Well I suppose this game was to be expected, even if no one could really see how it would work. With Lego Indiana Jones focusing on the original (and much superior!) trilogy, many people were hoping there simply wouldn't be enough material left over to make a Lego sequel based on the tepid Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Guess those people were wrong, huh?
Well, not entirely - there is indeed not enough material in one movie to make up an entire Lego game. So Tell Tale has done something a little off-centre and reinvented the original trilogy to make it also seem shiny and new. The result is a game that tries really hard, at every moment, to convince you that its existence is worthwhile. In some cases it succeeds, but a number of the changes haven't been for the better.
So what actually is new? For starters, you have a good half dozen brand new levels based on the new movie. Happily - and I'm sorry for repeatedly bashing KotCS here - the "Legofication" of the movie actually improves on the source material. There's no dialogue to deal with, the Indy Lego model doesn't look so old, and Shia LeBouf is just...well, he's less Shia LeBouf. The Lego humour that's a signature of the series (and really, the primary reason I play these games) is well intact here, which is great to see.
The original trilogy, meanwhile, feels a bit less...whole...than before. In an effort to not repeat themselves too much, the developers have added new levels based off previously-unused scenes from the movies. But the result is something that doesn't hold together as well as the previous game did. It's like there was a tension between wanting to offer a complete package for new players, and not wanting to go over the same ground for returning fans. In the end, the compromise might not please too many people.
The gameplay is still largely the same as before, but beyond polishing up a few things here and there, the developers have also added new abilities and items that help make the characters feel more interesting. The star is Indy's new whip, now with Real Whip Physics! You can now aim a targeting reticule at various items onscreen, and Indy will attempt to whip it good (sorry). if it's an enemy, they'll get tied up. If it's an overhang or something similar, you can swing up onto it. It's a nice touch, although not a total game changer.
As usual, I strongly recommend playing this game with another person alongside you. It's a lot more fun that way - I just wish they'd make a four-player Lego game one day. One of the better new features of Lego Indy 2 is an automated split-screen system, where players share one screen if they're close together, but can now wander off and still remain visible. Much better than the old system, which led to a lot of accidental deaths as one person forced the camera to pan, pushing the other person into a hole.
Other changes aren't so good. The new hub levels are more confusing in general, and make finding the start to the next level more difficult then it should be. Really, this was also just a glorified menu screen/sandbox, so why mess with it? Another change is the replayability of each level - or rather, the comparative lack thereof. Whereas in previous games you could enter Freeplay mode, there's now little point, as instead of containing areas that can only be accessed by, say, those who can double-jump, there are now simply access points to bonus stages. Unfortunately, these bonus stages are a poor substitute for finding a ton of extra areas in an actual level.
The graphics have also changed, but they take a step further towards realistic-looking backgrounds and buildings, which makes the Lego bricks scattered around seem even more out of place. It's something I started getting uneasy with in Lego Batman, but it's taken further here. However, that may just be a pet dislike of mine, so take it with a grain of salt - I just preferred it when Lego objects were mixed with backgrounds made up of simple, bright colour palettes and textures.
Lego Indiana Jones 2 does a lot here to try and make it seem like a worthwhile purchase. Unfortunately, a number of important gameplay features just seem like they were changed for the sake of changing, and have come out worse than before. I certainly think that the Lego series gameplay was getting stale, but if this is an experiment to try and freshen things up, here's hoping the developers go in a different direction for whatever's next. If you haven't played the first Lego Indy, this may still be a worthwhile purchase, but even then it's hard to recommend when you can't simply play through all of the original film's levels. Give this one a rent and see how you like it.