I wasn't even down to see LucasArts' LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues at gamescom 2009, but with some time to spare and I sat down to see what the sequel had to offer. Having previously thought that this sequel was one of the most sly handed things I'd ever seen, in that it was essentially the original game with the new film bolted on, I left the demo feeling rather foolish. Not only is the game entirely new content, but there's a brilliant looking level editor included too!
If you weren't a fan of the original game then it's unlikely you're going to be blown away by what's on offer here, but everyone else is going to lap it up. The first three films are here, and their story is obviously the same, but the gameplay scenarios are completely different. According to the LucasArts representative demoing the game, you won't play through a single section that has been lifted directly from the 2008 game. That alone is a load of content, but there's the game version of the newest film bolted on to that, and five new hubs, bringing the total to six. These aren't just areas to select levels from, either, with each being massive and full of challenges and collectables.
Those wondering whether or not the trademark humour seen in LEGO games returns needn't worry. Our demo included the famous face melting scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, although in the game there's no melting, with those involved instead dancing to a rejigged version of the classic Indy tune - they do all get zapped at the end of it though!
If you've played any of the LEGO games (Star Wars, Batman, Indiana Jones) you'll no doubt have played with a friend at some point. While playing with another real player is the best way to experience each of the games, from time to time it did cause some problems. If one of you wanted to head off to the right and explore, but the other wanted to build an item over to the left, the game would zoom out as much as possible before maxing out. This has been tackled in LEGO Indy 2 thanks to a new split-screen mode. If the two players separate beyond what the zoom can handle the screen will dynamically switch to split-screen, with the line across the screen indicating where each player is in relation to the other. It seems odd at first, but really helps the game flow and should make for less frustration when playing with a friend.
By far the most exciting new addition to the game, though, is the level and item creation tools. I'm not usually one to get too enthusiastic about being able to make your own content, but it's done here in such a cool way that it's hard not to think back to being a kid again. To begin with you lay down those green LEGO mats that everyone had to build on. That alone is a pretty clever move on LucasArts' part, instantly sending everyone of a certain age back to their childhood. From there you pick items and parts from a menu and wander around the map with your LEGO figure, placing them down where you want. It's an incredibly simple system, but one that works exceedingly well and should be easily accessible to a wide range of ages and skill levels - something that we don't think Sony's admittedly impressive LittleBigPlanet really catered for.
During our demo we were shown how traps could be set up, with a kind of tethering tool letting you link together pieces of machinery and other items. If you want a set of ground spikes to be triggered when someone stands on one of five floor plates, simply place all the items in the game world, then drag the connection tool wire from the actual trap to each of the pads. It might be a bit laborious for some who want a more clinical level editing system, but most people will find it works a treat. At the moment it's unclear how sharing levels will work, if it's an option at all - given that the game is targeting a young audience LucasArts is mindful of what could be shared over an internet connection.
I didn't expect much from LEGO Indy 2, but it's right up there challenging for my biggest surprise of gamescom 2009. With a tonne of new content, improved multiplayer, new hubs, and an excellent level creation tool we can't see LEGO Indy 2 being anything but a great success. The only slightly odd thing is the timing, with no Indy film due soon to help with publicity. This is unlikely to matter, though, with LEGO and Indiana Jones being two of the most well known properties around.
LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues is due for release on Wii, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3, PSP and Xbox 360 later this year.