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An industry dominated by people who grew up playing Lego meant it was only a matter of time before it was combined video games. And having tried and tested the other versions, it was high time we turned out attention to Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures on the DS.
But before we get too far let's have a look at a bit of the history surrounding this much anticipated title. Lego has weathered the changing seasons well since its hippy beginnings as Ole Kirk Christiansen's family owned wooden toys of 1932. Lego (literally meaning 'play well') is now among the top five children's products in the world. To maintain this position they are keen to capitalise on savvy tech kids. Most recently this has been in the form of collaboration with games.
It wasn't until Lego used its franchising power to win movie tie-ins for the Lego games that they really took off. Riding on the tails of fan based recreations of popular films, the Lego movie games create an aesthetic of these tongue-in-cheek homage's to big screen adventures.
The environments, enemies and heroes are all created from real world Legos.
Its name suggests, Lego Indiana Jones is inspired by the big screen film series. But in fact this is a game that is linked more to the Lego toys of those films, than directly to the film itself. Rather than receiving assets from film production, the developers worked with the related physical Lego kits. This provided a scope of what could and couldn't be achieved in their environments, something that results in the game feeling genuinely hand made. The environments, enemies and heroes are all created from real world Legos and could be created from the Lego sets we all have in our attics.
The game itself is essentially typical platform adventures. The story of each of the first three Indiana Jones films is accessed via an over-world that provides access to a series of discrete levels. You progress by solving puzzles (often involving building Lego), fight enemies (fists, whips and shovels) and make difficult jumps and leaps. Although largely working left to right in a two dimensional fashion there are plenty of hidden areas and platforms to explore. Although you can get through a level pretty easily, finding every last brick takes some time and gives players a great reason to revisit older levels. On top of this there is the drop in co-operative play that that takes advantage of the DS's WiFi abilities - enabling two players to team up in the same game
The game controls much like other games in the series. The D-Pad is used for general running around, with buttons for jumping, building and another to swap character. To this is added some particular touch screen gestures to activate whipping or digging depending on the character in use. You can also blow on the mic to put out flames and activate doors. All in all it does enough to warrant being a DS title, although without really bringing anything new to the table.
The various Lego protagonists behave as you would expect. They have a suitable stout heft, making them all feel a little childlike - not a bad thing in our book. Although earlier Lego movie games limited movements to running and jumping, Lego Indiana Jones enables you to dodge attacks, use melee moves, automatically aim on the nearest enemy and even combine these moves for more advanced techniques. When jumping for example, if the player presses the attack button during the dive, when the character lands, they will move straight into an whip crack.
The Lego movie games create an aesthetic of these tongue-in-cheek homage's to big screen adventures.
Another nice little touch, and testament to Travellers Tales' understanding of their audience, is that the game adjusts its difficulty to suite the current player. When my kids (3 and 5) were playing the game things became a lot less frantic as the game automatically turned the difficulty level down. It may be a minor point but it makes a big difference to families that want to play these games together.
The visuals on the DS are crisp and clear and do a great job of extending the game's polished jovial approach. They are chocked full of knowing winks and tips of the cap to minutiae in the Indiana films, and often get away with sending up the movie in ways that other games would balk at. Such is the quality that this really works and, perhaps more than anything, creates a real endearing connection between player and game.
After the somewhat haphazard Lego Star Wars DS (that was even seen to crash from time to time) Lego Indiana Jones is a solid experience. Not only that but the visuals and attention to detail make the game a real joy to play. Little touches like the dynamic difficulty settings mean that the whole family can enjoy it. And with Lego Batman DS now available the Lego video game world is looking a whole lot more healthy.
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