Where the game unfortunately suffers is in what's been taken out. It's not entirely fair to compare Indy to the feast of content that was LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga since that was a compilation of sorts, but even compared to the single Star Wars editions this feels disappointingly light on the features that matter once the story mode has been exhausted. The traditional Super Story mode, in which all six levels of a movie can be played through in one sitting, is gone. So too are the character and vehicle bonus levels. There's no equivalent replacement for the Star Wars bounty hunter missions and the online co-op play and two-player arena battles from The Complete Saga have also vanished.
That's a lot of features to lose, especially since these elements were integral in boosting the longevity of LEGO Star Wars, not only by giving you more things to do, but also by dishing out gold bricks for successful play, which could then be cashed in for yet more shiny new stuff. Kids love collecting things, earning new things to play with, and LEGO Indiana Jones ultimately feels rather thin on that front. All you get to unlock are a short bonus level based on the Young Indy prologue from The Last Crusade, an open-plan LEGO Ancient City to muck about in and - when you collect all the artefacts in the game - a slightly clumsy race track construction set. All are enjoyable, but it does mean that most players will have seen everything on offer all too soon.
There are 60 characters to earn, of course, but in an Indiana Jones game you're always going to want to play as Indiana Jones. Unlocking characters like Dancing Girl or British Soldier is therefore more of a completist's errand than a collector's dream. Considering part of the fun of LEGO Star Wars was still discovering and unlocking fun new things to do even after hours and hours of play, this feels like a step backwards. If variety is the spice of life then LEGO Indy offers salt and pepper, not sweet red chilli and ginger.
There are also no dedicated vehicle levels, with stunts like the iconic truck chase from Raiders woven into platforming levels rather than teased out into their own thing. Maybe this is because the vehicle sections in LEGO Star Wars were never the game's strongest suit, but The Complete Saga reworked some of the worst offenders - the Pod Race in particular - into something enjoyable so it's a shame to see things slip back a notch. The motorbikes of Last Crusade are horribly slippery things, while the legendary mine cart chase of Temple of Doom loses all its energy thanks to a circular design that sees you rattling around and around the same small track, struggling with awkward collision detection to hit sequences of switches. Other vehicular moments with gaming potential, such as Temple of Doom's raft ride down the mountain or Last Crusade's brief aerial dogfight, are dealt with only in cut-scenes.
This is all starting to sound a bit grinchy, so at this point I feel I should point out that my five-year-old son, who helped me with the hands on preview, is currently at 99.7 percent completion on our second save game with just one character left to unlock. He's certainly commented on the absence of familiar features, and seems less enthused about collecting billions of LEGO studs now that there's not as much to spend them on, but he's still been happily replaying his favourite levels over and over, just as he did with Star Wars. That, to me, is the true test for the value of a kid's game and it suggests that, once again, Traveller's Tales has come up with a core game that inspires and excites its primary audience with laser precision.
None of my critical grumbles, therefore, should be taken to mean that LEGO Indiana Jones is a crushing disappointment or an easy cash-in on a popular template. In gameplay terms it represents a commendable improvement on an already solid framework and seems to captivate its young players with the same gently challenging grip o' fun as LEGO Star Wars did. It's just a shame that this evolution seems to have come at the expense of many of the peripheral activities that made the previous LEGO games a more robust and varied experience in the long term. Parents, and shameless big kids of all ages, should certainly snap up a copy - just be prepared to unearth most of its treasure sooner rather than later.
7 / 10