I Did Warn You Not To Get Me Started On The Shortcomings Of The ‘Lego Indiana Jones’ Games

Larry Groznic

Well, there we go, Adam. You had to reopen an old wound.

I apologize for derailing the discussion, and I will let you make your point in due time, but when provoked with a statement on this subject so staggeringly ignorant as “I actually thought they were pretty fun,” I cannot maintain both my silence and my conscience. The Lego Indiana Jones video games are fraught with glaring shortcomings that I feel duty-bound to report, if only as a warning. Does “fun,” in your own personal glossary, mean seeing a classic motion picture series chewed up and regurgitated as pointless tests of rudimentary motor skill? Or is it time-devouring stretches with no idea where to go or what to do that fill your soul with gladness?


This is no rash or ill-considered opinion, mind you. Had the games only lived up to the quality standard of the Lego building sets, I would have been elated. Nor is this a tantrum about the game not matching the movies beat for beat, or misplaced rage over the unforgivable betrayal that was Lego The Hobbit. The simple fact of the matter is that LucasArts, in cooperation with Traveller’s Tales, wrought two indisputably flawed exercises in tedium and futility with their adaptations of the Indiana Jones films.

Allow me to start with Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures, the first of their two alternately ineffectual and frustrating bagatelles, and a game you said “has some puzzle elements that are kind of cool.” Your assessment is as bewildering to me as it is disappointing, Adam, because from the moment its opening cut-scene ends, the game reveals itself not as an intriguing series of mysteries for the player to solve in pursuit of a priceless artifact, but a tiresome laundry list of errands to be obeyed in strict sequence.

Consider: While the Indiana Jones of film punches out Nazis, his mute Lego doppelgänger spends far more time attacking trees and flowers. Indy can scarcely walk five steps without finding a cluster of greenery that he’s compelled to destroy in order to collect the tiny Lego studs that constitute the in-game currency. Even when outrunning the giant boulder—that most iconic moment from Raiders—he’s evidently supposed to risk his life brutalizing the vegetation for a few extra studs. So you’ll understand, Adam, if I’m at a bit of a loss as to what makes this game “pretty fun.”

Perhaps the mine-cart chase was what you liked so much? I grant that it was well-animated, but the actual gameplay is a perfunctory exercise in button-pushing that doesn’t challenge one’s reflexes or generate any sense of stakes or peril, making it a tremendous disappointment to anyone with a thoughtful appreciation of The Temple Of Doom.


And the Last Crusade levels do nothing to redeem the charade, do they? Although I didn’t expect the witty interplay between tiny animated Lego replicas of Harrison Ford and Sean Connery to match the real thing, I also didn’t expect the game to disrespect the source material with so many trite cut-scenes. However, the greatest insult to our intelligence comes in “Chapter 4: Trouble In The Sky,” when Indy and his father must determine what time to set a clock to—and the correct answer appears in plain sight on a wall directly under the clock, a dead giveaway evoking the laziest of Flash room-escape games.

Frankly, Adam, I would have thought a game this lazy and hackneyed was beneath you.


In any case, revisiting the levels in free-play mode proved equally offensive, and a great encroachment upon my time, as I had to pull more than one all-nighter just to 100-percent the game before Star Wars: The Force Unleashed came out. The overworld of Barnett College was particularly infuriating, its hallways strewn with furniture for Indy to destroy in order to collect more Lego studs, to be traded for unlockable sundries at nothing less than confiscatory rates.

For the above reasons and others, I decided that I could miss Lego Indiana Jones 2, and for years I lived happily without it, until Ganonball dared impugn my gaming skill on my own Twitch channel—I, who speed-ran Lego Batman within a hairsbreadth of 90 minutes!—implying that the second installment would be too challenging for me.


No, it is not the game’s fault that I chose to defend my honor by vowing to complete it in a single marathon stream, or that Barry at GameStop mischaracterized the sequel as “the original game plus Crystal Skull,” suggesting it was simply the levels I’d already mastered supplemented with a new chapter. But I soon found myself in alien territory, and I do not mean the Temple of Akator. Nevertheless, I am sure I could have cleared the game in a neat 12 hours were it not so obviously flawed and so full of the inane gameplay that you, Adam, apparently cherish.

For your edification, here’s what a banal and unrewarding slog is: finding a hieroglyphics panel, being told you need a character with a book to decode it, going back through Shanghai and India to replay every unlocked level, puttering through every vehicle race in hopes of unlocking a character who has a book, rereading the game instructions, scouring the overworld by plane, and repeating the process for several hours! To be humiliated in such a public forum, with heavyweights like DonkeyPong and WeeGee6502 watching, is an experience I will never, ever live down.


This is what happens when you license the John Williams music and assume everything else will fall into place. Did the designers never play a good, puzzle-driven Indiana Jones game like Fate Of Atlantis or Infernal Machine? I daresay Raiders for the Atari 2600 or even Indiana Jones And His Desktop Adventures delivers more intellectual stimulus than your cherished Lego Indiana Jones, Adam.

But you know what? Perhaps the problem is with me. Perhaps George Lucas’ vision for Indiana Jones was of a man running around trying 50 different things and hoping the next one finally opens a door. Although I certainly don’t remember Indy and his father painstakingly maneuvering their clumsy motorcycles onto a pair of bright orange switches to get into yet another room to perform yet another mundane task, that may well be a deleted scene I missed on the Blu-rays.


And maybe one of Rob MacGregor’s spin-off novels had Indy unlocking the secrets of ancient empires by punching every tree, pot, and piece of furniture in sight, only to lose half the studs he earns negotiating the handholds on inexplicably rotating pillars! And was it a Marvel or Dark Horse comic that featured a juvenile disco-dance scene at what is supposed to be the dramatic peak of the story? My memory is not perfect, so perhaps I forgot about an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in which Indy drives around a quarter-square-mile area collecting 10 balloons to make a golden treasure chest appear. Yes, that would explain everything far better than breathtakingly incoherent game design.

So, Adam, when I speak of shortcomings, heed well my words, as they come from hard-won experience.


Anyway, go ahead with your point about Mass Effect: Andromeda.

Larry Groznic is a noted fan-community luminary and sought-after expert on the topics of British television, spy-fi memorabilia, cosplay, RPG adventuring, and limited-edition collectible maquettes. He lives in Cedar Rapids, IA, and is single.


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