Quick Review: Lego Indiana Jones

By Shamus Posted Monday Feb 23, 2009

Filed under: Game Reviews 31 comments

Oh wow! It’s Harrison Ford! Oh wait. No.  It’s just a Lego guy. Had me going there for a second.
Oh wow! It’s Harrison Ford! Oh wait. No. It’s just a Lego guy. Had me going there for a second.
Lego Indiana Jones came with my Xbox. I thought I’d say a few words about it.

I played Lego Star Wars a couple of years ago, and found it to be a very stereotypical casual game: Easy to learn. Charming. Playable in little ten to fifteen minute bursts. Mildly humorous. Fun.

The thrust of a Lego game is to take a movie series and transport it into the Lego reality of plastic bits and bright colors. There’s no dialog. The characters all emote with gestures, facial expressions, and very simple grunts. “Uh-oh!” is the closest thing you’ll hear to English. The movie will be broken up into a few distinct chapters. You’ll watch a little cutscene to set the stage for a chapter, and then the game turns you loose in a series of rooms where you bash up the bad guys until they shatter into plastic nobs. Usually you have two characters in your party, and you will need to occasionally shift between the two in order to solve some mild puzzles. There are a bunch of secret parts to find, which you can use to build secret objects that unlock various rewards. That’s pretty much it.

The formula doesn’t work quite as well with Indy as it did with Star Wars. (Spaceships are easier to envision with plastic bricks than jungles or Cairo.) The levels here are longer. Each chapter is about twenty to forty minutes long, and you can’t save. You also can’t die or fail, so you don’t have to worry about getting sent back to the beginning of the chapter. If you fall, you just pop back to life again. But I often found myself thinking I’d had enough Lego fun about ten minutes before I reached the end of the chapter, but was obliged to keep going to get to the next save. The game is a bit like cotton candy. It’s fluffy and fun, but I can only take so much of it at one time.

You thought he was getting out his whip, but no! He accidentally pulled out a BANANA instead. It’s funny because you weren’t expecting it! Or maybe you were! Either way, you can’t skip it! Wheee!
You thought he was getting out his whip, but no! He accidentally pulled out a BANANA instead. It’s funny because you weren’t expecting it! Or maybe you were! Either way, you can’t skip it! Wheee!
The cutscenes are unskippable. This is a crime. There are entire scenes of Lego people grunting and mugging at each other, trying to convey an entirely dialog-driven stage-setting scene via pantomime. It’s not entertaining or funny. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll get the gist after about ten seconds. If you haven’t, it will just be meaningless jibber-jabber. The humor is bonk-on-head level comedy, so if you’re over six you’re probably not going to find these scenes very entertaining. But even if they were, I thought we had grown out of the unskippable cutscene by now?

But in the end, it’s pretty much the same formula and the same fun. I’m afraid there are no Deep Truths about game design to reveal here. Nothing offensively bad to get worked up about. No revelations about what makes gaming great. It’s a very formulaic series, and this isn’t the best example of the formula. If you’ve never tried the whole Lego thing before but want some amusing low-key fun, start with Lego Star Wars. (I suggest the game based on the prequel trilogy, as it lets you smash up little plastic Jar-Jar with your lightsaber as many times as you like.)


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31 thoughts on “Quick Review: Lego Indiana Jones

  1. ydant says:

    I have played all of Lego Indiana twice (once on free play mode where you can go through with the characters you want to collect all of the remaining hidden items). I am currently playing through the Star Wars ones. Other than the complaint about the lack of ability to save whenever you want, I found the Indiana Jones games to be more fun than the Star Wars ones. Maybe it’s because I also like the Indiana Jones story more than the Star Wars one.

    I definitely agree that the chapters in Lego Indiana Jones are usually about 5-10 minutes too long. You get to a certain point and just want this current session to be finished. On more than one occasion I left the xbox360 on overnight to keep a game “saved” – wasting a bit of power in the process.

    The key for these games to me is the cooperative multi-player support. It’s very well done and fun. You don’t seem to play co-op multi-player much if at all, so you probably didn’t notice the difference between Indiana Jones and Star Wars. The multi-player engine is much more forgiving in Indiana Jones of the two players going off in different directions. In Star Wars we’ve found ourselves to be confined to a much smaller area the majority of the time, which can lead to some frustration.

    I personally loved the cut-scenes (but they should be skippable). Again, I wonder if this comes down to franchise loyalty?

  2. Tom says:

    On the Wii, you can flick the remote to crack Indy’s whip :)

  3. Binks says:

    “The humor is bonk-on-head level comedy”

    And sometimes that’s the best comedy of all when pulled off properly. I played through the entire Lego Indiana Jones game with my friend and not once did we feel the need to skip a cutscene or wish a level was too short. Perhaps the lego formula just isn’t your thing (me and my friend have played all of them 100% completion and had fun with every minute of it). Perhaps the comedy isn’t the deepest material, but it is still hilarious if you just let yourself enjoy the game.

  4. Torsten says:

    I have the Lego Star Wars which I’ve only managed to play through once on my brothers computer, as the graphic card in my own laptop doesn’t meet the requirements. Game about lego bricks needs pixel shading, for f’s sake. What I’ve read on reviews and seen videos in Youtube the basic concept in the games is very similar.

    So I haven’t actually played Lego Indiana Jones but it is on my list of games to buy. My interest comes from how Star Wars was one of the funniest games I’ve ever played. The game wasn’t groundbreaking or deep in any way, but somehow I haven’t had that much fun in playing a video game in years. For me the games work as casual fun and parodies of the movies.

  5. JMcNeely says:

    I just picked up an HDTV and XBox360 this weekend, and (in between going into work on my weekend and sleeping) was able to play through the first couple levels of the Temple of Doom. Although the controls seemed kind of wonky at first it didn’t take long to get used to them. I had no idea what to expect as far as plot was concerned so I was pretty happy when I found out that all three movies were available for play.

    Also, the lack of dialogue is a good thing at this point simply because I watched my wife play through parts of Kung-Fu Panda and whoever tried to do Jack Black’s voice needs to be dragged through a sewer and shot… yes the voice acting really is that bad. So emotes and grunting is okay with me. That said, I can understand why it would be irritating for people who have never seen the movies.

    Also, I agree 100% that non-skippable cut-scenes are evil.

  6. chuko says:

    I just wanted to second ydant about the cooperative multiplayer. I’d have absolutely no interest in the lego games at all if it wasn’t for the cooperative play. It changes the game from cute meh to zany hilarious, sometimes anyway.

    And yes, unskippable cut-scenes evil, etc.

  7. Eric Meyer says:

    But without unskippable cutscenes, how will Unskippable stay in business?

    Anyway, call me when they come out with LEGO Lord of the Rings (as a video game, I mean– I’ve seen the photo galleries) and not a minute before.

  8. ima420r says:

    I enjoyed the improvements over LSW. Picking up weapons and items rather than needed specific characters to do certain things. You don’t need a guy with a shovel to dig when indy can just pick up a shovel.

    The lego games get old, for me at least, as they are just too easy. You can’t die, you can play a level for 30 minutes or 10 hours, and the puzzles are rather simple. Enjoyable, but only in short bursts, just like real life legos.

  9. Lazlo says:

    I played a demo of Lego star wars II on my 360, and ended up buying the game. I see plusses and minuses with it. As mentioned, the lack of ability to save (except after a chapter) is a crime. However, it seems to have a similar failure mode to Price of Persia, which I have to say I appreciate… They’re getting a good story handed to them, so they don’t have to be creative with the plot, but I do think that now and then there are bits of genius when adapting that plot to a lego paradigm. The drop-in/drop-out coop is a definite winner for me.

    Overall, I kind of like it. It’s mostly mindless fun. For my son, it is the alpha and omega of his world. (He’s 5. That definitely says something about the game…) As soon as we got it, it became the most incredibly potent carrot/stick combo we’ve ever seen. “Do X again, and no Star Wars for you!” ensures compliance. “As soon as you do Y, you can play Star Wars for an hour” gets stuff done. I’m thinking we should tell him “If you cure cancer, you can play Star Wars forever.” and see what happens.

  10. ydant says:

    There IS penalty for failure. You lose studs every time you die. You can still complete a level with 0 studs and enjoy it, so it’s not that big of a deal.

  11. Gary says:

    “as it lets you smash up little plastic Jar-Jar with your lightsaber as many times as you like.”

    And I did. Over and over and over. Quite cathartic. :)

    I must say though, I can understand how it can get old by yourself. I play all the LEGO games with my wife :)

  12. Rod says:

    I suspect the purpose of Lego Star Wars is to allow four-year-olds to eviscerate their opponents without parents complaining about the “violence”.

  13. David V.S. says:

    The only thing I have to add is that if you own a console avoid the Lego video games on PC. These are “ports to PC” and some have a few very annoying bugs because of this.

  14. MintSkittle says:

    I played the Lego Star Wars games on the XBox and Gamecube, and these were the only games that ever caused them to freeze, so I didn’t play for very long.

  15. MissusJ says:

    I always thought that the lego cutscenes for the SW prequels also had better acting than the movies.

    As well as the JarJar smashing. :)

  16. Rats says:

    This is so far off topic its painful but…

    Does anyone else find it surreal that Shamus’ site is advertising his work at the escapist? These means Shamus is being payed for somone to host adverts for his own work (not surprising really with content aware adverts, but still somewhat confusing).

    I assume they are still adverts from outside Shamus? Not just shameless plugging?

  17. Samrobb says:

    “It's funny because you weren't expecting it!”

    Heh. Do I detect a hint of veggie here?

  18. Groboclown says:

    I own all the Lego games (Star Wars 1 & 2, Indy, and Batman). I enjoyed the Star Wars ones simply because it was a good parody. However, now that my 5 year old daughter is old enough, she’s started to play it, too. Hence the large collection.

    Fortunately, the Lego Batman game finally introduced skippable cut-scenes. Another nice feature for all these games is the ability to enter cheat-codes (it came in handy when my daughter overwrote one of the save games). I’d say the final nice thing is that there’s no way to mess up the puzzles.

    I still hate the camera angles, which make some parts really hard to see where you’re going.

  19. I want Microsoft to incur some sort of punishment for bundling their console with this game (and the execrable Kung Fu Disney Movie License). I would have gladly paid twenty bucks less to have the console come unencumbered with crap such as this.

  20. Rats: You are bothered by inconsequential things. Get the old reality meter checked.

  21. Yar Kramer says:

    Mmm … I dunno, I’m a reclusive misanthrope like Yahtzee, so I’ll probably give the Lego franchise a miss. There is also something seriously wrong about “They finally added skippable cutscenes.”

  22. Volatar says:

    “(I suggest the game based on the prequel trilogy, as it lets you smash up little plastic Jar-Jar with your lightsaber as many times as you like.)”

    Actually, I recommend Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. It is the two games together, in one game, in one box, for the price of one game.


    Slicing up Jar-Jar may be fun, but Darth Vader slicing up Jar-Jar is funner.

    Plus, you get 2x the game for the same price.

  23. Merkwürdigeliebe says:

    I too joined the Xbox360 party late and was rewarded with the Lego Indiana Jones/Kung Fu Panda badge of honor. Naturally, I played both in their entirety (I may be addicted to achievements) and would just like to say that, as bad as unskippable cut scenes may be, the 100% skipped cut scenes of subsequent playthroughs are worse (even worse than the fact that I found the game endearing enough for subsequent playthroughs) — I found this disastrous to continuity and the integrity of the story (if Lego games can be said to have integrity).

    Additionally, I am a bit perplexed by the ambivalence of the following statement: “You also can't die or fail, so you don't have to worry about getting sent back to the beginning of the chapter.” Sandwiched in a paragraph listing the game’s shortcomings, this reads as another fault. I found the stud penalty for dying a nice compromise between challenging better gamers while being more lenient towards the (arguably) target audience. I consider this system analogous to Shamus’ stance regarding the controversy around Prince of Persia’s decision to not punish people with game over screens and reloads, hence my confusion as to why Shamus should consider this a bad thing (even if it can unnecessarily extend level length indefinitely). I personally wouldn’t mind seeing similar elements incorporated in “less casual” fare. Does anyone else find such forgiveness desirable?

    1. Shamus says:

      Merkwà¼rdigeliebe: Yeah, I could have stated that better. I was trying to point out that you couldn’t save until you completed a chapter, but I didn’t want someone to walk away with the impression that death=start chapter over.

  24. Blake says:

    I have Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, Lego Batman and Lego Indy but I refuse to play them except in co-op so I haven’t made it all the way through Batman or Indy yet.

    The length of the levels in Lego Indiana Jones certainly annoyed me. They’re quite noticeably longer than the ones in Star Wars which is irritating for a number of reasons:
    – Playing through co-operatively requires both players to be able to sit down for 40 minute chunks.
    – Annoying levels never seem to end.
    – Lack of mid-level saving means it’s easy to have situations where you either lose half an hour of game time or leave the machine on whilst you’re away.
    – Replaying levels for fun or to find all the secret items becomes a chore instead of a short distraction.

    To those who haven’t played any Lego games I highly recommend Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga as there is a huge amount of game time in that game.

    My only real frustration with these games is certain jumping challenges become a matter of trial and error as you have no depth perception at all. I thought by the latest game they would’ve figures something out, but instead you’ll often find you waste a whole heap of studs trying to figure out what angle you have to jump at to reach the next platform.

  25. Will says:

    I greatly enjoyed the lego games on the PC as a way to play co-operatively with my kids. I admit I couldn’t get into playing them much by myself, however.

    I don’t know about consoles, but on the PC, the first time through, you have to play on “Story mode” which is almost always only mildly challenging (there was one very frustrating exception in the Indy trilogy), and has the unskippable cutscenes. After that, in free play mode, there are no cutscenes. Also, the Indy trilogy on PC does let you quit and save in the middle of levels (the Star Wars ones did not). You start back over at the beginning, but you don’t lose the minikits or lego “coins” that you’ve collected.

  26. Jorge_del_locos says:

    Shamus you may need a couple of years to your this-humor-works-o-meter. I had a crowd of 10 year old kids playing this on DS and laughing their fool heads off endlessly earlier this year. Simple pleasures I guess, confess I got a chuckle out of watching them playing it, and it certainly led them to find some of the golden age of Lucas/Spielberg and appreciate it. I also felt like it was a game I could let them play ad nauseum and not be concerned about the content. My $.02 and worth precisely that, cheers on the site.

  27. LintMan says:

    I played through Lego Star Wars II on the PC with my kids. It was fun enough and I kinda enjoyed the cut scenes. More annoying for me was some of the harder platform-jumping bits, and the game’s focus on unlockables and collectibles and secrets:
    “Find all the hidden red bricks”
    “Find all the hidden gold bricks”
    “Find all the hidden ship parts”
    “unlock all the characters”
    “reach ‘True Jedi’ status on every level”
    It’s either an OCD sufferer’s dream or nightmare.

    I also played though much of Lego SW: The Complete Saga with my kids on the Wii – this with less joy, as I was already getting “Lego’d out”.

    Then my kids got Lego Indiana Jones, which I couldn’t muster much interest in myself, and which the kids quickly got stuck in and lost interest.

    Most recently, they got Wii Lego Batman, which is holding their interest better so far, but I just tried it and could barely tell what was going on with the dark setting. I don’t think I’ll be back to it.

  28. Steve Jones says:

    The Indy game is the poorest of the three availalbe. Frankly I can’t imagine playing this as a solo game as being all that fun, it is totally a two player game. I’ve played through all the Lego games in this series with my wife, and in that setup it’s actually real fun. Personally I find the game suited to the Wii more than the other consoles as it all feels like it’s at home there.
    Oh and they do say more than ‘uh-oh’ in Star Wars there is definatly some ‘I don’t knows’ which have become a grunted catchphrase in our household ever since.

  29. Pester says:

    I finished Lego Star Wars II, the story missions, for some dumb fun. The thing about renting games is that the time limit can inspire playing it through more than the rest, and I enjoyed all of the little three-stooges takes on the famous star wars scenes.

    I also got Lego Batman for a small party recently (multi-player games on the ps2 are pretty limited) and we had a lot of fun both getting through the games and creatively using gadgets and the camera to kill eachother. I couldn’t call it brilliant or anything, but it was fun.

  30. V'icternus says:

    I, personally, LOVED Lego Star Wars. I played every single incarnation with my little brother at my side.
    Prequel trilogy, original, fun, simple.
    Original trilogy, added some good ideas, made gunplay more useful and made sith really worth it.
    Complete Saga, added the new ideas of the second game to the charm and characters of the first, some of which were quite likeable (Jar Jar is useful AND cannot talk. I cannot see the bad.)

    This is one of my top 10 video game series of all time, and the only one me and my little brother could both play, together, jump in and out where we wanted, and generally have a good time, with goals in mind and real cooperation.

    I found the Lego-esque manner of telling the Star Wars story to be hilarious, and, while childish at times, it never stopped me from having the slightest bit of fun.
    The lack of punishment for death meant that neither me with my years of gaming experience nor my brother with his occasionally horrible luck and timing frustrated with the platforming. And, if there was a particularly hard part, he could just drop out while I passed it, then jump back in.

    We may have liked it more than we should have, as it reminded us of years past where him and I would play with my own Star Wars Lego figures, ships and self-made constructions to make our own plots with established characters finally being able to play through some professionally made levels with what seemed like our very interests at heart, but I am yet to find any other series that could bring us together at the computer quite as well.

    Now, Lego Indiana Jones I didn’t like quite as much. It seemed to be a little less suited to the Lego “genre”, and the fact that Indiana Jones Lego is fairly limited even now makes it just that little bit less imaginitive and fun.

    The collection mini-games and easy but occasionally time-consuming money-gathering aspects of the Lego games means you can’t just breeze through the plot and expect the full experience. With the multitude of Star Wars characters to play, and the ships, fun extras and other bonuses to collect, it kept the game active without getting too repetetive. In Lego Indiana Jones, however, there’s only one character anyone’s going to want to play.
    I’ll give you three guesses, but if you don’t get it after that we’re getting you tested.

    One of my favourite features of Lego Star Wars is the ability to go back and do any level you liked with any character(s) you like. You pick one, your friend (if playing) picks one, and the rest are randomly selected to give you the full range of abilities (force, dark force, astro droid, protocol droid, small, grappling hook/shooty, extra-high jumpers, etc.), and you can switch between any of the characters availiable for the mission at any time during the mission.
    So, for instance, you can have Mace Windu fighting Darth Vader on Bespin, or be Anakin (Episode III) fighting Darth Vader on the second Death Star, or be Yoda beating Darth Maul, or Count Dooku shooting lightning at Sand people, or Luke Skywalker (Episode VI) fighting clone troopers. There is even a “create your own character” mode where you take literal pieces of other characters and stick them together to see what you can make.
    The ammount of people who made Darth Boba Fett is outmatched only by people who came up with some truly interesting ideas.

    So, in summary, GET THE COMPLETE SAGA AND HAVE SOME FUN! Get it for your kids!
    Suggest it to your light-hearted Star Wars loving friends!
    The Lego Star Wars games are, to me, anyway, a work of art in gaming. Simple, fun, yet not a throwaway game you forget once you’re done with it. This game’s a keeper, people. Enjoy it.

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