Raiders of the Lost Lego Ark
What can you truly say about a series like the Lego one? It has sold countless copies of the Star Wars Lego games, and promises to sell a couple million more by tapping into the Indiana Jones franchise.
Let's get down to the basics though. For those uninitiated to the Lego series, what happens is that the good people at Traveller's Tales re-work the story of the movie the game is based on to fit the Lego universe. In this specific case, you're playing through Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade - thankfully, Kingdom of the Crystal skulls doesn't make an appearance in the game (but let's not get started on that tangent again). You control Indiana Jones, as well as many of his cohorts, all in cutesy Lego format. For the entire game, Indy is not swappable, but the secondary characters you control are, and each has his/her own specific capability, like swinging a wrench to repair a plane.
In terms of story, the Lego team is pretty good at hitting all the high notes in the movies without saying a single word, and in that respect, my kudos to them - because while the Indy movies tend to have a lot of action, the melodrama in-between is something that is pitch-perfect in this game.
Before I get into the game's faults, let's briefly go over the story of all three of the Indy movies (if you still haven't seen the movies and don't want the surprises spoiled, you might want to read after this quick list):
1. Raiders of the Lost Ark
To me personally, Raiders is really the only Indiana Jones movie worth watching. Based on a fictional character called Dr. Henry Jones (nicknamed Indiana Jones), this story is all about Nazis who want to obtain the mythical Ark of the Covenant in order to take over the world. Through a series of events, including the now famous grabbing of the golden idol followed by Jones running from the giant boulder, Indy manages to find the exact location of the ark, which he then proceeds to excavate. Once the Ark is freed, the Nazis manage to steal it from Indy and open the Ark. Thankfully, by the power of a Deus Ex Machina (a plot device that instantly solves any problems and ultimately causes a conclusion in a movie or book), the Ark is actually too powerful to be looked at by human eyes. By closing his eyes, Indy manages to save himself and live to have two more adventures.
2. The Temple of Doom
In this movie, Indy crash lands in India after a quarrel with some Chinese gangsters and finds a rural village whose children have all been kidnapped by an evil cult that worships stones called the Sankara Stones. Determined to save the children and find the significance of the stones that were stolen from the same village, Indy infiltrates the evil cult, only to be captured. After seeing a man's heart be removed from his chest without the use of a scapel, Indy once again uses his amazing wit and skill with a whip to rescue the children and return them to their village. However, rather than keeping the Sankara Stones for analysis, he returns them to the village where they rightfully belonged.
3. The Last Crusade
The final movie of the original Indy trilogy finds Indy being hired to find the Holy Grail. Along the way he manages to rekindle his friendship with his father. Through a series of circumstances, Indy manages to finally find the Holy Grail in a cave, where it turns out that the Grail was actually the most commonplace cup inside a room filled with jewel-encrusted chalices. Thanks to the fact that he realized having his father around was more important than finding the Grail, he manages to leave it there only for the Nazis to once again be defeated by their own greed.
So far, you must be sitting there wondering what the problem could possibly be with such a winning formula. Let's face it - LEGO and Indiana Jones are like a match made in heaven (just like the Star Wars ones), you put all your favorite characters in a giant Lego box to play with. Unfortunately, if only the world was such a simple place. Those as naive as to think that this combination will yield amazing results will be baffled by how mind-numbing the controls and gameplay are.
Especially on the PC, the game is practically unplayable unless you either reconfigure the control scheme, or attach your friendly joypad to the system (read my GRID review for more info on attaching your PS3 controller to your PC). With a joypad, the game becomes easier to manage, but still feels clunky. While the Lego building segments are interesting and neat, they aren't as neat as to remove the horrible memories from the platforming segments of the game.
The gameplay also suffers along with the controls. As I mentioned before, platforming hearkens back to an era pre-Mario-64, which was not a great time to be a platformer. The segments with guns also serve as a reminder of how unrefined the gameplay is. The way I imagine it, they had the story down, and the game needed to be shipped out next month - so they decided not to add the usual polish you'd hope for in a platformer. And let's not even talk about jumping in the game - it'd probably be easier to grab food out of a cave filled with bears than to time your jump perfectly to reach the next platform or level - resulting in at least 5 minutes of a cycle that goes: jump, fall, come back up, and repeat.