There are few films with as memorable an intro as Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Spielbergís ability to shield our new hero from us, his tongue-in-cheek use of old-school jungle sounds (listen carefully, youíll hear a kookaburra), and the tense ominous aperture to the filmís soundtrack made the few opening minutes before Harrison Ford is revealed as soon-to-be-legend, Indiana Jones, as important as the subsequent movie. It represented a style in film-making that is barely touched upon today, and will always remain one of the most memorable moments in the Indiana Jones legacy.
Seeing the above captured yet again, in Lego form, was both hilariously funny and tantalisingly reassuring. Film may not be learning from its past, but videogames certainly are, and with as universal a medium as Lego, working with two other universal mediums in the way of film and videogames, well you canít go wrong, really.
Lego Indiana Jones is just what you would expect after the Star Wars block-clad outings; fun, explorative, humourous and accessible. These a certain charm Traveller's Tales have created with their successful merging of Lego and gaming, and I doubt any other developer could get it so right.
This week Activision invited me out to have a look at a preview build of Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures. Due to release not too long after the fourth film (premiering in May), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Lego Indiana Jones chronicles the first three Indy films in typical Lego videogame form. Most of the set-up is the same: You have a general hub (in this case Bartlett College, the school where Indy teaches), from where you can access individual levels, full Story Modes and treasures found from each of the respective film gaming arcs.
The way in which you access the episodes is a thing of presentation beauty Ė in keeping with the adventuring/archaeological theme, you stand before three mounted maps (each one representative of one of the films) in the hall of Bartlett College. Once accessed you then slide a magnifying glass around to areas of interest (game levels, etc) and so on. Itís purely aesthetic, but when thinking of the source material, utterly welcome. Each map has notes, pictures and articles strewn about giving the whole thing a completely Indiana Jones look and feel. But thankfully the gameís authenticity to the films doesnít stop there.
As you would expect, the game begins at the same point the first film does. Indy is in pursuit of a lost idol in the Peruvian jungle. As was the case with the Star Wars Lego games, all the cut-scenes throughout Lego Indy are humourous takes on original moments sans voices.
Hovitos warriors are popping up at most turns while Indy walks about with his map in front of his face. The turn-coat helper (played by Alfred Molina who would go on to play Dr Octavious in Spider-Man 2) is also in tow, and when the cut scenes end, youíre in control of Indy, his whip and his adventuring, Lego-building ways.
Everything is completely familiar. Collect Lego Studs, uncover hidden treasures and break down impediments to reveal buildable blocks that will probably help you. There are a few new features such as the ribbons you can grab onto that are used for swinging too and fro, activating switches and puzzles or for gaining access to hidden or hard-to-reach places. Indyís whip helps as well. You can use to pull object closer to you, swing across gaps or fight enemies. But beyond these and the odd background character special move or action, itís all Lego business as usual.
Gameplay may not be all that different, but in terms of visuals, Lego Indy takes the absolute cake. Even at this early stage of the gameís development I was wholly impressed with the graphical presentation. The Lego characters themselves have remained marginally unchanged, but the backgrounds all looked stunning while animations are much smoother. Even the cut-scenes look ultimately better. Water looks dark and deep in the Peruvian level (Indy can swim as well), while the lighting outside in the jungle versus that in the temple represented an element of dedication on TT's part in recreating the ultimate Indy experience. Traveller's Tales have easily crafted the best looking Lego game to-date with Indy.
Enemies throughout the first level I played included the Hovitos, giant tarantulas and crocodiles while the temple itself was riddled with trademark Raiders booby traps. You can also use parts of the environment as weapons now, such as chairs or bottles and as part of some of the new animations, Indy himself now sidles along walls which looks pretty cool, but pulling out his pistol or throwing his whip adds insurmountably to the immersion of playing the game as Indiana Jones, only in the sense that you can pull him apart and heís made of plastic.
There are over 60 playable characters in the game (I canít think of 60 different characters you could ultimately play as on the side of the good-guys, but apparently there are), and as you would expect, you can mix and match their respective Lego parts as you see fit.
According to LucasArts, among the playable characters expect to see the likes of Marion Ravenwood, Short Round, Rene Belloq, Willie Scott, Marcus Brodie, Henry Jones Sr, Sallah and Mola Ram among much, much more.
Youíll visit numerous, famous locales from each of the three films, from the opening temple and Marionís Nepalese bar from Raiders, to Venice and the Middle East from The Last Crusade. Unfortunately not every location was revealed to me, but what I did see and played looked pretty well ripped from the movies, only with an added sense of Lego flare with room for exploration and discover, to boot. Even the gameís loading screens have been cleverly pulled from the films with Indyís usual travel montage of a map with his course drawn out in a red line from departure to destination Ė all very cool.
Typically, the game is also co-op, which will most likely present an issue unto itself (I donít know of anyone who would want to play a character other than Indy), but each character does offer a unique element to play (ie Marion can jump high, Indy has his whip, Satipo an excavation shovel, and so onÖ). As you would expect then, youíll be able to unlock new characters and have them follow you to previous locations to uncover secrets you may have missed before or out-of-reach areas that were all-too tantalising on your first run through Ė as mentioned earlier; ďLego business as usualĒ.
With the new movie releasing less than a month before the game, itís a no-brainer this will be massive, and given itís available on ever platform, LucasArts canít really lose out. It would have been cool to add the new film in there, but considering the title of this Lego entrant, it seems likely theyíll just make a new one surrounding the forthcoming movie anyway.
It was never going to be bad business to create this game, and with Travellerís Tales tried and tested gameplay still in place and kicking ass, Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures is shaping up pretty nicely. Be sure to check back for any new media or details surrounding the
game in the lead up to its review, right here on AusGamers.