Platform: XBOX, PS3, Wii, DS, PC, PSP
As James May has proved this year, there’s just something about the old classic toys. It’s hard to imagine Captain Slow doing a follow-up series 25 years down the line to build a giant Go Go Hamster or, indeed, a Ben 10 Alien Force Kevins DX Action Cruiser, whatever the hell that is.
You can, though, imagine him doing another programme on LEGO, because LEGO has charm. LEGO has, well, legs. It’s as accessible as toys get: give anyone a few bricks and within a few seconds they’ll have stuck them together in a variety of combinations. But LEGO have also been canny and, while they’ve maintained the beautiful simplicity of their original product, they’ve also moved forward.
Take this year’s predicted Top Ten of Christmas Toys, for example. Alongside the zappy noisy flashy things, there’s something called LEGO’s Minotaurus, which combines board game with the standard brick building. It’s a neat twist on the company’s conventional product range and demonstrates some sharp thinking in the boardroom. It’s also educational but shush, don’t tell the kids that...
There’s better evidence of LEGO’s nous over in the electronics department. Video games and educational building toys are not an obvious marriage but someone, somewhere deserves a big bonus for spotting LEGO’s potential, marrying it to assorted movie franchises and bringing it all to a console near you.
Star Wars was great, Indiana Jones and Batman were better. All were creative, good natured, laugh-out-loud funny, smart and challenging. In 2010 we’re going to get LEGO Harry Potter (I believe the word that springs to mind is “woot”). And in the meantime we’ve got... Oh. Right. It’s Indy. Again.
The game is mostly based around The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the fourth Indy film and the one that didn’t get covered in the previous game. Don’t let that put you off though. This game might be entitled “The Adventure Continues” but that’s only part of the story as, alongside the proper, in-depth, tongue-in-cheek take on Crystal Skull (which is probably better than the film itself), the makers have also returned to the first three films.
Some developers would just polish the old game. LEGO have rebuilt them with entirely new content and new challenges. Even the navigation is different. Instead of the central college-themed hub, each movie now gets its own, themed, central point, and even these are packed with areas to explore, puzzles to solve and things to collect.
Better than that, they’ve tweaked the two-player mode in brilliant fashion. No longer are you required to be in the same area of the map. If one player wants to wander off, they can, and the split screen dividing line automatically becomes a “compass” so you can find each other quickly if there’s a puzzle that needs solving. It’s a genius touch and you can expect many games to copy it in months to come.
Better than that though is the level builder. It might seem slightly daft to celebrate a game that allows you to play with virtual LEGO when you could play with the real thing, but this is beautifully crafted stuff. You can build simple levels, you can build incredibly complex, booby-trapped levels. Either way, you’ll learn the necessary skills in less than a minute, thanks to an instinctive, and flexible, system that makes Little Big Planet look like a degree in advanced architecture.
In gaming terms, the delightful LEGO Indiana Jones 2 is about as far removed from the blood-splattering big sellers as you can get. The clever thing about it though is you don’t really notice. For all its funky graphics and friendly colours, this isn’t just a kids game: the depth of the puzzles and challenges frequently requires some serious thought.
It’s also a game that requires and encourages repeat play, with secret levels and ongoing challenges that can only be accessed when you’ve completed other stages and unlocked certain characters. You can certainly zap through it and enjoy it at surface level. But if you put the time in, you’ll get even greater rewards.
With this, and LEGO Rock Band, their massively enjoyable take on the guitar wielding genre, LEGO (and the brilliant chaps at Traveller’s Tales) have proven themselves to be right up there with the game world’s best. It would be nice now to see them take on other genres. They attempted a PS2 sports sim once before with not great results but seriously, how cool would LEGO FIFA be? Bring on the brick-crunching tackles! And what about LEGO Call of Duty? I want to see the bricks fly as my LEGO sniper takes out a LEGO paratrooper from several thousand metres...