In the history of oddball combinations, "Lego Star Wars" ranks up there with Woody Allen's "What's up, Tiger Lily?" and the corn dog.

These are works that take seemingly disparate concepts, put them together and make them work beautifully.

With "What's up, Tiger Lily?," Allen takes a Japanese action film and reworks the subtitles to make a comedy about an egg salad recipe. With the corn dog, the inventor (and obvious genius) decided to go all MacGyver on us and create the perfect portable food out of two household staples. How can anyone top meat on a stick?

When it comes to "Lego Star Wars," that same serendipity comes with melding two childhood icons. The first is the Lego blocks, which we play with as children, building forts and castles. The second is "Star Wars," a movie franchise that we imagine taking part in as kids.

The result is a game that's both familiar and new, fresh and nostalgic. As "Lego Stars Wars" became a hit on consoles, the idea of Lego-izing other childhood icons took root. Now, the developer, Traveller's Tales, is bringing fans "Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures." The project covers the three previous films (sorry, "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" fans) and polishes the beat-'em up elements that made the first Lego titles so appealing.

In "Lego Indiana Jones," players control a toy version of our favorite archaeologist and a trusty sidekick such as Marion Ravenwood, his love interest in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," or his pint-size buddy Short Round. Each has a special ability. A friend can drop in at any time, but those playing by themselves can switch from Indy and a sidekick with a press of a button.

That's an important skill because aside from pummeling Nazis and Thuggee cult members, players will have to solve puzzles by controlling both characters. For instance, Indy will have to cross the tops of Shanghai storefronts. To do this, Willie will have to grab a rope pulling some of these awnings down.

In another case, Sallah, his Egyptian friend, will have to retrieve a torch at the opposite end of a room and shoo away snakes so Indy can cross a pit. (In the game, certain characters have phobias: Willie, his love interest in "Temple of Doom," is afraid of bugs; and Indy's dad is fearful of rats.) The actual joy of playing these games is seeing how Traveller's Tales re-imagines famous scenes in the franchise. In general, the team does a great job interpreting the movies with a whimsical sense of humor.

Players will be running from that tumbling boulder in "Raiders," but they'll also have to leap over gaps and buy some time to collect studs that are used as the game's money. Elsewhere in "Temple of Doom," that climactic bridge scene with Mola Ram is a battle where players have to hurl swords at four anchors while fending off the Thuggee cult's bald leader. After Mola Ram dies, a crocodile at the bottom of the ravine wears his nice little skull hat.

It's these touches that compel fans to play, and each film adaptation gets funnier with in-jokes and general silliness. After finishing "Raiders of the Lost Ark," I wanted to see how the developer would handle the lava pit scene in "Temple of Doom." After "Temple of Doom," I was curious to see how the "Last Crusade's" zeppelin fiasco would turn out.

What's interesting about this version is how the "Indiana Jones" franchise lends itself to gameplay. Maybe it's the film's influence on the industry, but each film scene seems like a natural level, especially the three trials at the Holy Grail temple.

But there are times, mostly during boss fights, that players may be stuck because they don't know the films too well or may not know what to do next. The objectives aren't that defined, and they may be clueless about an invincible enemy. There were moments when a bug halted progress altogether, and I had to restart a level. It's problems such as these that hurt the experience but don't necessarily kill it.

With Lego, filmmakers may have found a perfect vehicle to play out those summer movie games. It may not work with films such as "Sex and the City," but with some fare, like the "Incredible Hulk," it certainly wouldn't hurt to try.

Reach Gieson Cacho at 510-735-7076 or gcacho@bayarea news group.com. Read his blog at www.ibabuzz.com. /videogames.

game review
  • WHAT: "Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures"
  • PLATFORM: multiple platforms (Xbox 360 version reviewed)
  • RATING: Everyone
  • GRADE: B-