You can almost picture the board meeting at Traveller's Tales; a dozen metaphorical lightbulbs popping up above the heads of those in attendance as the sales figures for the LEGO Star Wars series flooded in. Once the mental cogs were turning, you could have seen the outcome a mile away: "People loved a new take on a classic movie franchise!", "The LEGO concept works!" and finally, "Quick! What else can we LEGO-ise?" With LucasArts already on board and a fourth movie being released, the proposal for LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures must have almost written itself. Swap a lightsaber and a Darth Vader helmet for a whip and a hat, and you're away... right?
Well, kind of. If you have some knowledge of how simplistic LEGO Star Wars was initially before Traveller's Tales tweaked it for LSW: The Original Trilogy, you'll see that LEGO Indiana Jones slots neatly into the middle of the evolutionary chain. It's not that LEGO Indy doesn't improve on the already-enhanced formula of the three LEGO Star Wars games, because it does to a degree. However, it does also feel like a bit of a stop-gap as we wait for LEGO Batman; like a chef taking the leftovers from yesterday's rather delicious dinner rather than fresh ingredients and making something else with those instead. And then putting hats on the finished dish. Lots and lots of hats.
You've Got To LEGO
Of course, if you're one of the few people who've never experienced a Traveller's Tales LEGO game (all of them Star Wars-related and one which was, rather cheekily, just a combination of the other two), you won't be aware of the totally inoffensive action that awaits you with LEGO Indy. Essentially, it's a matter of visualising the entirety of the movie franchise in your mind and then replacing all the vaguely non-child friendly elements - hearts ripped out of chests with bare hands, face-melting demonic entities, heads severed by giant saw blades, whatever - with simple LEGO-based humour involving burnt-off clothes, melted plastic and headless bodies walking around on their own. Yes, it's still got all the bare-fist fighting and whip-swinging action that Indiana Jones has become famous for, only now it's... well, tame and made entirely of plastic.
If all this is sounding incredibly familiar, that's probably because it is. As we said, LEGO Indy is a subtle evolution of the LEGO Star Wars formula and aside from the obvious difference - that it's Indiana Jones, not Star Wars - it's hard to spot the changes at first. You still solve a majority of the puzzles by building items from piles of LEGO bricks strewn about the place. You still control two (and occasionally more) characters at once, with the option to switch between them depending on the skills that are needed to advance through an area.
You even still have to collect as many LEGO studs, hidden LEGO kits and super secret Power Bricks, now disguised as parcels that need to be 'mailed', by playing levels repeatedly with different characters. Yes, it really is that similar.
The Same, Only Better
But wait! Before you walk away with a disappointed look on your face, know this: LEGO Indy is still great fun. It's great fun in spite of the similarities - hell, because of the similarities - simply because Traveller's Tales nailed the LEGO concept pretty much perfectly when LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy rolled out. As such, the cliche "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" has never been so apt. Between the totally tongue-in-cheek humour and the simple-yet-absorbing combination of platform, combat and puzzle action, it's all great... even though the lack of true progress is a little disheartening.