This week, Yahtzee plays with LEGOs and re-lives childhood horrors about Indiana Jones.
There comes a time when you have to stop ignoring something - a lesson that could well have been learned those people who lived next to Auschwitz and thought all the smoke was coming from an unusually screamy pie factory. Which, by the obvious link of Nazi Germany, brings me effortlessly to Lego Indiana Jones. I've been ignoring the whole Lego-LucasArts coalition so far. Partly because, as you'll recall from my Psychonauts review, LucasArts is run by douchebags. But mainly because it sounds utterly retarded on paper. I mean once you accept Lego Star Wars, where does it end? Playmobil Battlestar Galactica? Duplo Firefly? Meccano Dune? Yeah, I'm done milking that joke. I guess at first I'd - wait, I've got another one! Stickle Bricks Babylon 5? (beat) Sorry.
I guess at first I'd filed Lego Star Wars in my massive brain database under the same heading as Barbie Horse Adventures and Bratz: Hey Kids, Let's All Dress Like French Tarts - cheapo toy tie-ins for harassed mothers to buy their shitfaced spawn every time they pass through a Walmart in an ongoing quest to give in to their every demand and turn them into the kind of entitled, spoiled fuckspods who are virtually guaranteed lucrative acting careers in Hollywood. But now that the series is three games and people I sometimes pretend to respect have said that it might actually be fun, I thought I better go undercover, drill holes into my head until I'm mentally twelve years old and try out the new flippity gombo spletch.
Lego Indiana Jones is exactly what is says on the tin; it's a heavily summarized retread of the first three Indiana Jones movies - or, should I say, the only three Indiana Jones movies and if anyone tries to correct me you are wrong and should be punched - with all the characters replaced by choking hazards for the under-fives. Obviously, Indiana Jones is different kettle of chips to Star Wars, though, what with all that death and face melting and all that business with the monkey brains, so the most sofa-hiding moments of the trilogy are toned down to be kid-friendly (Lego characters being as unfazed by dismemberment as the drugged-up prostitutes in my van).
Don't write it off as a kiddy game, though. It's important to understand the distinction between "kiddy" and "fun for all the family." The latter is stuff anyone can enjoy as long as they're not the kind of slack-jawed sociopath-in-waiting who refuses to look at any game that doesn't have at least three police officers worth of blood on-screen at all times. So if you're a child or possess the necessary brain damage to be the equivalent of one, you'll find Lego Indiana Jones to be colourful and full of lovely, shiny objects to keep your laughably small brain occupied. As for adults and clever clogs, some of the attempts at humour fall a bit flat, but if you take a step back there's this undercurrent of parody about the whole experience which I find rather cathartic. I guess it's because we're taking a film series which prided itself in unexpectedly traumatising me as a child and totally emasculating it like if there was a puppet show version of The Ring.
The gameplay is where the game starts to soil itself, but in small, manageable ways like a budgerigar. It's based around platforming and Zack & Wiki-esque adventure puzzles in which Indiana Jones and one of his mates use whatever resources are available to get to the level exit, defeat a boss and/or fill their plastic pockets with enough Spanish gold to sink the Lusitania. The support characters all have their own unique skills to bring to the fray, but their main job is to irritate you. Standing on a platform you're trying to occupy and knocking you off into death pits is their favourite trick, which only gets more hilarious when the game (which seems to be in on this) gleefully respawns you in such a way that you slide straight back into spiky failure. Thankfully, you can kill your partners as many times as you like and the game won't punish you for it. And let me tell you, brutally beating Short Round into a pile of bloody plastic giblets fourteen times removes all feelings of antipathy you've ever had towards the character.
Depending on how charmed you are by the overall feel, the combat is either lacklustre or a flaming pile of arse. A brave attempt is made to evoke the feel of Indiana Jones-esque brawls by letting you throw chairs and bottles around, but I guarantee that the auto-targeting system will ignoring the gun-wielding, blood-crazed Nazi in favour of latching indelibly onto the crumbs of cheese upon the whiskers of a nearby mouse. There's really no reason to use anything other than bare fists, which can swiftly reduce any enemy to tiny component parts that your dad will later painfully discover by walking around the living room carpet barefoot. At this point the game says, "What's that? You favour bare fists? Well, fuck you with great big handfuls of rusty nuts and bolts, you consumer tart, because you're going to use whatever tool you happen to be carrying as a melee weapon. Oh, you want to know how to drop the tool? Well, you can't, so suck it!" Then the game jumps around slapping his bum and laughing, but I don't let him get to me because for committing the cardinal sin of infinitely respawning enemies, I know the game will be condemned to the deepest circle of video game hell.
But while an eternity being cockslapped by the colossal pointy death wang of The Adversary is a fate richly deserved by George "Franchisicide" Lucas, Lego Indiana Jones could possibly be forgiven for a lot. Multiply the Indiana Jones nostalgia factor by how much you enjoy adventure game scavenger hunts and divide by the number of times falling off the floating platform levels in Mario Sunshine made you want to slice your own face open with a broken WaveBird controller, and you'll get a number which somehow corresponds to how much I recommend Lego Indiana Jones. I'm not a mathematician, obviously, but I had fun with it and so might you. It'll certainly tide you over while we wait for the really hot release, Fuzzy-Felt Deep Space Nine.
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