It's rage-inducingly frustrating, its comedy is hit-and-miss, and it's packed with gameplay and interface problems that could probably have been fixed by a team of reasonably talented monkeys, but the XBox 360 version of Lego Indiana Jones still manages to be a pretty fun game.
This is the third attempt by developer Traveler's Tales to mix the superficially disparate fields of "Lego" and "Harrison Ford", the first two being Lego Star Wars and its sequel. Lego Star Wars was a heap of fun, largely because it saw "difficulty" and "challenge" as outdated concepts that got in the way of busting up Lego with lightsabers. The second Lego Star Wars was not quite as unexpectedly good, thanks to levels that I'd like to call "bafflingly misguided" but which a layman might describe as "cheap".
Lego Harrison Ford 3 takes everything that was a bad idea from the last game and does more of it. If you're the sort of player that likes unhelpful camera angles, single-hit kills, unintuitive controls, poor targeting, and frustrating jumping sections, then buying this game is going to make you feel like magical pixies have invaded your house and installed platforming heaven in your media centre.
If you're the other sort of player, though, you'll probably feel a little let down. Only a little, though. Because Lego is still awesome. That's a scientifically proven fact.
For those who've never played a Lego Harrison Ford game before, here are the basics: you take control of a little Lego character (in this case Indiana Jones or one of his friends and enemies) and you run through 18 platform-centric levels based on the plot of three movies (in this case the first three Indiana Jones films). In each level the primary task is to reach the end, but along the way you'll fight angry little Lego enemies, bust up a bunch of Lego scenery, build a selection of Lego objects, and perform assorted ancillary tasks like deciphering glyphs, posing as a Nazi, or digging for buried treasure. You can die as many times as you like; the only penalty is that you lose a portion of any Lego "studs" you've collected so far on the level.
At all times you're provided with a companion. In single player games you can switch between the characters on the fly, and indeed you'll need to use both Indy and his sidekick to solve many of the puzzles in the game. Getting to try out a bunch of different characters is one of the high points of the game and it's as fun this time as it was in the Star Wars titles.
You can also play two-player co-op. Multiplayer sounds like an excellent idea in theory but in practice it's a great way to lose friends. There's no way to turn friendly fire off, so you'll regularly be accidentally killing your partner. Both players have to stay on the same screen, so most of the time either the camera will be zoomed so far out you won't be able to see what you're doing, or the camera will "drag" the slower player along behind the faster one, usually into some kind of lethal trap. Also, whereas the computer is capable of performing tricky jumps perfectly every time, with two human players each of the athletic sequences becomes twice as frustrating because a failure by either player will bollocks your attempt.
The story of the three movies is told largely by Lego cutscenes. There's no voice acting so the dialogue is done through Lego-themed mime. These interludes can be cute, but unlike the Star Wars games they're actually rubbish at telling the story. If, like me, you haven't watched Temple of Doom in a while you'll be left scratching your head as to exactly what the heck is going on. That's important, because a lot of the game's "puzzles" are actually less about deduction than they are about remembering what happened in the movie and copying it. The final puzzle of The Last Crusade, for example, is childishly simple if you've seen the movie but nigh-on unsolvable merely by reference to what's present in the level. Still, it's unlikely you'd be keen to buy an Indiana Jones game unless you had at least a passing familiarity with the movies.
While the game may be regularly frustrating, it's never actually hard, and even the most inept player won't find it difficult to reach 100% completion. There's about 12 hours of gameplay all told, which is great because it means you'll see all the content before getting to the end of your attention span.
Finally, many casual players seemed to find the second Lego Star Wars game far less annoying than I did, so it may be that if you're not a frequent gamer you won't even notice the many irritations that plague Lego Indy. If so, you're in luck, because you'll be able to enjoy the fun without wanting to beat the developers with a two-by-four.
Gripes aside, Lego Indiana Jones is a colourful, accessible and entertaining game that's suitable for all ages, and if it's not quite as good as its predecessors then that still leaves it in a better position than most of its competition. I give it a firm rating of "probably fun".