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LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues (PlayStation 3) artwork

LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues (PlayStation 3) review

"Including bits from the original three movies was a wise decision on the part of the developers, but they also had to worry about not repeating the first game. The result is that some of the best scenes from those movies—most of them—aren't represented here. That certainly doesn't help the narrative and it may leave players wondering why there's a level devoted to Indiana and his father tied to chairs while flames burn around them. That was a neat scene in the third movie but here there's no urgency and the whole thing comes across as just another excuse for some exploration and puzzle solving."

When I was ten years old, I had a lot of free time. School, church and chores eliminated some of it, but otherwise I was left to my own devices. Since we didn't even have a television signal and generally lived miles from any other kids my age, my constant companions were books, blank paper and video games. I rarely had the money to buy a game. Any purchase followed hours of painstaking research and dreaming on my part. I wanted something that would entertain me for months. Longevity became the mark of quality because there was no other reasonable choice.

As a ten-year-old, I would have felt good about purchasing LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The New Adventures. It's reasonably pretty. There are adventures that I can experience with local friends. Those were both things that the younger version of myself would have appreciated. As an adult, though, and as a gamer who has been fortunate enough to experience many great titles throughout the years that followed my restricted childhood, it's safe to say that my perspective has shifted. I still value those same attributes, but now I have the luxury of recognizing that more is only more when more is better.

Unfortunately, more is not better in the case of LEGO Indiana Jones 2. Instead of producing a game that is full of the exhilarating moments that you would expect from the films, Traveler's Tales has crafted what busy adults will be quick to recognize as a digital chore. The player spends most of his time hunting down six versions of the same few characters (with little to distinguish one from the next), solving repetitive puzzles, driving vehicles that don't control worth a damn and scratching his head as he tries to figure out what he's supposed to do next. Stages that actually contribute anything to the plot make up less than a third of the game and generally are unintelligible unless you've seen the movie. To make that side of things even worse, uninspired tweaks to the narrative for the sake of comedy mean that often the plot doesn't work even if you're coming at it with years of familiarity with the stellar source material. The magic is still there, but it's spread so thin that you'd be excused for never seeing it.

Part of the problem is that LEGO Indiana Jones 2 is spread across six distinct episodes, with three of those taking place in the world of the first three movies while another three are devoted exclusively to the fourth film that no one seems to care about. Including bits from the original three was a wise decision on the part of the developers, but they also had to worry about not repeating the first game. The result is that some of the best scenes from those movies--most of them--aren't represented here. That certainly doesn't help the narrative and it may leave players wondering why there's a level devoted to Indiana and his father tied to chairs while flames burn around them. That was a neat scene in the third movie but here there's no urgency and the whole thing comes across as just another excuse for some exploration and puzzle solving.

With and without such excuses, puzzle solving is really the game's focus. Each episode boasts an expansive hub area. These serve as stages themselves and present the player with a bunch of items to find in nooks and crannies, along with a slew of vehicles, characters and stages to unlock. There are times when finding everything can leave you wandering in circles for minutes or hours at a time, scratching your head, backtracking to familiar locations as new characters and wondering why you can't figure out what to do next. Then you find and enter the actual stages, only to find that most of them are quite short (just a few screens wide, sometimes less). The game derives its duration from tricky puzzles, not awe-inspiring set pieces.

A typical stage places you in control of one of two characters and either lets you switch at will or delegates the second one to a friend if you have one available. One character might have a spear and the other a bazooka. You'll see a treasure chest high on a ledge above, a bicycle on the ground and some water and high platforms all around. Your goal is to get to the treasure chest, which you might do by riding the bicycle onto a plate that then produces a platform that you ride up to flip a switch that causes a gate to open so that you can toss your spear at sockets in the wall and hop up those to find a pile of rubbish that you can blast away with the bazooka. That's a rudimentary example, but you'll see stuff repeated like that throughout the game. At first, the puzzles can be engaging and you'll have fun figuring out how to solve them. Forty stages later, when you realize that you're doing the same few things and that there's no real end in sight, the thrill is gone.

The expanded roster of characters and vehicles might have alleviated some of the resulting boredom, except there are too many of them and so many are repeats. In one stage, you might unlock a guy with a gun who is a warehouse guard. In the next stage, he's the enemy guard. Then he's an enemy soldier in the next episode. Those aren't actual examples, but they approximate the experience. The names may change and even the character design gets tweaked, but at the end of the day you're still repeatedly finding a guy who can swing a sword, a woman or two who can jump high, a fellow with a spear and a guy with a book. It's hard to feel excited about unlocking someone that you've already found several times previously, too. Sallah with a fez isn't any more exciting than Sallah with a turban.

Vehicles could have added some nice variety, but instead they provide frustration. It's no exaggeration to say that after playing literally hundreds of games, I've never encountered one with worse vehicle controls. I assume that the loose controls are intentional and that the developers wanted to replicate the feel of an out-of-control thrill ride. That must be it. Otherwise, there's no justification that I can think of for the way that you sometimes have no clue where your vehicle will go when you push the analog stick to one side or another. It seems almost random and sometimes your vehicle will slide and roll around after a crash while you are forced to watch helplessly for seconds at a time. That wouldn't be so bad if there were just wide open spaces and lots of wide courses, but there are some timed challenges (thankfully infrequent) where precise controls are a necessity. If you're the sort who throws his controller when he feels like it's doing him no good, don't play this game near anything breakable.

Completionists seem to be one of the audiences that the developers had in mind here, but there are also problems on that count. Six hubs is a lot of territory to cover. The items that you find can also unlock cheats and score multipliers and such, which is nice, but there are some glitches. Sometimes you'll clear a stage with 100% (after hours of work) and the percentage won't show up on-screen. Or you'll quit your game and turn off the system, only to come back later and find that your latest save didn't quite take and you need to repeat some efforts. Then there's the glitch where if you exit a 'super bonus stage' in the second Crystal Skull episode and then save (and the save process takes place automatically, anyway), you can't re-enter it. Ever. You'll have to start a new file if you want to earn every last trophy.

Other glitches also occur. I've found my vehicle stuck in some of the architecture, unable to move. I was able to rev my engine but not go anywhere. After the truck remained stuck for long enough, it broke apart and reappeared on the course... but it regenerated so that it remained stuck and me with it. I had to exit the stage and try again. At least the game didn't freeze on me, though, which is what sometimes happened in some of the level hubs. In one stage, the game randomly got stuck two or three times and I had to power my system off then back on to finish things up. You never lose much progress when those things happen due to the short nature of the numerous stages and the auto-save function, but the load times to get back into the game can be rather obnoxious.

In spite of all of those issues, the game does do a few things well that I wish more titles would attempt. There's a builder so that you can customize your own levels, either with minor tweaks to an existing stage that you've already explored or with a bottom-up approach as you place everything throughout your stage. You just can't share it with buddies online, which is a bummer, but it's still a nice inclusion. Another feature that I like is the cooperative play. Both players can wander through a hub together and if they get separated, the screen magically splits in a non-intrusive manner that lets both characters go about their business without feeling confined. That's a very nice touch.

LEGO Indiana Jones 2 probably wasn't developed with people like me in mind, anyway. I'm used to seeing more polish in my games, more variety and more reasons to keep playing. If you don't mind some of the issues I've noted above--which can be substantial in some cases but never render the game unplayable or even make it a disaster--then you might want to rent this one. You'll get a decent amount of play out of it if you spend the time to find every last item, as I did, plus it's the rare cooperative game that doesn't involve buckets of blood. There's a definite market for games of this sort. Somewhere out in the boonies, a ten-year-old just put this game on his wish list. It belongs there.


honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (December 28, 2009)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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