Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures

Indiana Jones is fond of reminding his students that, "We never follow maps to buried treasure and 'X' never, ever marks the spot." But this cliché for successful treasure hunting is exactly the method that eventually leads Indy to the Holy Grail in the third, and arguably best, of the Indiana Jones movies. It's an important lesson in sticking to a tried and tested formula and exploiting something that's right under your nose.

And in combining the resonant childhood world of Lego with equally powerful movie licences, Traveller's Tales has something of a Holy Grail in its hands: a series of games that deliver massive sales with simple, strong and wholesome gameplay to boot. When the entire Star Wars saga was Lego-fied we couldn't get enough, but if anything Lego Indiana Jones is consistently better than its predecessors.

As the title suggests, you get all three movies crammed into one stunning DS package. For the uninitiated that's Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. You begin every game from the museum 'lobby' and thankfully you can elect to play any of the adventures from the beginning, though subsequent chapters must be unlocked sequentially.

There were concerns that the Lego formula wouldn't quite fit with the Indy tone as well as it did with the sci-fi universe of Star Wars. (Indeed, Star Wars has enjoyed a long association with Lego.) Yet these fears are soon assuaged when you enter your first level. The Saturday matinee adventure movie feel has been replicated brilliantly in Lego form, with caverns and tombs taking to the Danish nobbly plastic as if it were meant to be. And when you see the Lego monkey, Lego snakes and Lego crocodiles you will feel like a five-year-old again.

Levels have been beautifully designed throughout, exhibiting a sublime blend of action and puzzling. There's just something intrinsically pleasing about collecting stray Lego blocks, exploring ancient tombs, finding secret chambers and working out how to escape from diabolical traps. If anything, the puzzle elements work better here than they did in the Star Wars adventures.

The puzzles are more diverse and clever, for one. You may have to consult a puzzle book and enter the correct Lego shapes to open a coffin, construct Lego wheels and pulleys, or even blow out torches or light dynamite to open up new areas. While it's true that some of these puzzles may be a little difficult for very young gamers, often requiring logic rather than trial and error, the sense of satisfaction that comes from completing them is so much higher.

And then there's Indy's whip. This device is implemented superbly into the fabric of the game, allowing Indy to do all manner of heroic acts. Along with combat moves like stunning and disarming enemies, the whip also launches Indy over huge chasms, up to high ledges and at certain points in the game will trigger plot devices. To this extent Lego Indiana Jones feels like a much more nimble, exuberant adventure.

If there's one criticism of the whip it's that it makes many of the other characters feel emasculated. Though many of them have other special abilities, such as spades to dig for treasure or umbrellas to hook onto zip lines, they just don't have the inherent coolness of Indy, or his flamboyance. As in previous Lego games there's many a secret to unlock by running through the levels again, but it's your first time through with Indy that will be the best.

Crucially, all the brilliant moments from the Indiana Jones movies have been captured and are further enhanced by some genuinely chucklesome cut-scenes. We particularly enjoyed the levels designed around the classic giant boulder scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the mine cart scene from Temple of Doom and the Parisian sewers from The Last Crusade. But these are just highlights; pretty much every level has its fair share of iconic moments and Traveller's Tales should be congratulated on capturing them so well.

Indeed, the developer has come under criticism from some quarters for delivering gameplay that's too simple. We couldn't disagree more. The Lego games may appear shallow to the casual observer, or those who just don't get it, but look beyond the Lego licence and you'll also discover levels that are brimming with clever design, depth of options, brilliantly judged difficulty and a meta structure that encourages the exploration of every nook and cranny.

This DS iteration also includes many mini-games and touchscreen elements that work with the design rather than against it. Indy's whip can be flicked with your thumb, torches extinguished by blowing into the microphone sensor and cogs turned by rotating the stylus on the touchscreen. Little details but ones that go towards creating a stronger bond between you and this unique Lego universe.

Our criticisms are very minor. The combat can feel a little sticky sometimes and occasionally you will find enemies shooting at you from off-screen, but it's not enough to spoil the engaging fist-fighting entirely. There are also no save points mid-mission, which can be a bit of a problem if your battery is running down as some levels can take over 30 minutes to complete first time through.

So is Lego Indiana Jones some kind of Holy Grail of game design? Of course not, but it is a formula that works beautifully. With all the Star Wars movies under its belt, Lego Indy in the bag and Lego Batman on the way we certainly hope that Traveller's Tales doesn't stray too far from what we've come to love and expect.

Because in this case, 'X' most definitely marks the spot.

Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures

Beautifully designed and a joy from start to finish - DS gets possibly the best version of Lego Indy of them all
Mark Walbank
Mark Walbank
Ex-Edge writer and retro game enthusiast, Mark has been playing games since he received a Grandstand home entertainment system back in 1977. Still deeply absorbed by moving pixels (though nothing 'too fast'), he now lives in Scotland and practices the art of mentalism.