Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
Developer: Traveler's Tales
Review Date: 1/9/10
Another fun Lego adventure in the Indiana Jones universe that manages to improve on the original and refine the existing mechanics. "Lego Indiana Jones 2" addresses many of the complaints I had about the first game and sets itself apart from the other Lego games by redefining the overall structure and central hub system. The game consists of six worlds, each containing five story levels, five treasure levels, and five bonus levels. Completing all of the levels in each world unlocks additional bonus levels similar to the Lego City levels of the previous games where you try to collect a million Lego studs. The only differences are that these new levels are MUCH easier and you actually get to keep the studs that you collect. The other new feature is the ability to create your own levels and play through them. In theory this is a great idea, but in practice it's too difficult, time consuming, and simply not any fun. Perhaps if I were ten years old and had infinite amounts of time I would think differently, and honestly, I'm probably not the game's target audience.
The majority of the game centers on "Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull" (2008), and the developers poke fun at the material to great effect. The light-hearted comedic treatment actually tempered my disappointment of the film and made me appreciate it a bit more. The Crystal Skull adventure spans three of the six worlds, and the remaining three worlds revisit the first three Indiana Jones movies. The addition of these three worlds is where the game really pays off, and the "Temple Of Doom" world was my personal favorite. The developers keep the material fresh by re-imagining the events of the original three films, and the end result is both fun and funny. Whereas the humor in the original game didn't really work for me, the treatment in this game is much more effective. These re-imagined worlds are also condensed into a very small space, and the imaginative level design is brilliant, highly functional, and gorgeous. It's definitely the best looking Lego game to date and the environments are full of detail and color. It also takes some tips from "Lego Batman" with its moody and dramatic lighting. Great stuff.
For the most part, the gameplay mechanics are the same as the original game. There are numerous character classes including whip users, diggers, scholars, mechanics, high jumpers, shooters, sword users, spear throwers, and explosives experts. A new feature is that characters can carry multiple tools and switch between them, which is a nice touch. Additionally, all ranged weapons can be manually aimed, like the batarangs in "Lego Batman." Instead of the Free Play modes in the original game, there are "treasure levels." These levels only require two characters instead of an entire multi-talented entourage, and are therefore a bit less engaging than the original Free Play system. You also don't know which skills you will need until you enter the level, which was probably my biggest frustration with the game. Running all over the map trying to find a certain character can also be frustrating and very time consuming, but fortunately the maps are fairly small and easy to navigate. Each world has two vehicle levels and a number of other mini-races. Like the previous Lego games, the vehicle levels aren't as fun, but I think they've improved in this iteration. Also, having aerial vehicles in the world hub is a wonderful touch, as it's the only way to get a complete overview of the entire map and figure out what you've missed. You can parachute out of a plane at any time to get where you want, and some locations are only accessible this way. Flying around also allows you to appreciate the inspired level design even more.
Of course the game has some problems, most notably the frequent and lengthy load times. I don't know if it's specific to the Xbox version, but the game is really buggy and tends to crash about once an hour. Fortunately I never lost much progress and the game is fun enough that I didn't mind backtracking, but the lack of stability is a disappointment. Difficulty wise, the game seems harder than previous Lego games, and the new world hub system makes it more difficult to figure out what to do next. I got stuck several times and had to resort to a walkthrough to figure out what I was missing (basically once per world). There are additional annoyances here and there, but overall the game is a welcomed improvement over the original, with fun and addictive gameplay and a delightful presentation. I've thoroughly enjoyed every Lego game to date, and I'm hoping that "Lego Harry Potter" raises the bar even higher.