I love Indiana Jones. I enjoy the Lego brand of games. When the first Lego Indy came out, I thought, “Playing through this game reminded me how much fun the Indiana Jones character really is.” Even though the game wasn’t without the flaws that had become commonplace in a Lego game, like poor partner AI and bad camera, I still had a good time with it. When I heard that there was going to be a sequel, I was a bit skeptical. The first game covered the original movies pretty well, and even though you’d still be able to play through the first three films, there was a larger focus on Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and I wasn’t convinced I needed the game. I should have stuck with my gut instincts. Even though there are some interesting new gameplay features, Lego Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues isn’t as strong a game as its predecessor.
For the three of you unfamiliar with the lore of Indiana Jones, the films center on an archaeologist and his adventures during the mid-1900s. They’re quite good. You should check them out. Anyway, this particular Lego series take its inspiration from the four films in the franchise, and allows you to play major sequences of those movies through a Lego filter. It’s not that everything gets dumbed down for a child; it just becomes more accessible to players of all ages. This time around, the game starts you out with only the first of three parts to the Lego adaption of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull available to play. Finishing that portion unlocks the second part of Kingdom, as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark. Since the first three films had their moment in the sun in the first game, the versions you’ll get to play in Lego Indy 2 are extremely truncated. Each segment should at most take you an hour to complete the first time through, and that same time frame holds true for each of the three sections devoted to Kingdom. The adaptations of the first three movies are completely different this time around, so you don’t have to worry about playing the exact same scenarios you already did if you happened to complete the first game. It’s just a shame that virtually nothing has changed about the gameplay since the last iteration.
Lego games haven’t changed very much during the years they’ve been around, and the lack of change is really starting to wear thin on the franchise. The simple platforming elements work well enough, and the basic combat is easy enough to grasp, but Lego games are fast becoming Dynasty Warriors Lite. However, this game does present the first real new change to gameplay in a Lego game since their inception. Typically, boss fights in Lego games weren’t anything special. Most times you’d just fight against another character that had more hearts than you. Lego Indy 2 introduces gigantic boss fights, and along with the smaller boss encounters, providing a nice change of pace to the monotony. Also new this time around is adaptive split-screen for when you’re playing with a friend. No matter if you’re playing alone or with another person, each level requires at least two characters to play. When you’re by yourself, you control one character at a time, with the ability to switch between the others on screen at will. The computer character will always be by your side, and though he may sometimes lag behind, you won’t be forced to wait up for him at any point. In prior games, when you played with a friend you were constricted by the screen, and you weren’t able to wander too far from one another. Now, when your partner walks off to do his own thing on larger levels, the screen will split dynamically depending on where the two of you are on the board. It’s a huge advantage, and hopefully the next run of Lego games will also make use of this feature. Strangely, when playing with another person who happens to also have a registered Gamertag, they’ll never earn achievements when playing with you. I'm not certain if that's by design or a glitch, but the same thing happened in Lego Batman, which came after the first Lego Indy, and it’s more than a little concerning that the same thing happens here.
Even though some of the new additions are actually welcomed, there are a few that are either extremely frustrating or bland. There are new vehicle sections in which you’ll be tasked with driving around trying to destroy enemy vehicles by crashing into them repeatedly. The cars handle terribly, and the level design for those particular sections is pretty bad. While I understand having to contain the action to a limited area, that doesn’t mean you have to pack as many ramps and turbo boost power-ups as you can into that small area, particularly when none of those things are actually important the design of the board. It might not have been so bad had they been spaced out more sporadically, but it seems like the developers liked the new feature so much they had to put it in as many times as possible. In previous games, there was one central hub where you would access the movies. Here, there’s a central hub to start the game, then an interactive hub for each individual level that represents key locales from the movies. In addition to giving you the ability to buy or unlock new characters, included here are vehicles for you to purchase, which you can then use for time trial races on the hub. Again, since the vehicles control pretty poorly, it’s not very fun. Factor in the fact that the race course is only as big as the particular area of the hub that you’re on, and you can see why it’s fairly boring.
The largest new feature is the Build Your Own Adventure mode. I was extremely excited by the opportunity to create my own board for people to explore. Once I started using the creation tools, I realized this mode wasn’t going to be all it was cracked up to be. The levels you’re allowed to create are ridiculously limited in size. You also can’t create anything remotely close to the levels you’ll actually play in the game. Light puzzle solving is one of the more endearing parts of the Lego franchise, but you can’t recreate them in your own custom boards. Add in that you can’t include boss fights, and you’ve got a creation package that doesn’t come close to complete. I get that they’re aiming for an all-ages title, and that they want to have their creation tools be accessible to everyone, but that doesn’t mean the tools should be limited in any way. The depth should be there if there are players who want to get really fantastical with their designs. Should you actually make a few levels, you can create an adventure, where you make a level playlist that will run through up to 15 boards. You can even pick and choose which characters are available for use. With so many other games available with much more robust creation tools, it’s a bit of a disappointment that this one is so lacking. Perhaps next time it will be better, but as of now it’s not anything to write home about.
One area in which the Lego games have always been consistently strong is in the presentation. Lego Indy 2 follows suit, providing great sound design, terrific graphics, and animations that fit perfectly with what you would expect of a living Lego world. The game relies on facial expressions for emoting since there’s no voice work whatsoever, and it’s more than adequate. Some of the jokes fall a bit flat, but for the most part, Lego Indy 2’s writing is pretty good. While I hardly ever encountered a problem with the first game, Lego Indy 2 froze quite often. There’s nothing more frustrating than playing through one of the more arduous sections of the game, only to have it freeze, and then restart from the beginning of the chapter after you restart your system. It’s even worse when it happens in the middle of a long play session with a friend, and sucks the fun out of what was a good time completely.
I’m not quite sure what to think of the Lego franchise after playing through Lego Indiana Jones 2. What once was an incredibly fun set of games has become a monotonous experience that’s more about going through the motions than it is about having a good time. Even with all the new features, there’s just not enough here to advance the Lego brand, and a game that should have set a new bar for the series ends up being another also ran. I was hoping that this game would start an upward trend for the Lego series, but now I’m not even sure where they can take the next one. Like the Indiana Jones movies, stick with the original. This is one sequel that just doesn’t hold a candle to its predecessor.