LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues
The subtitle for Lego Indiana Jones 2, “The Adventure Continues,” is a slight misnomer. Perhaps a more appropriate title would have been “Relive the Adventure.” Half of Lego Indy 2’s content is actually taken up by an overhaul of the original trilogy of Lucas/Spielberg flicks, all three of which were already Lego-fied in last year’s Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures.
Nearly everyone loves revisiting classics like Raiders of the Lost Ark, but do we need a second simplification of the same set of films only a little over a year after it last released? LucasArts believes so, and now that we’ve had a chance to get some hands-on time with Lego Indiana Jones 2, we’re a bit less skeptical ourselves.
To get the most important question out of the way immediately: No, Lego Indy 2 is not a complete retread of the first game. The game follows the same stories and includes some of the same scenes, but it does not borrow levels from the Original Adventures. Instead, new levels have been built to take advantage of the new structure in Lego Indy 2.
Gone are the days of multiple collectibles to track in each lengthy level. Likewise, you can say goodbye to the single hub world where you bring those collectibles together and choose which mission to tackle next. In Lego Indiana Jones 2, each movie gets its own hub – save for the previously un-Lego-fied Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which has the largest number of levels and three separate hubs. All of the game’s hubs are much bigger than in previous Lego games with a lot more to explore and unlock. What collectible trinkets are left in the game are now mostly hidden in the hub areas rather than the levels.
These central areas also lead to new levels much more organically. Rather than approaching a map and choosing an area of the world to dart off to, you either enter a new building in the hub or find a vehicle that will take you to your next destination. If Indy needs to go to Mexico, you’ll have to unlock a passage to the train in the hub world. If he needs to fly to Egypt, you’ll have to fix the broken down airplane you keep running past. It’s a minor change, but having a bigger hub that connects to the levels in meaningful ways really does help Indy’s adventures feel more cohesive.
As for the levels themselves, developer Traveller’s Tales seems to have adopted an entirely new design philosophy. Instead of a handful of massive levels full of doo-dads and unlockables, each chapter in Lego Indiana Jones 2 has 10 levels that are much shorter and 5 bonus stages. Levels vary between combat-light puzzle and exploration stages, full-out brawling zones, and the dreaded vehicle levels.
The shorter levels lend the game a much brisker pace this time around; however, if there’s one concern we have about the new setup, it’s those troublesome vehicle segments. Even the biggest Lego game fans have acknowledged that controlling cars, planes and spaceships in the Lego-verse leaves a bit to be desired.
Since there are so many more levels now, there’s room for more stages devoted solely to driving around in bikes, trucks and cars — an attempt to capture the spirit of chase scenes from the film. It’s a respectable goal, but the film didn’t have to worry about tight controls. Most of the driving levels we played consisted of crashing into enemy cars over and over until they blew up. Not exactly riveting.
The co-op experience in Lego Indy 2 has improved vastly thanks to the addition of a new split-screen mode. When you begin co-op play, you’ll have the same single screen camera that pulls back as you get further apart, like previous Lego games, but now if you get far enough away from your partner, the screen will split in two. The game even decides whether it makes more sense to split horizontally or vertically depending on where the two players are standing in relation to each other.
On top of all of these tweaks, there’s one gigantic new addition to the franchise that could add a ton to its value: a level creator. As numerous commentators have and will continue to point out, there’s something strange – possibly even absurd – in the fact that we’ve gone through this many Lego franchise revisions without one of them implementing the element of user creation, the one thing that made Legos such a beloved childhood toy in the first place. Whatever the reason for the delay, this feature has the potential to begin a new era for the series.
We only got to check out the early tutorials for the level builder, but thus far it’s shaping up to be a simple but easy-to-use toolset. There’s a user-friendly radial menu that you can open at any time to choose from a list of things you’d like to place in the environment. You can also easily grab items that are already in the environment and duplicate them. We’re not sure yet just how powerful the level creator is, but if Traveller’s Tales can mix that accessibility with just a little bit more depth, they could have a real hit.
In addition to making levels, users will be able to tie together several creations into their own adventure, presumably with its own hub and silent cut scenes. Unfortunately, LucasArts remains tight-lipped about whether or not players will be able to share created levels over Xbox Live, but it sounds unlikely.
Looking back over the list of changes and new features coming to Lego Indiana Jones 2, one thing is apparent: LucasArts and Traveller’s Tales are not simply rehashing the last game. They should be commended for taking some chances outside of the well-established Lego formula. Now let’s just hope that they actually pay off and produce a memorable step forward for Indy and company.