"Rugh huh huh"
LEGO Batman/Indiana Jones
Release Date: June 3/ Sep. 23, 2008
Developer: Traveller's Tales
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
Every good game has that special something that keeps pulling gamers back for just a few more minutes. This special something could be a great storyline or superb action or even challenging puzzles. The success of the LEGO series of games can be attributed to a bit of each of these elements. LEGO Star Wars featured a great story, a quirky sense of humour and addictively fun action. The game was at once satisfying while not overly difficult making it accessible to gamers of all ages. Now two new LEGO games have been released. Can they recapture the same magic that was LEGO Star Wars?
LEGO Star Wars is one of my favourite Xbox 360 games. Well I guess I should say two of my favourites games as the game was basically released twice, once as LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy and then again as LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga containing both trilogies. Between the two titles I would have wasted over 50 hours of my life (gotta waste it on something). The strange thing is that I would be hard pressed to tell someone why I liked the games so much. The games are not really deep or challenging. The main goal in the games is still to break stuff, collect LEGO studs, build stuff, solve puzzles, watch funny cut-scenes then rinse & repeat. A simple recipe, but one that worked for LEGO Star Wars. LEGO Batman and LEGO Indiana Jones both borrow from this proven recipe, then each adding a slight twist to it. Since they are so similar, this review will take a look at both these new games.
Both games suffer in the storyline department. The storyline in LEGO Indiana Jones is borrowed from the first 3 movies of the Indiana Jones series. Unlike the Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones trilogy did not share any connection between movies. This separation is even more pronounced in the game as it felt like I was playing three short games as opposed to one large game as it did in LEGO Star Wars. The problem was far worse in LEGO Batman. This game was not based on any movie or comic book story arc. The developers choose to create a completely original storyline for the game. It is now quite obvious that story telling is not Traveler’s Tales strong point. The plot in LEGO Batman is simple, bad guys have escaped Arkham Asylum and it is up to the gamer, playing as Batman and Robin to round up these villainous fiends and put ‘em back behind bars. It’s not that the story is bad, it’s just not good. Another problem with LEGO Batman is that the characters do not appear realistic anymore (even for LEGO characters). Since watching “The Dark Knight” movie, no one associates Batman with the campy 60s TV show for which the games appears to draw it’s inspiration.
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A big part of the fun in the LEGO series of games is trying to figure out each missions' "puzzles. I use the word puzzle loosely because most of them are nothing more than break items, hold the B button next to the bouncing pile of bricks and watch them self assemble into the solution needed to move to the next section of the level. In LEGO Indiana Jones, the puzzle element has greatly expanded to more challenging puzzles. Now items at times need to located then carried long distances to allow access to another level. The hats are back in LEGO Indiana Jones. Just as in LEGO Star Wars, wearing a different hat can allow characters access to restricted areas of the game. But this time there is no need to locate a hat dispenser as hats can pick off the ground after having defeated an enemy. Another new twist to the puzzles is the introduction of phobias to the mix. A few characters have fears of specific critters. Indy for example is afraid of snakes and at the first sign of a snake will freeze and become pretty much be useless. The puzzles in LEGO Batman even trickier as the game introduces various suits available for each hero. These suits add different abilities to the hero, such as the ability to glide or walk up metallic wall. These new abilities are crucial to solving the puzzles that populate each mission, some of which are not always obvious. I found myself stuck way to often in LEGO Batman.
For those that have played any of the LEGO games, they will feel right at home with the controls of LEGO Batman and LEGO Indiana Jones. The left analog stick controls the main character, the X button is used to perform various attacks, the A button to jump, the B button to perform various actions and the Y button to switch between characters. When playing in FREEMODE, the left and right bumpers are used to cycle between available characters. The games differ only on the types of weapons used. Indy of course has his whip and can use any weapon dropped by enemies. Indy also has the capability to dig and repair objects given he has the correct tool in hand. Batman, true to the mythos, does not use any guns instead relying on a handy stash of gadgets such as his batarang to administer justice. Pressing down on the X button for more than a second will enable a targeting system that will allow gamers to take out multiple targets at once.
The graphics in both games are great, but LEGO Batman is by far offers the best visual of the series. Gotham City simply looks amazing. LEGO Batman also wins in the sound and music category as the developers wisely choose to use the score from Tim Burton’s Batman movie created by Danny Elfman. This score, along with the dark graphics, really sets the tone for the game. This dark tone is in stark contrast the light humour of the game, to the point that the typically enjoyable whimsical humour was becoming a distraction. Like it or not folks, Batman should not be a child friendly hero.
Maybe Traveler’s Tales are pumping out these LEGO games a little too quickly as both new titles suffered from minor to serious glitches. On more than one occasion I ended up being stuck somewhere not being able to move. This appeared to happen when my character died and re-appeared someplace that I could escape from. I was able to switch to the other character but could not do anything as I could not leave the screen without my partner. The problems occurred most often when playing with a friend. This is a problem because many gamers love playing this game with their friend or family members. In LEGO Indiana Jones, a glitch prevented me from accessing the 3 “secret area”, and thus it was impossible to complete many of the achievements.
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Both games do offer plenty of gaming value. LEGO Indiana Jones contains many hidden bonuses such as the 3 secret areas I mentioned previously. LEGO Batman does offer a unique spin to the LEGO games by allowing gamers to play the same mission over again as the villains. There is something that is sickly fun in playing as the Riddler, Two-Face or the Joker and and wreak havoc in Gotham City. The only downside is that players do not get to take on Batman and Robin while playing as a villain. The mission ends at the point just before they would meet up with the dynamic duo. Both games offer plenty of challenging achievements to unlock, that alone will ensure plenty of replay value.
As the saying goes when something is not broken why fix it and this is what Traveler’s Tale (the developers) did with these two new titles. They used the same magic trick that worked wonders for LEGO Star Wars and applied it to LEGO Batman and LEGO Indiana Jones. The result is two new games that are different, yet familiar all at once. Strange thing thou is that the more often you see a magic trick, the less impressive it becomes. Maybe the game play is wearing thin or the quirky humour is not as quirky anymore, but LEGO Batman and LEGO Indiana Jones are just not as fun as LEGO Star Wars. I would recommend that anyone looking to purchase a LEGO title to pick the theme they enjoy the most (be it Batman, Star Wars or Indiana Jones), and purchase that one game and enjoy it fully. In reality if you play one game, you played them all. Having said that, I still enjoyed playing each one and do look forward to the next great game in the LEGO series (looking at you Harry Potter).