LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues Review
The original LEGO Indiana Jones did a lot of things right, as most LEGO-based titles tend to do. It was entertaining, accessible, and nicely presented, especially in regards to the younger target audience. Obviously, though, I was expecting more from the sequel, because I had heard Indy would now be able to aim his whip, and there would be more of everything; more characters, more vehicles, more secrets, and of course, all four movies jammed into this one experience. This includes the latest film, “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” which is actually where you begin your adventure. Now, if Traveller’s had simply stuck with the formula in the first title and built upon that, rather than changing the presentation and how we progress through the game, everything would’ve been fine. But they sort of stumbled by breaking up the normal central hub into multiple hubs that make advancement sloppy, removed the cool secrets in each level, and we still have the same small drawbacks in the control and overall gameplay. Therefore, this sequel is not a better LEGO Indy.
The only aspect of Indy 2 that might be better than the original is the graphics, although I’m willing to bet they’re almost identical. Perhaps I’m only remembering the first game incorrectly – and it’s very possible – but it does seems as if there’s a bit more in the way of intricate detail, slightly better clarity, and more complex level design in this sequel. I’m rarely disappointed in the visuals of any LEGO title, primarily because they’re just so damn amusing and charming. It’s no different here and in all honesty, there’s really only so much the developers can do with this style. I mean, if the LEGOs look exactly like LEGOs and the cut-scenes remain polished, humorous and well-choreographed, what should we really complain about? I suppose they could continue to spruce up the graphics a bit more for future entries in the series, and a few other technical areas could use improvement but other than that… It’s LEGO. It’s designed to appeal to a younger audience and it’s not supposed to have the mind-blowing graphics of Uncharted 2. So, keeping that in mind, the visuals are just fine.
The sound is better, as it typically is with these games. There is no voice acting but the collection of comical semi-verbal exclamations and grunts (they never actually speak words) is surprisingly fitting, and both the soundtrack and sound effects always match the lighthearted setting. The simple plastic crackling that goes along with busted – and collected – LEGO pieces is just about right, the effects that accompany combat are relatively crisp and even diverse, and in general, the sound really manages to hold your interest even when things slow down. That soundtrack just always has a jaunty, upbeat tone to it and that sort of quality manages to keep a player playing. I still think they could institute more in the way of music variety during some of the longer levels, and the effects sometimes override the soundtrack, but that’s about it in terms of negatives. One of these days, I imagine they might try to implement voices but by now, it’s probably a bad idea. We’re all so used to this style from LEGO; just stick with what works, you know?
As far as the gameplay goes, you likely won’t notice many differences between the sequel and the first LEGO Indiana Jones. The only significant difference is Indy’s ability to aim wherever he wishes with his whip (just hold down the Square button), and there’s a slightly larger emphasis on partner cooperation and puzzles. Beyond this, it’s pretty much what LEGO fans have come to expect: you run around, bashing on a bunch of environmental objects to harvest LEGO pieces – your currency – and fending off enemies and even large bosses at times. You will also control several vehicles along the way and as usual, playing with a friend is preferable to playing alone. But as I mentioned in the intro, the changes they did make just don’t go over well. It starts with the pacing and presentation, which suffers due to a lack of that centralized hub, where we would typically shop around and choose our next adventure. Then there’s the complete lack of secrets in each major level, which is just plain bizarre. The only reason to go back through a level is to collect more studs, I guess.
Thing is, there’s one hub for each movie, which turns progression into a messy, somewhat frustrating experience. It actually makes everything feel a bit more linear because you don’t have much of a reason to return to a level, and you really only focus on one movie at a time. On top of this, none of the movie-based hubs appear to follow the actual film story; they just sort of make things up as they go along. The bosses are a good example of times when a fan of the franchise will go, “uh…since when did Indy battle that thing?” And where are the classic scenes we all know and remember? All you really do is unlock and buy a few new vehicles and characters, wander around and collect studs, and attempt to figure out what happens next. This latter complaint was a problem in the original title, too; you often find yourself confused as to the next step. It could be a puzzle or it could be something as simple as a lack of direction…either way, it’s irritating.
Thankfully, the control remains pretty solid and reliable, and I do like the extra control over Indy’s whip (and you can control other weapons, like a gun, by specific aiming). It slows the game down a bit and targeting enemies with a whip grab takes too long but other than this, the gameplay works fairly well. The collision detection is fine, the platforming aspects work nicely as always, the cooperative-based puzzles are often ingeniously designed, and overall, it’s a fun, enjoyable adventure. It’s just that there’s one too many drawbacks due to the changes Traveller’s opted to make, and too many of the combat scenes felt tacked-on and repetitive. It’s easier to overlook the problems when playing with a friend, which is definitely a bonus, but they still needed to tighten things up and give us a better sense of direction. The game just feels too “all over the place,” if you get my meaning. It would also have been more interesting if I actually recognized some of the sections; if they had taken more of the levels directly from the movies. That would've made sense.
LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues is still a decent game but it’s a definite step backwards from the original. They don’t totally wreck the gameplay or control or anything, but it’s the presentation and shoddy construction that holds it back. The semi-fixed camera can still be an issue, control over some vehicles is mediocre, the back-and-forth, seemingly aimless progression is disconcerting, and it’s still too tough to figure out your next move during particular parts. There’s also the distinct feeling that the only reason I’m playing is to collect studs, which can override anything else, but that may be more of a personal thing. In the end, I suppose it’s okay if you really liked the first one and you have a friend who will go through the sequel with you, but other than that, it really isn’t worth it. The first one is actually better in a number of different ways.
3/6/2010 Ben Dutka