quickly helped Indy solve puzzles. At one point the duo were stymied by a moat full of crocodiles. Indiana?s A.I. helper didn?t miss a beat inflating a raft that the pair could use to row across the dangerous waters.

On May 22, 2008 Indiana Jones will return to the big screen in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." There?s a good chance we?ll see this game and a handful other incarnations hitting store shelves around the same time. What we probably won?t see is the more realistic-looking Indiana Jones game on which LucasArts has quietly been working. Travellers Tales? other LEGO Indiana Jones offerings, especially those on the Wii and Nintendo DS, ought to be enough to tie over eager fans. The Wii edition will feature motion controls that trigger Indy?s whips, while the DS version will use the microphone to blow out torches and the touch-screen to crack the bullwhip. A favorite scene from "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" will make it to the DS by way of a culinary mini-game that asks the player to chill a serving of monkey brains.

Cooking Mama it ain?t.

Lighthearted humor and fun, not to mention the classic source material, are the reasons to play LEGO Indiana Jones. The game is meant to be enjoyed by the entire family, so some of the movies? more gruesome moments are toned down or sidestepped completely. The climax of our demo showed Indy and Sapito nabbing the golden fertility idol. Their find triggers a classic action sequence. In the film, Sapito betrays Jones only to find himself skewered on a spiky booby trap. But what fun is that? Here the pair run from an enormous LEGO boulder and manage to find their way out of the deadly temple, but their escape is fleeting. Beloq and his crew of bloodthirsty Hovitos confront the duo and demand that Jones hand over his prize. He reluctantly turns the goods over, but mistakenly passes his rival the disembodied head of C3P0. Many such references are buried throughout the game, making the experience both a recreation and a light parody of the three movies.

Most folks who dismissed LEGO Star Wars as a mere kid?s game missed out on a game that radiated charm. LEGO Indiana Jones may not assail players with melting Nazis and flaming hearts, but it?s got the soul of the movie series nailed.

This preview was based on a publisher-driven demo of the game. The game is expected to be released in May 2008.