Indiana Jones and Jason Bourne move to videogames

By Charles Herold

New York Times News Service

With the release of the action adventure game "Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures," Harrison Ford has become the first actor to be turned into a Lego video game character twice. That may not be the first thing he lists on his resume, but it’s got to rank above starring in "Six Days, Seven Nights."

"Original Adventures" follows the basic format of its predecessors, "Lego Star Wars" and "Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy," by setting the first three Indiana Jones movies in the Lego universe. A toy Indy travels through jungles filled with Lego-brick trees and explores caves populated by Lego snakes, battling soldiers, thugs and religious zealots who when vanquished collapse into a pile of Lego pieces.

Scenes from the films are recreated in amusing animated sequences that poke gentle fun at the movies, as when Indy is so engrossed in a treasure map that he fails to notice his men being ambushed one by one. The game characters don’t speak, so if you haven’t seen the films, you won’t be able to follow the stories.


The games aren’t about the story as much as they are about breaking stuff and solving puzzles, the latter of which frequently involves breaking stuff. Smashing Lego furniture releases coins (collect enough to win the title of "true adventurer") and sometimes piles of tiles that can be used to build ladders and other useful things.

Indy is accompanied by various characters from the movies, and the player must switch from one to the next, since they all have different skills. Women can jump higher than the men, while Short Round, the boy from "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," can crawl through small entrances to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. Indy himself is able to use his whip as a grappling hook or to grab out-of-reach objects. He can also use it to snare a leading lady to bring her toward him for a quick kiss.

The game has a good feel for the movies, creating convincing Lego simulations of film locations and using character traits in the gameplay. Indy’s snake phobia means that he will refuse to move until you can clear away a nest of reptiles, while Willie from "Temple of Doom" can use her piercing scream to break glass.

Combat in the game is more cute than challenging. Indy can punch or whip opponents into submission, toss them over his shoulder and occasionally grab a fallen enemy’s sword or gun, but if he is bested he simply collapses into a pile of Legos and is then resurrected a couple of seconds later, so there is little sense of urgency or danger. The game’s puzzles make the player work a little harder, and some are clever, but the puzzles and combat do become repetitive, although not to the point where the game stops being fun.

This simple gameplay is appropriate to the game’s primary target audience, children. But it is notable just how much fun adults can have with it.

Not every adult wants to play with children’s toys, and those who want a somewhat more adult movie-based action game may prefer Robert Ludlum’s "The Bourne Conspiracy," a retread of the 2002 action movie, "The Bourne Identity."

The game begins as the government assassin Jason Bourne sets out to kill a guy named Wambosi. Things go wrong, and Bourne winds up on a fishing boat with a case of amnesia. After this, the game splits its time between flashbacks in which Bourne relives a series of assassinations and the present-day Bourne’s efforts to discover his identity and avoid being killed by his ex-employers.

As slick and empty as the movie that inspired it, "Conspiracy" is simple and linear but generally entertaining, as Bourne engages in a series of shootouts and fistfights.


Both are quite simple. Fighting involves two punch buttons and one block button, while in shootouts Bourne can hide behind a bookcase, pop out, take a shot and duck back in. As he fights, Bourne’s adrenaline rises, allowing the player to use special moves in which Bourne might break a chair over someone’s head or throw an opponent into the gunfire of a comrade.

These moments are cinematic, but "Conspiracy’s" determination to appear just like a movie can work against it. The game plays as though an invisible hand shoves the player inexorably forward in a straight line, and the simplicity of the game design makes "Conspiracy" feel at times as though it’s been fitted with training wheels.

"Conspiracy" flitters between fair and good. Some moments are quite entertaining, like Bourne’s crazed run through an embassy, chased by guards and slipping through security gates just as they slam shut. The game is stronger in the present sequences than in the past; the flashback assassinations all feel about the same, but the main story’s gameplay is more varied, including one easy but exciting car chase and a firefight in a train tunnel periodically broken up by passing trains.

Like many movie-to-game adaptations, "Conspiracy" wants to look like a movie but doesn’t want to actually be one. There is no character development and plot comes in little snippets that fail to coalesce into an actual story. Toward the end, one character asks Bourne, "If you kill me, who will tell you the truth?" I immediately thought, "What truth?" Unlike the movie, the game completely fails to raise any curiosity about Bourne. "Conspiracy" is not about finding the truth, it’s about getting from point A to point B without bleeding to death.

I have always hoped that someday a game would appear that would really be a game of the movie, one that took the full story and added interactive action. Movielike video games like "Max Payne" or "Silent Hill 2" have successfully combined compelling stories with compelling gameplay, but games like "Conspiracy" don’t even try.

If games are going to refuse to tell the stories of the movies they are based on, they might as well all be cast with Lego toys. Adult-themed Lego games might, now that I think of it, be pretty entertaining. They would also allow Harrison Ford to continue his career as a toy hero. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would jump at the chance to play a game called "Lego Apocalypse Now."


Developed by Traveller’s Tales and published by LucasArts for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2 and Wii; for ages 10 and up; $50 (Xbox, PSP 3 and Wii) and $40 (PSP 2).



Developed by High Moon Studios and published by Vivendi Games/Sierra Entertainment for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3; for ages 13 and up; $60.

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