TT Games talks up Lego Indiana Jones' resourcefulness on DS and PSP

The game's going to be grittier than Lego Star Wars

TT Games talks up Lego Indiana Jones' resourcefulness on DS and PSP

With millions of copies of the various Lego Star Wars games sold to happy kids and happier kidults, we're wondering how many times Lego's transformative powers can be successfully deployed? After all, Lego Indiana Jones is due this summer, with Lego Batman limbering up for a late autumn appearance, too.

One man who should know is TT Games' Jonathan Smith. After all, he is one of the primer movers of the original combination of Lego and Star Wars, as well as being the company's head of production.

So we caught up with him, and the game's producer Nick Ricks, to find out how Lego Indy was shaping up.

Pocket Gamer: The Indiana Jones films are more gritty and more humorous than the Star Wars films, so how has that affected the way you've approached the game?

Jonathan Smith: We were very aware, going in to this, that Indiana Jones has a different flavour to Star Wars, and we set out carefully to build a new game which used Indy's unique qualities to its advantage. So, yes, the world of Lego Indiana Jones is more 'gritty' than Lego Star Wars. Our environments are more richly detailed; our characters have a much wider range of abilities, and are able to make use of different items, tools and weapons in more realistic ways.

And we've found that the final experience is, as we'd hoped, different to Lego Star Wars. It has a distinct personality, while retaining all the gameplay elements which everyone enjoyed so much in those previous games.

In terms of humour: yes, the Indiana Jones movies have more out-and-out comedy in them than Star Wars, but that's been a perfect fit with our Lego approach. We've been able to amplify all the humour in the movies, and add plenty of new Lego moments for people to enjoy.

What do you think is the 'Legoness' of Indiana Jones?

One of Indy's main characteristics is his resourcefulness – his ability to use the objects he finds around him in surprising ways, to get out of dangerous situations. And that's perfect for a Lego game, where anything is possible. Everything can have surprising uses, and you never know what's coming next…

Obviously you have two Lego games in production. How difficult has it been to run simultaneous Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Batman teams?

It's been a lot of fun to have both games going alongside each other. The two teams have been pretty competitive.

Who's developing the DS and PSP versions of the game?

The PSP version comes from the same codebase as the other console platforms from the team at Traveller's Tales. The DS version is created using some of the same source assets, but with its own distinct game design and engine by TT Fusion, a specialist studio within the group.

How do you ensure the handheld games are as similar as possible to the main console versions, as well as making the most of each platforms' features?

The principles are pretty simple, and it's just about communication. Because the DS version shares cut-scenes with the other platforms, but has different level designs, we needed to ensure that changes on either side were properly managed and checked. In terms of making the most of the DS's features, that was down to the passion and talent of the TT Fusion team, always looking for more and more interesting ways to make use of the touchscreen and mic.

It seems like the DS has the most interesting special features and extras so have you aimed these towards the DS's assumed younger players?

We do offer lots of touchscreen gameplay as part of our core game mechanics; and then we add further mini-games, just for fun. I don't think the design there is particularly determined by a focus on any particular age group. We generally put stuff in that we think everyone will enjoy, and that we enjoy playing ourselves.

The best DS feature seems to be the controllable monkey. Can you explain how this works?

Nick Ricks: As in the Raiders of the Lost Ark, Marion and Indy are accompanied by their pet monkey. Gamers will have the opportunity to play as the monkey and use his dexterous skills to reach secret areas. This is achieved by stepping onto a red coloured Lego base plate, and activating the monkey by use of the touchpad. They can then nimbly scamper over and climb up specially marked pieces of terrain that lead to hidden treasures.

While we're here, can we ask how does the touchscreen control of Indy's whip work?

Nick Ricks: The touchscreen activates the whip as you move your thumb in the direction that is required. For example, to whip up and grab something above Indy, the player will need to make an upwards motion on the touchscreen. This also applies to all of Indy's other cool abilities, like tripping over and whip-grabbing bad guys. You can also activate these powers with a button press, although additional bonus studs are awarded for use of the touchscreen.

Finally, do you use the DS's wireless connectivity?

Jonathan Smith: Yes, we use the DS wireless capability to offer two-player co-op throughout the game, which is something we're really proud of.

Our thanks to Jonathan and Nick for their time. Lego Indiana Jones is due to be released on June 6th.
Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.