The Video Game Critic's
Updated 6 July 2023
Indiana Jones Retrospective
As an obtainer of rare antiquities (of the video game variety) I thought it would be fun to assemble a retrospective of Indiana Jones video games, especially with the new movie about to be released. Unfortunately, it turned out that most of these games just it aren't very good. So what is the point of all this? "Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory."
Raiders of the Lost Ark (Atari,1982)
System: Atari 2600
Walking through a mall as a kid I recall spying this cartridge in the display window of a game shop - with a $36 price tag. I had no idea a Raiders of the Lost Ark game was even in the works! It turned out to be a very cleverly-designed action adventure. As in the film, Indiana Jones explores caves, barters with merchants, avoids snakes, outruns thieves, and discovers a hidden map room revealing the location of the Ark.
Outfitted with his trusty whip and trademark fedora hat, the smoothly-animated Indy bears a striking resemblance to Harrison Ford. l love the way snakes slither down the screen but in general the graphics range from painfully abstract to just plain awful. Characters like the thief, raving lunatic, and giant spider look so appalling you'll need to consult the manual just to figure out what you're looking at! There's a reason they don't let programmers do their own artwork anymore.
A fine rendition of the Indiana Jones theme loops at the beginning and end of each game, but otherwise the audio is sparse. The unusual control scheme requires two joysticks: one to control Indy and one to manipulate your inventory. You can carry six objects at a time, with typical items consisting of a whip, key, parachute, watch, shovel, and various artifacts. Juggling items is clumsy. There's nothing worse than trying to use a critical item only to hit the wrong button and drop it instead!
The contiguous screens can be tricky to navigate. Tsetse flies paralyze you, floating diamonds imprison you, and thieves steal your items. Falling off a cliff is a regular occurrence. Still, the game is all about discovery. It's fascinating to experiment, and when you stumble upon a new room it's quite a thrill. Raiders is modest in scope so it doesn't take long to figure out how the screens fit together.
Trying to determine the purpose of each item requires trial and error. Back in 1982 I was astonished when my little sister blew up a wall with a grenade, revealing a huge cave! Years later she admitted that she had peeked at the hints in the back of the manual. This is the first game manual I can recall to include spoilers, preceded by big red "warning" panels.
Raiders also has the distinction of foreshadowing future Indiana Jones films. The mesa in the center of the "Vally of Poison" resembles a huge flying saucer - not unlike the one in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull! The items on your inventory panel often look much different than how they appear on the screen. For example the "timepiece" is a square pocket watch in your inventory, but looks like a big sundial when you discover it in a cave. A dial... of destiny?
Though frustratingly random and arbitrary at times, committed gamers will come to appreciate the sheer ingenuity of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I managed to unearth the Ark before the internet was an option, so it is possible! There's not much of an ending, so don't expect any melting pixels or exploding heads. What you can expect however is a monumental sense of accomplishment.
Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom (LucasArts,1988)
My favorite film of the original trilogy was the dark, brooding Temple of Doom. So you can imagine my disappointment when I sat down to play this disconcerting trainwreck. The stages are an endless maze of underground platforms, conveyor belts, tracks, and rivers of lava. Armed with his trusty whip, Indy fights bad guys, rescues kids, and tries like hell to escape this terrible game! Riding minecarts and swinging between ledges is mildly amusing, but the fun ends there.
The Temple of Doom arcade game was a fun platform fighter with separate beat-em-up and stages. This home version tries to meld the two elements, and the results are disastrous. The tilted overhead view tends to defy logic. You can't really jump sideways unless there happens to be a hook nearby, in which case you'll latch onto it with your whip and swing across. Most of the time pressing jump inexplicably drops you downward. If there's a platform below it will catch you, but if there's a river of lava between you and it, you're toast.
The fighting aspect of the game feels like a complete afterthought. Indy's whip looks like a damn yo-yo! Thugees mindlessly fall from platform to platform, often hurling themselves into the lava. How are you supposed to use all these guns and knives you collect? Would you believe you need to hold select while moving the directional pad?
Temple of Doom's butt-ugly graphics feature repulsive color schemes and pitiful animation. Your primarily objective is to free enslaved kids, but your escape route is usually a mystery. Sometimes you'll appear to have stumbled across the exit, only to discover you've returned to the previous stage!
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is hard to wrap your head around and the controls are so slippery that climbing a frickin' ladder can be a challenge. This cartridge is so frustrating it makes you want to rip out its circuit board, tie it to a metal rack, and lower it into a pit of lava while laughing maniacally.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Ubisoft,1993)
System: Game Boy
I always wondered why the NES version of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Ubisoft, 1993) looked so crappy, with minimal color and unsightly outlines around characters. Well, now I realize that the NES game was basically a port on this Game Boy title. This looks and plays almost exactly the same! Yes, it's that bad.
Each stage begins with a digitized close-up of Indiana Jones himself, and the pixelated image looks impressive by Game Boy standards. Once you begin exploring "the caves" for Coronado's Cross the Indiana Jones theme kicks in and never lets up. While not a bad rendition, it soon becomes nauseating. You can turn it off via the main menu, but that just leaves you with some very sparse sound effects.
The action involves Indy jumping between ropes and grabbing torches to keep the stages from going dark. Indy strolls along at a leisurely pace. He can punch bad guys if they are close enough, but doesn't get his whip until stage two. Be of the lookout for hazards like dropping stalactites and - gasp - puddles of water! In the catacomb stage, getting hit by a single fireball spells instant death, and they are raining all over.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade seems less objectionable on the Game Boy, but it's still lousy. The collision detection is poor (especially during the boss stages) and sometimes Indy doesn't want to grab a rope. Worst of all, taking hits knocks Indy all over the place, totally out of your control. When you see "game over" it means you lost today, but it doesn't mean you have to like it, kid.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Taito version) (Taito,1990)
How hard could it be to program a half-way decent Indiana Jones platformer?! Pretty hard apparently. As one of two Last Crusade games available for the NES (with nearly identical covers), this is preferable only because it doesn't suck as much. The graphics look sharp and detailed, but the characters are tiny and the animation leaves much to be desired.
Indy trades punches with Nazis in a German castle, a freighter at sea, and on a moving tank in the desert. Enemy soldiers are hard to fight because they hop around like fleas and constantly regenerate. Indy's movements are so erratic you'll struggle to wiggle up a damn ladder! His punch and kick moves make him look like he's doing a Michael Jackson imitation. The only thing missing is a red jacket!
The German castle stage is a never-ending maze of hallways and doors that all look the same. The catacomb stage is basically just one of those "slide the square" puzzles that I hate. Last Crusade's highlight is the motorcycle chase. As you zoom up a vertically-scrolling road, you'll need to carefully adjust your speed to avoid hazards and leap over chasms. Best of all, you can whip soldiers that pull up alongside you.
The final stage is pretty good too, taking you through the three challenges of the grail. Intermissions are displayed between stages with nice illustrations and text dialogue from the movie. In terms of audio, the suspenseful castle music is fine but the Indiana Jones theme sounds off-key. Last Crusade is hard to recommend, but at least it makes an effort.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Ubisoft version) (Ubisoft,1993)
The first time I showed this game to my friend Chris, he was incredulous. "Wait a minute - is this a Game Boy game?!" Little did we know at the time, but Chris was not far off. This NES cartridge is actually a slap-dash port of the portable Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Game Boy, 1993). Not only are its graphics horribly grainy, but the first stage is rendered in a mere two colors! Maybe three if you count black!
This is the most hideous thing I've ever seen on an NES. What's the deal with the ugly character outlines? The limited palette makes it hard to tell what's water, since it's just as brown as everything else. I guess you could say the main difference is that it kills you!
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie provided plenty of stage possibilities, but this game even makes jumping the cars on a circus train seem dull! The first stage, entitled "Exploring the caves", contains all kinds of cheap hits including stalactites that fall but only when you step under them. It's hard to grab climbing ropes and fights amount to trading punches until somebody falls over. The collision detection (or lack of) is a joke.
Adding insult to injury, your torch periodically goes out making it even harder to see. And don't be surprised if you suddenly drop dead because a timer you weren't even aware of happened to run out. Last Crusade is a complete embarrassment, especially considering it was released in 1993 - and by LucasArts no less!
Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, The (Jaleco,1992)
I was never keen on the Young Indiana Jones television series, but this game had potential. Its opening cut-scene features an elderly Indiana Jones telling stories about his past adventures. What the hell happened to Indy? He looks like Colonel Sanders for crying out loud!
The first stage takes place in Mexico. You begin with a whip attack, giving the game a Castlevania-in-the-desert vibe. You'll duck into mine shafts for special items. The hat icon provides protection and snagging gold bars earns points. There are also a nice variety of weapons such as knives, guns, and grenades.
The game is expertly-programmed with super-responsive controls that let you duck under shots or attack while jumping. The graphics are nicely detailed and the uptempo music matches the non-stop action. You can really get into a groove playing this, making it excellent speed-run material.
The hat protects you from one hit. On the second hit you'll lose your weapon if you have one. Getting hit empty-handed will cost you a life. It sounds reasonable until you realize making contact with most objects will sustain injury, and in many situations you'll absorb multiple hits in a row.
The difficulty is brutal. The very first stage has quicksand pulling you under and cannonballs raining from the sky. You can never let your guard down, at the risk of getting shot by a tiny bullet or stampeded by a horse. Even when you know exactly how to progress through a stage, your execution needs to be perfect.
Defeating the first boss was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Not only does it require taking out a wall of cannons, but then you have to beat two henchmen before killing the boss armed with grenades and a machine gun. It probably took me 50 tries but I felt an obligation to beat him on principle alone.
The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles has all the right ingredients for an addictive challenge, but the lack of a password or stage select is unforgivable. In the Germany stage you get to fly a plane, allegedly. Sadly that's one of many stages I'll probably never get a chance to experience first-hand.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (US Gold,1992)
The third Indiana Jones film was begging for a video game adaptation with thrilling scenes like the circus train, the flooded catacombs, the boat chase, and of course the three Grail challenges. But this 16-bit Indiana Jones adventure doesn't feel very ambitious. Its graphics are simplistic with stiff animation and hollow sound effects. The thunder clashes in the castle stage sound pathetic!
You begin in a mineshaft, dodging falling stalactites and fighting handymen from the Tool Time TV program. The controls are responsive and you can even whip enemies while hanging on a rope. Touching a pool of shallow water however spells instant death, begging the question how in the hell does Indy take a shower? Naturally these deadly water hazards are placed in the most inconvenient locations such as underneath climbing ropes and below precarious jumps.
But do you know what's really crazy? You take damage when you bump your head. In fact, a single bump incurs the same amount of damage as getting shot in the chest. So many time I've inadvertently killed myself in tight spaces simply by pressing the wrong button. "Death by head bump" is new for me, and feels like the ultimate indignity.
If you find that ridiculous, wait until you try swinging across gaps on your whip. You'll see a peg in the wall. You jump and whip it, but it doesn't latch. After dying a dozen times I consulted the internet. Apparently the "trick" is to just stand still on the edge and simply press the jump button. The swinging action is completely automatic. I am at a loss for words.
Once you understand the various "tricks" the game becomes playable. There are frequent checkpoints and when you use a continue you don't start all the way back like most games. I found the circus train level incredibly hard as you're constantly getting clotheslined or kneecapped. I'm always shocked to obtain an hourglass icon. I didn't even know I was being timed!
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade isn't even consistent with the film. The catacombs are loaded with flaming mice the size of cats, and kneeling under the swinging blades is fatal! My friend Sudz noted that the label of the game shows Indy being chased by a plane, a tank, and a German convoy, none of which appear anywhere in the game!
Young Indiana Jones: Instruments of Chaos (Sega,1994)
Trying to play Young Indiana Jones is like attempting to play Dark Castle (Philips CD-i, 1992). If someone just handed you the controller you might think it's a joke. Apparently Instruments of Chaos was constructed around its semi-realistic whip animation. It fluidly follows your directional pad commands, allowing you to swirl it around and snap it. The problem is, it moves too damn slow to be useful or fun.
The game takes you through many exotic Indiana Jones locales including Egypt, India, Tibet, Germany, and England. Being able to select the order in which you play them is a nice feature, and the graphics aren't bad. Young Indiana looks almost digitized in appearance, and when he uses his whip to climb the animation is quite fluid.
Young Indiana Jones might be fun had it been remotely playable. The controls are deplorable, which is remarkable considering this was released in 1994! Young Indy is tall, lanky, and awkward to control. Not being able to squat makes him a sitting duck. Instead of running and jumping in a predictable manner, he will unexpectedly speed up and lurch erratically.
Fighting bad guys is a freaking nightmare. You'll be blocked by knife-throwing goons, and unless you have the gun they require about six lashes to defeat. While you're struggling with your slow-motion whip, you're getting knocked back by knives as a snake nips at your heels, birds fly into your head, and a monkey jumps on your back. Even if you do finally kill the guy a new thug appears in his place, so what is the point?
The London Bridge level not only pesters you with birds, but while on top of the bridge you're constantly getting struck by lightning! In Egypt, after stumbling through all sorts of tedious hazards a windstorm will sweep you all the way back, negating your progress. And while attempting to hop across ice floats in Tibet, flying fish knock you into the freezing water!
The only area this game rates highly on is the misery index. It's so hard to figure out what to do when during each stage you're getting abused non-stop. I can't imagine a play-tester signing off on this atrocity. Young Indiana Jones: Instruments of Chaos may just possibly be the worst Genesis game I've ever played.
Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures (LucasArts,1994)
System: Super Nintendo
Running on the same engine that propelled the Super Star Wars (SNES, 1992) series to fame, Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures compasses the entire original trilogy including Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade. Dramatic digitized stills and text do a fine job of telling their stories between stages. The outstanding orchestrated music is lifted right from the movies, and there are even a few voice samples sprinkled in.
The crisp graphics sport a semi-realistic look. Indy's animation looks very natural and the parallax backgrounds convey a sense of depth. Highlights include the giant boulder sequence, the ominous Temple of Doom, and the stormy castle in Germany. The Nazi flags have black X's on them instead of swastikas. The Cairo stage reminded me quite a bit of Aladdin (Genesis, 1993), right down to people dropping pots from windows.
The side-scrolling action feels good as you leap between platforms, dodge traps, and whip enemies. Unfortunately, an endless army of small, annoying animals tend to nip at your heels and interrupt your jumps. These include bats, rats, and even jumping fish! When I saw rock-dropping birds I knew they had taken this concept way too far.
When the game tries to get creative it goes a bit off the rails. In the Chinese Club gun reticles relentlessly chase you around, forcing you to constantly find cover. The Pankot Palace is a confusing maze that will have you moving in circles. The vehicle sequences are the real highlight of the game, making effective use of the system's mode 7 graphics. Whether you're on a harrowing mine cart ride, sliding down a snowy mountain on a raft, or dogfighting in a biplane, these stages are amazing to behold.
The controls could be tighter and the collision detection more consistent. Sometimes crates don't move when you punch them and sometimes they go flying across the screen. Trying to swing on your whip is a hit-and-miss affair; you really need to get a feel for it. I hate how Indy's punches make a "whack" sound even when he doesn't hit anything.
All things considered, this cartridge is a lot of adventure for the money. There are three skill levels and a four-Greek-letter password is provided between stages. Though aggravating at times, Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventure should pack enough film references and visceral thrills to satisfy fans.
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (THQ,2001)
System: Game Boy Color
Indiana Jones was always great on the big screen, but how would he look on the smallest screen of all? The answer: like a little spider! Wow, these characters are small. Close examination reveals some interesting animation, but still.
Infernal Machine's gameplay features Tomb Raider-esque shooting and platform jumping, but the 2D environments are poorly rendered. Multiple shades are used to convey depth, but it's hard to tell where you can and can't go. It's not unusual to fall unexpectedly or run smack into an invisible wall.
The gunplay is unrealistic but effective - just face an enemy's general direction and unload. Sometimes you'll engage in comical shootouts with a Nazi standing right in front of you. The platform action is weak, but not as bad as the underwater mazes you have to swim through as your air supply depletes.
On a positive note, the stages are reasonable in size, and the user interface makes it easy to manage your inventory. My favorite part of this game occurred when I blew up a wall with a grenade - much like I did 23 years earlier while playing Raiders of the Lost Ark (Atari 2600) with my sister. But besides conjuring fond memories of other games, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine doesn't have much to offer.
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (LucasArts,2000)
System: Nintendo 64
Despite its big-name license Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine was only available as a Blockbuster rental - and for good reason! Infernal Machine's storyline is captivating enough, but its stage design is poor and its playability is rock bottom. It's the beginning of the cold war and the Russians are trying to locate an ancient machine capable of summoning demons from other dimensions. Brief cut scenes convey the story through blocky characters that make bold gestures to compensate for their non-moving lips. It looks hilarious when the female removes her pilot cap and shakes out that pixelated, chunky hair of hers.
You'll travel to exotic locations around the globe including China's Tian Shan River with its snowy mountains and howling winds. The control scheme borrows heavily from Zelda: Ocarina of Time, using context-sensitive buttons, a Z-targeting mechanism, and the ability to assign items to the C buttons.
Infernal Machine can be a nightmare to play. The camera is totally manual, so positioning yourself for a jump is a tedious exercise. There are times when Indy can leap over a 50-foot chasm with no running start, and other times he can't hop across a three-foot stream without falling to his death! You'll often need to hang from perilous ledges, but it's hard to determine which ledges you're permitted to hang from!
The context-sensitive controls are real pain in the ass. When standing next to a ladder you'll often have to finagle with the thumbstick just to get the "climb" indicator to appear. Considering the difficult moves you're expected to make in the early going, such erratic controls are unforgivable. Even when you know exactly what to do you'll struggle mightily. During advanced stages demons materialize on top of you, resulting in instant death.
I was hoping the driving stages might be a bright spot but they have problems of their own. I enjoyed the rollercoaster feel of the minecart ride, but while driving a jeep up a mountain I suddenly found myself suspended in some blue alternate universe. More infuriating than infernal, this buggy Indiana Jones adventure is for collectors only.
Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb (LucasArts,2003)
It would be tempting to call this a Tomb Raider rip-off, except it was Tomb Raider that ripped off Indiana Jones in the first place. Anyway you look at it, Emperor's Tomb treads on very familiar territory, teetering precariously on the edge of mediocrity.
The game takes Indy through a series of castles and ruins as he collects items, solves puzzles, pulls switches, and beats up bad guys. I was hoping this game would capture the flavor of the films, but aside from the trademark music that's not the case. I suspect you could swap Lara Croft with Indy and nobody would even notice. Heck, the main character doesn't even look like Harrison Ford, although the voice is a close match.
The control scheme is very good, feeling more natural and streamlined than classic Tomb Raider controls. Guiding your character around is a breeze and you can perform death-defying stunts with relative ease. Most surprising of all, the camera never seems to be a problem. You can punch out the bad guys, but that requires an inordinate number of blows, so use a gun whenever possible. For some odd reason the machete is worthless during battle.
Although the first stage feels like a Tomb Raider outtake, Emperor's Tomb does ultimately deliver its share of intense moments, like creeping through a cave of giant bats or swimming to shore with a huge crocodile on your tail! These thrills make up for some of the game's more frustrating sequences. Periodic technical flaws include clipping problems, collision detection issues, frame-rate stutters, and misplaced shadows. Once I even found myself walking on thin air!
But the biggest liability is the hit-or-miss controls. Sometimes you can grab a ledge, while other times you cannot. Sometimes you can pull a switch, and sometimes you can't. This is not the polish we expect in a console adventure. At least your game is saved automatically (and transparently) on a regular basis. It doesn't quite capture the unique spirit of the films, but if you're an Indy fan Emperor's Tomb is worth your while. NOTE: The instruction manual that comes with this game is amazing! Maps, newspaper clippings, hand-written notes... it's a handbook worthy of Indy himself!
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings (LucasArts,2009)
Though panned by critics, Staff of Kings is exceptionally playable, leveraging specific motion controls while squeezing the most out of the system's graphic capabilities. Its third-person perspective calls to mind Tomb Raider (Playstation, 1997), but there's more emphasis on shooting and hand-to-hand combat.
The Indiana Jones character is a perfect likeness (down to his bow-legged run), and the voice acting is so good, I can't believe it's not Harrison Ford. The lush, richly-detailed environments are some of the best you'll see on the Wii. The controls feel intuitive enough, aided by timely prompts.
You shake the controller in particular ways to punch, throw, crack the whip, and ensnare your enemies. I expect a certain amount of wagging in a Wii game, but this is pretty extreme. I dislocated my shoulder while playing this! That's right - I literally pulled my entire arm out of its socket during a fighting sequence! Not really, but you get the idea.
Fighting is more fun when you use items lying around. You can knock a thug out with a cue ball or crack him over the head with a pool stick. The shooting stages offer precision aiming action, using the Wiimote to point at the screen. Your whip is quite versatile, allowing you to rappel, pull levers, and bring unstable platforms down on enemies.
Vehicle stages provide a nice change of pace, letting you pilot a plane through a rocky gorge or engage in a shootout on a run-away cable car. Especially during these stages I appreciated the look of this game. The lighting effects and attention to detail is terrific, especially in dark, neon-lit alleyways of San Francisco.
Staff of Kings has a few rough edges. Checkpoints are frequent but you're often forced to re-watch cut-scenes or tutorials. At the end of the China stage you need to save a girl with your whip, but the diagram prompt is flashed too quickly to make out. I do love the brisk pacing and minimal load times.
As a sweet bonus, a second complete Indiana Jones game is also included: Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. This 1992 point-and-click PC title is still fun to play and its 2D graphics stand the test of time. Together this one-two punch comprises some of the best Indiana Jones action you'll find on any console.
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (LucasArts,2009)
This charming point-and-click adventure was originally released for the PC in the early 90's, but made available as a bonus game in Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings (Wii, 2008). Originally slated to be a Sega CD title, Fate of Atlantis is cast in the same mold as Secret of Monkey Island (Sega CD, 1993). This game belongs in a museum!
Unlike Monkey Island, this game will have you jetting all over the Atlantic, from New York to Iceland to the Azores. Fate of Atlantis boasts colorful, richly-illustrated locations to explore. The attention to detail is terrific, from the skylines in windows to eerie lighting in shadowy back alleys. As in the movies, a red line plots your travel on an aged map. The music is also very well done and distinctive for each location.
To investigate something you just point to it via your Wiimote and press a button. I love how Indy will make his way to the spot, scaling in and out while meandering around the scenery. His lady partner Sophia is also nicely animated, and I really like the way she throws back her hair.
A strip along the bottom of the screen displays commands and inventory. In many cases you need to click on an action ("use"), then click on an item ("gum"), and then point to a location on the screen to "use gum on coal chute". You'd think that with only a limited number of options you could get by on trial and error, but a lot of the puzzles (such as this) don't make a whole lot of sense. There's a lot of conversations in this game, including with random people you flag down walking around the streets. The dialog is spoken via professional voice actors as the text is displayed, and the prose is so smart you won't mind trying all the available responses.
The original PC game used a mouse, and the less-precise Wiimote makes it harder to target small objects like a red button on a control board. Some of the items you need to collect (like the gum) aren't even visible. The A button is used to select and B is "default action", which is kind of confusing. Much of the action is conveyed through cut-scenes, but there is also fighting of the button-mashing variety.
There are virtually no load times (in this Wii version at least), and you can quickly save or load your progress. The game takes several hours to complete and has randomly branching paths to enhance its replay value. It certainly is a charmer, but the inscrutable puzzles and random fights wore down my resolve. I found myself checking the FAQ whenever I got stuck, which felt like every five minutes. I think I like the idea of Fate of Atlantis better than the game itself.
Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (LucasArts,2008)
Indiana Jones is a pretty natural fit for the Lego games. Not only did the original trilogy offer plenty of exotic locations, but Indy usually had a sidekick or two, making it conducive to Lego's brand of tag-team action. The environments themselves are not composed of Legos, and look fairly realistic. From the blowing snow of the mountain stage to the rainy, neon-lit streets of Shanghai, the scenery looks exceptionally good.
Casual gamers can breeze right through the three stories, but dedicated gamers will want to uncover all of the hidden secrets in each level. It sounds like a winner, but Lego Indiana Jones isn't as fun as you might expect. The stages are inspired by movie locations, but some are very extended and tend to wear out their welcome. Each room has its own set of puzzles, which often involve repairing machinery, operating elevators, turning keys, and standing on buttons. The game constantly nudges you along, highlighting items of interest with spotlights and white arrows.
The platform jumping tends to be forgiving, but there's no camera control and some jumps are very hard to judge. As with the Star Wars Lego titles, you can destroy just about any object composed of Legos. This causes "cogs" to spill out, generating those "tic tic tic" sounds as you collect them. Although fun at first, destroying every last pot or table to maximize your score becomes tiresome after a while, and the constant explosive sounds are headache inducing.
The fighting action isn't much fun at all. Unlike the bright laser blasts of the Star Wars games, the bullets here are hard to see, and you'll often fall to pieces without knowing what hit you. There's little technique involved in fighting, and since Indy always regenerates, there's little challenge either. You'd expect the controls to be simple as can be, but I never felt comfortable with them. It's very easy to get the Z and B buttons confused. Z is normally used to manipulate items, but can also attack with your whip. The C doubles as "get in vehicle" and "switch character", and it doesn't always do what you intend.
I deliberately purchased the Wii edition of this game for the ability to swing Indy's whip via motion control, but the thrill is fleeting. The game's musical score is first-rate, and the mildly amusing cut-scenes try to water down the more graphic parts of the films. There's an auto-save feature, but even when you complete a stage, it doesn't save until you continue, so don't be too quick to hit the power button.
I hate to rain on the parade, but I found Lego Indiana Jones to be only moderately fun, and boring at times. It's interesting to see the game's interpretation of the films' scenes, but after a while you feel like you're just going through the motions.
Lego Indiana Jones 2 (LucasArts,2009)
I was less than enthused by the first Lego Indiana Jones game, and this second edition confirms my suspicions that these games are pretty bad. Considering I'm a big Indy fan, my sheer hatred of this game even took me by surprise! Lego Indiana Jones 2 focuses on the "Crystal Skull" movie, but also contains scenes from the original trilogy. The level design is all over the place, with the "hub" leading to various locations that invariably say, "you need so-and-so character (or object) to play this stage". What the [expletive] ever!
The stage designs are confusing at best and often infuriating. The low-resolution Wii graphics don't help matters, as you often have no idea what you're looking at. In one case I thought a box was a television set, but it turned out to be a critical "push plate" I had to move in order to make progress. You're constantly prompted what to do, but many objectives make absolutely no sense (find a spear and target a wall socket?) Smashing up the scenery to release cogs is moderately fun, but the fact that I could often break stuff on the other side of a wall only corroborates how shoddy the programming is. The control scheme is hardly conducive to the Wii, and I found the B (attack) and Z (use) buttons extremely hard to keep straight. You can't even shake the Wii-mote to crack your whip!
The stages only vaguely follow the movie storylines, and I often had a hard time identifying characters or figuring out what scene I was playing. The combat sucks, but that pretty much goes without saying. What ultimately pushed me over the edge were the horrendous driving stages. The steering controls are an absolute nightmare! Even the cut-scenes are a headache since there's no way to pause or skip them. I usually find these Lego games to be moderately enjoyable, but playing Lego Indiana Jones 2 is an absolute chore.
"Games stink, Dr. Jones! Playing these games, no fun!"