Remember that scene at the start of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where Indy hands Belloq a rubber ducky instead of the golden Havitos idol? Or in “Temple of Doom” when Willie uses her super-scream ability to shatter a glass case holding a diamond? Or when Sallah beats up the Grail Knight at the end of “Last Crusade”? Yeah, we don’t either, but that’s okay: LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures may take plenty of liberties recreating the first three Indy films in a world of LEGO blocks, but it’s all in good fun. More importantly, Traveller’s Tales doesn’t muck with the formula that worked so well for the LEGO Star Wars games, and LEGO Indy turns out to be just as satisfying.
As in the LEGO Star Wars games, LEGO Indy is at its heart a third-person action-adventure split into three large episodes (one for each movie) of six chapters apiece, covering most of the major setpieces from the films, like the Well of Souls from “Raiders” or the mine cart chase in “Temple.” Each level gives you control of two characters — Indy and a buddy like Marion or Short Round — and you run through levels beating up tiny LEGO Nazis and Thuggee henchmen while solving clever puzzles that could easily be at home in any Half-Life game. Bookending and sprinkled throughout each episode are hysterical little cut-scenes that recount memorable moments from the films, with a heavy dose of slapstick.
The main difference between LEGO Indy and its predecessors is in its characters’ abilities and how they factor into the game’s countless puzzles. Indy has his trusty whip, which makes him uniquely qualified to swing across certain gaps or yank open trap doors. Female characters like Marion can jump higher, allowing them to access areas out of reach to everyone else. Sallah can dig up artifacts with his shovel, Dr. Jones Sr. can decipher hieroglyphics with a “scholar” ability to unlock secret areas, and Thuggee characters can do the same with statues scattered around the game. There’s a wrench that allows characters to fix broken items, and certain metal objects can only be destroyed using dynamite or other explosives, like the bazooka trooper’s rocket launcher. (And if little LEGO characters firing rockets at each other won’t convince you to play the game, we don’t know what will.)
These character abilities are important because they provide the foundation for the puzzles, which drive the gameplay forward. Combat is more of an afterthought, as characters simply slap each other around until they collapse into little blocks; if you ever die, you merely lose a few bonus coins and respawn right where you left off. So it’s a good thing that the puzzles are pretty well-done, with each area playing home to several mini-puzzles leading up to one larger example. You might need to fix a car in order to crash through a metal gate, but first you have to find a wrench hidden in a building that you can only reach by building a bridge and stealing an enemy’s hat to sneak through a guard post, and so on. Most of the puzzles turn out to be pretty easy, and you can usually figure out what need to be done by smashing everything in sight, but the puzzles are generally so elaborate that the process of solving them is still enjoyable, at least the first time through.