Image: LEGO Indiana Jones
LucasArts
Indy runs from a bricked-out boulder in the opening of "LEGO Indiana Jones."
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 6/9/2008 9:38:25 PM ET 2008-06-10T01:38:25

If you have already played "LEGO Star Wars" from developer Traveler's Tales, you have — to some degree — played "LEGO Indiana Jones."

The two games are sewn from the same DNA strands: Cherished blockbusters retold with cubist flair, as big-screen archetypes are reduced to silly LEGO heroes that communicate via shrugs and grunts while recreating classic moments. Running from the giant boulder in "Raiders?" The mine cart chase from "Temple of Doom?" The trials of the Grail temple in "Last Crusade?" All present here.

But while the "LEGO Star Wars" games soared thanks to the universality of icons like Darth Vader and Chewbacca, the silent hero treatment is not as kind to Dr. Jones, as his adventures often crackled with clever dialogue, especially any time Indy squared off with longtime flame Marion, sidekick Short Round, or his own father. There's just something missing here, and as hard as the game works to put up some amusing thrills, the loss of the character behind the characters is a tough blow, especially for fans of the beloved original trilogy.

However, any gamer that is not attached to the first three "Indiana Jones" movies might not care one whit. What counts is the breezy gameplay, as Indy solves logic puzzles and constantly smashes up the scenery to collect little LEGO studs that can later be traded in to unlock extra characters. When you spot a small pile of bouncing LEGO bricks, rush over and hold down a build button to assemble a useful object or tool. And there is plenty of combat against Nazi thugs and Thugee guards as you comb ancient tombs and sacred temples in search of treasures.

"LEGO Indiana Jones" offers considerable replay value. One pass through the game might show you all the highlights, but if you want to collect every hidden treasure and unlock all of the game's secrets, you must replay stages with different characters that have individual talents. As much as you like playing with Indy, in order to blast open some bars, you may need to switch to a bazooka-toting Nazi soldier bought with collected LEGO studs.

Moms and dads will certainly appreciate that game is wholly family friendly. There is no blood or gore whatsoever in "LEGO Indiana Jones." Even the scariest sequences of the films, such as the face-melting Ark of the Covenant or Mola Ram ripping out still-beating hearts, have been completely scrubbed. On top of this, the game also encourages cooperative play with two players to solve some of the tougher puzzles. In fact, this wouldn't be a bad Father's Day present for a little father-son bonding around the Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii. (Those are the two versions of the game used for this review.)

Kids might even need that helping hand to finish the game, too, because "LEGO Indiana Jones" suffers from some seriously deficient artificial intelligence. Indy is always flanked by a friend, such as Marion or his dad, and when playing solo, the computer-controller comrade is rarely competent enough to handle their half of the puzzles. You will watch in dismay as they step out into spike fields, walk off cliffs, or just barrel into enemy nests with zero thought. The latter is especially frustrating when you are trying to solve a puzzle and wave after wave of bad guys keep pouring into an area, pounding your cohort without much resistance.

After three "LEGO Star Wars" games, the LEGO aesthetic is not exactly fresh, but it remains charming. Almost everything is built from bricks, from the Well of Souls to the Venice catacombs. Every character is re-imagined as a LEGO dude, and it works better for some characters than others. The LEGO treatment, for example, is not kind to unfairly maligned Willie, the female lead in "Temple of Doom." The soundtrack, pulled directly from the films, is just as rousing as the first time you heard it blaring through theater speakers.

"LEGO Indiana Jones" is a solid game, especially for younger players (as long as a helping hand is nearby), but older gamers might be discouraged to find that the game employs so few new ideas. The game does hit the right marks for fans, though, delivering some of the biggest moments from Indy's first three adventures in a cute way. So, if you haven't already seen the new film, "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," this isn't a bad way to get in the mood before taking in a matinee.

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