ROBERT LUDLUM’S THE BOURNE CONSPIRACY
(Sierra; Xbox 360 and PS3; Teen)
In much the same way some evil CIA agents ”programmed” Jason Bourne to be the ultimate killing machine, videogame developers have conditioned many a fan to believe that games based on movie franchises are doomed to failure. But every once in a (long) while there comes a title — we’re looking at you, The Chronicles of Riddick — that is the welcome exception to that unwritten rule. And so it is with Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Conspiracy. Once you get past the fact that this Jason Bourne (intentionally) looks nothing like Matt Damon, the game looks, sounds, and feels like a Bourne film. Though it boasts far more bone-shattering, guts-splattering chaos than we remembered the movies ever having, Conspiracy features a solid story that even attempts to fill in a few narrative gaps by guiding out troubled hero through several missions before the pivotal Wombosi assassination attempt that causes him to lose his memory.
Most of the credit for the game’s success goes to Conspiracy‘s hand-to-hand combat system, which does a brilliant job of translating the films’ signature rapid-cut fight sequences to the game. Crucial to all the fun you’ll have in these fisticuffs are the ”Takedown” maneuvers. Regular punches and kicks fill up an adrenaline meter. Once it hits a certain level you can make use of certain objects in the environment (say, an office cart), hit the appropriate buttons on the controller, and watch Bourne do his thing. He’ll hurl opponents into furniture, ram faces into car bumpers, and clobber heads with fire extinguishers. As much fun as it is to smash a tough guy’s head into a fuse box, the law of diminishing returns dictates that it’s not too long before the slugfests get repetitive (and they do). Fortunately, Conspiracy features plenty of shootouts — with all kinds of devastating firearms — to mix things up. The game also channels some of the daredevil car chase scenes in the movies by putting you behind the wheel of a zippy Mini Cooper. Conspiracy encounters its own share of bumps in the road, but overall offers an experience that not even Jason Bourne would forget. B+
LEGO INDIANA JONES: THE ORIGINAL ADVENTURES
(LucasArts; Xbox 360, PS3, Wii; Everyone 10+)
After a seemingly endless run of LEGO Star Wars titles, the newest kid on the (plastic) block is LEGO Indiana Jones. The game re-imagines the first three Indy films (it doesn’t cover this summer’s Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) by using a familiar formula that blends cutesy caricatures, a sly sense of humor, and lots of bricks. The signature puzzles — which usually require pushing pieces from one place to another, flipping switches, or assembling contraptions — are more tedious than the ones in the Star Wars games.
Also, the game’s cast of characters isn’t nearly as remarkable or diverse as the ones you encounter in a galaxy far, far away. After swinging around with Indy and his whip, your choices for playable characters go south in a hurry. After being able to cue up droids, aliens, bounty hunters and Jedi knights, it’s a bit of a letdown to play as the Maharajah from Temple of Doom or a nameless Hovitos tribesman from Raiders. Still, you have a heart of stone if you can’t laugh when Indy freezes up when he comes across snakes or when Willie mumbles her way through a brief rendition of ”Anything Goes”. Lego Indiana Jones can be devilishly charismatic. If only it didn’t seem like just another brick in the wall. B-