There's one thing you can always be certain about; everyone has a favourite Indiana Jones film. From the moment our favourite archaeologist burst on to the silver screen back in 1981 with Raiders of the Lost Ark, audiences been enthralled with the escapades of a globe-trotting, whip-cracking explorer who always manages to find the treasure and come out on top, either by courage or sheer luck.
There have been many Indiana Jones video games produced to date, some (like The Fate of Atlantis) have actually been pretty good. So as we filed into the media demonstration of Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures we were excited to discover if LEGO was a suitable platform to do not only the films justice, but the previous games as well.
Our demonstration was played out on the Xbox 360 version, which from what we could see appeared to be practically complete. Due to a technical glitch the game was presented in 480p, but this didn't detract from what appeared to be fluid graphics and smooth animation. The game will be released on every major gaming platform however, so obviously effects will differ between them. The introduction cinematic showed the traditional map being traversed from point to point exactly like the films, followed by an obscured Indy moving through a jungle with a party of followers, emulating a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
We didn't see actual gameplay until Temple of Doom content was presented, and in typical fashion this too was introduced with a fantastic cinematic cut-scene lifted directly from the movie - but mimed by LEGO-block characters. Cute. After Indy's jump from his pilotless plane, and subsequent river ride, we see the famous "monkey brain" dining scene, and are dropped directly into combat with a legion of palace guards.
Control of the characters is managed by firstly electing which character to play. Each character brings their own unique traits to the game - Indy is obviously the best person to be beating up palace guards, so he's sent into combat, fists flying. However, if we needed to reach a high platform, it'd be best to use Willie Scott, who can jump further than Indy. Similarly, if we need to retrieve something by passing through a narrow doorway, Short Round can squeeze into pretty much any area.
These traits are extremely important, as it becomes clear from the outset that puzzles play a massive part in moving through the game. For example, after Indy defeats the palace guards he needs to get through a locked door and escape - to do this, he has to find the key, which will operate a drawbridge-type mechanism and allow his departure.
There didn't seem to be any obvious visual clues as to which character should take on this task, so there could be a huge amount of gameplay involved in clearing these puzzles and progressing further. I suspect this will either enthral, or annoy, so it'll be interesting to play through the final game.
Another scene we were shown involved moving Indy, Willie Scott and Short Round through a forest. There were various traps to overcome, and quicksand to avoid, and we were introduced to another great concept of this title: phobias.
As we know from the films, Indy has a fear of snakes, so whenever he's near them in the game, he starts to glow red. If he gets too close to a snake, he'll track off in a random direction and will become uncontrollable, likewise if Willie Scott gets too close to a spider. Although we didn't get to see Holy Grail content, it's a sure bet that Henry Jones Snr will have the same problem with rats. It'll be interesting to see the other phobias, as we've been promised over sixty playable and customizable characters will join Indy during his adventures.
We were also treated to a demonstration of the new motion abilities of the LEGO figures. For the first time in a LEGO game, you can swim, climb, shimmy across rock ledges and pick up and carry objects, and despite a little controller awkwardness, these were achieved to great success. It would appear that you can also interact with the environment; in one scene we had to throw a banana to a monkey in order to acquire a key necessary to progress.
Central to the Indiana Jones theme is a healthy dose of humour, so it seems natural that LEGO should be used as the medium to present this. The films contain some fairly adult concepts, so in order to break this down to appeal to a younger audience, what better to use than colourful plastic blocks? When any of the characters kill creatures, they explode in a shower of blocks rather than blood, and some of the more difficult historical aspects have been altered. There are no Nazis, as they've been replaced with an "anonymous genocidal, occultist, trenchcoat-wearing master-race", and instead of being burned alive in Temple of Doom, the human sacrifice character is instead tanned a healthy brown.
It's great to see that yet another LEGO title is about to hit the shelves, as they've always had a great appeal to gaming enthusiasts of all ages. With the release of the latest movie, it'll be fantastic to return to the world of Indiana Jones after an eighteen year hiatus, and as Harrison Ford isn't getting any younger, perhaps the rest of the Indy story will only ever be told in video games.
If that's the case, LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures is a welcome addition and will no doubt offer great entertainment for years to come.