Riding the marketing wave of last year's new film, LEGO Indiana Jones didn't actually include The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Now, the sequel has arrived, focusing primarily on the elderly Indy's excursion and revisiting the previous films once again. It's a clear case of double-dipping, but is it worth continuing the adventure?
With half the game spent on the lackluster Crystal Skull, the story doesn't have much to start with, and if you avoided the fourth movie, you'll have a hard time following the pantomimes. Since the original trilogy was covered in the last game, each film is more condensed, and more extreme liberties have been taken. A disco ball emerges when the lost ark is opened, and a giant statue in the Temple of Doom comes to life in a fiery boss fight. The subtle gags still have some of the same charm, but they're clearly stretched a bit this time out.
LEGO Indiana Jones 2 is structured differently than previous LEGO adventure titles. Instead of having a central hub that connects everything, each movie is partitioned off into its own LEGO box, with The Crystal Skull split into three separate sections. Each chapter has its own hub, which you'll explore to unlock characters, vehicles, and bonuses as you search for the entrance to the next level.
This split-up design makes the game feel more repetitive, especially as you spend cash to unlock virtually identical characters from one movie to the next. Though you may have unlocked a character with a sword in an earlier chapter, you'll have to save up a million studs to access someone similar to complete bonus levels in The Crystal Skull. It doesn't make sense.
There are five story levels and five bonus levels per chapter, making for 60 levels in all, and you can replay story levels in treasure mode with new objectives. Bonus and treasure levels reward you with gold chests, which net bigger reward in the chapter hub if you collect them all.
LEGO Indy 2 also includes a box of creation tools. The character creator and quick play options have carried over from past titles, but now there's also a level designer and an adventure creator that lets you string together a custom series of levels. The level design tools are a bit cumbersome, however, as you need to use a character to drop items in place, and you can't share levels or play with friends online.
Gameplay in Indy 2 hasn't changed much from previous LEGO titles. You'll cooperate with another player or an AI partner to bust up waves of enemies, smash every object in sight to collect spendable studs, and build contraptions to solve puzzles. Tools play a big role as well. You can use Indy's whip to cross gaps or pull objects from a distance, throw spears into sockets to climb higher, and repair machinery with wrench-equipped characters.
Many of the past titles' pitfalls have carried over as well. Some hazards aren't immediately clear, which often results in instant death in soft mud or ant piles. Edges of platforms are slippery, and key items will return to where you picked them up if you drop them. You also can't simply swap characters from a menu, so you end up spending a lot of time wandering around hubs trying to figure out where characters you've unlocked have wandered off to.
There are a lot more vehicle levels this time around, including motorcycles, cars, and massive jungle cutters. Instead of simple chase scenes, you'll have to track down and destroy enemy vehicles. This can be equally fun and frustrating, as the fixed camera can make for awkward steering, and the arrow icons don't do the best job of directing you to opponents in the more sprawling levels.
One of the biggest improvements is the new dynamic split-screen function, which lets each player explore at will, merging the screen back together when they meet up again. The transition from single screen to split-screen feels natural and eases much of the co-op frustration from past games.
Like past titles, LEGO Indiana Jones 2 places interactive LEGO objects amidst realistic settings, and features a soundtrack pulled straight from the movies. The engine has some of the same faults, as players still have to choose between screen tearing or turning on VSync at the cost of a shaky framerate. Indy 2 is also a bit glitchier; the game has a tendency to freeze up in hub levels and vehicles can become temporarily inaccessible when the game decides to endlessly respawn them over water. It has its moments, though. In one memorable boss fight where you go up against a swarm of army ants, it's hard not to be impressed with the hundreds of plastic critters onscreen.
While it's still fun to smash up bricks with a friend, LEGO Indiana Jones 2 doesn't do much to depart from the formula. It's also a bit more repetitive than past titles. With co-op play at its core, the lack of online options holds it back, and returning to Indiana Jones with a focus on the worst film in the series probably wasn't the best choice for a new LEGO adventure.
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox 360.