LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures demo

Indie's back, and he's kinda funny looking

I'm just back from leaping, rolling, tumbling, building, battling, and bullwhipping my way through the first level of Traveller's Tales' just-released LEGO Indiana Jones demo.

The demo lets you play through the opening scene from the first movie, the sequence where Indy goes spelunking in a booby-trapped cave for a gold idol, goofs, then has to outrun a tunnel-sized boulder in what's arguably the most iconic scene of the series.

For better or worse (I say for better) LEGO Indy looks like it'll owe pretty much everything to LEGO Star Wars, and aside from the milieus, jokes, and a few of the special abilities, you'd swear you were playing the latter with whips and swords instead of lightsabers and grappling hooks.

The first level gives you time to get reacquainted with the basics by roaming around outside the cave at leisure, swinging on vines, beating on plants and idols for LEGO bits, digging up chests, probing for sequestered collectibles, and of course building random stuff like bridges and boats.

The humour's just as goofy, and while it's obviously skewed toward younger players, it's smart enough to elicit a chuckle or two from even this elder cynic, in particular a segment near the end where Belloq motions for the idol and Indy pulls something completely unexpected out of his bag.

Of course the demo exhibits a few of the problems that plagued the Star Wars games as well, namely places where the edges of areas aren't clearly delineated, making it easy to slip off into (literal) piecemeal oblivion.

The fixed camera angles that sometimes sit punishingly low (skull-platform-dart sequence anyone?) don't help, although in the end they're probably the smarter compromise over a freely controllable camera, since the idea's to move fast and not preen over positioning.

I guess my only other criticism — not of the demo, but the imminent full version — would be the pointless political editing. Pulling the Nazis just seems like a mistake, and if anything, only reinforces their bogeymen mystique. Raiders of the Lost Ark is half as scary a film without them, and while kids under 10 probably won't care or notice either way, older gamers are just going to scratch their heads and wonder what led to replacing Nazis in the game with "an anonymous genocidal, occultist, trenchcoat-wearing master race." (Can you say six of one, half a dozen of the other?) Spielberg had no qualms poking fun at the Nazis, why should Traveller's Tales?

They were racist, fascist, cabalistic fist-waving lunatics, sure, but what better opportunity to lampoon than LEGO-fication?

The full version subtitled "The Original Adventures" ships in early June and lets you play through all three of the first films, as in only the first three. Meaning of course that a Crystal Skull sequel (and how about some Young Indiana Jones episodic content?) could be little more than a giant-killer-booby-trapped-boulder-roll away.

Verdict

At least one, leaning toward two thumbs up. Especially if you're looking for a breezy 30 minutes to kill, or want to try a few of the free mode characters (Henry Jones pulls out a briefcase, "Thuggie" throws swords, Jock whips out a wrench, Willie screams, etc.) LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures is a lot of fun as a demo, and looks like it will be even better as a full game.

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Matt Peckham

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