Indiana Jones movies are known for being among the best there is when it comes to action/adventure films. The console games based on them, on the other hand, aren't so lucky. So here's a brief look at every Indy game I bothered to track down and play for your reading pleasure.
Raiders of the Lost Ark for the Atari 2600 is one of the most confusing games I've ever played. The goal is, of course, to get the Ark of the Covenant but doing so is a test of pure dumb luck. The core of the gameplay involves picking up items and using them at different screens similar to a PC point'n'click adventure game but when and where to use what is never really apparent to the player without numerous experimenting and trial and error.
The game's major flaw is that its ambition is severely limited by what the 2600 could handle, but that doesn't mean they didn't try. Locations from the film appear such as the marketplace and the Well of Souls with somewhat familiar enemies and items showing up. Of course everything has that classic Atari look so you're going to have to use your imagination when you find a vacuum cleaner that turns out to be a flute.
For being released in 1982, Raiders has a lot of depth to it and a good deal of complexity. To expand on that fact, the game required two controllers to play because it needed more buttons then the standard controller had. My time with it was pretty brief since I just played it to prepare for this article but there's definitely something special about it so check it out if you get the chance, but be sure to grab a walkthrough after going a few rounds with it. You'll need it.
Indiana Jones' second film outing saw him rescuing enslaved children and getting into one action sequence after another while an Asian kid and blonde chick yelled about everything. Someone at Atari looked at this, thought it would be a great idea to make a game based on the film and set out to do so by removing everything wrong with it. What was left was turned into the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom arcade game in all its Willie and Short Round free glory.
The goal of the game is to save a set number of children per level, collect the Sankara Stones and defeat Mola Ram on the rope bridge. After saving all the kids in a level, Indy hops into a mine cart and hits the tracks before locating a stone and setting out to rescue more children. Along the way you'll have to fight off thugs, snakes, bats and Mola Ram himself appears occasionally to take a cheap shot at you. All in all, it's an enjoyable game that should be checked out by any fan of Indiana Jones or classic arcade games.
The NES version, on the other hand, is absolutely terrible for a whole host of reasons. While it keeps the basic goal of the arcade title, Atari tried to expand the game by making the levels bigger through the act of combining the mine cart and cavern areas. A nice gesture but the result is that now each level or wave has several sub-sections that need to be entered along with the player having to keep tabs on which area has the exit.
To accommodate for this new space, Indy was given the ability to jump...downwards. It's almost like he's trying to get to some fantastic treasure that's always just out of reach and, for some reason, in a pool of lava. Which brings us to the game's terrible hit detection, mostly when it comes to platform hopping. You could have a perfect swing going and then find yourself falling down the never ending map. Oh, I didn't mention that, yeah, the map loops endlessly in all directions so heading south will lead north, east leads west and my mood leads to the shitter.
The graphics are kind of rough on the eyes too and the color pallete is a complete mess of light/dark browns, blues and reds. The music is the closest thing to the arcade game that this ever gets; it features the same cave music and the Indiana Jones theme over and over and over again. That's not say that it's all bad, they give you three other weapons besides the whip to use but selecting them is a pain in the ass. Avoid the NES version at all costs and track down the arcade or PC versions if you want to play the real Temple of Doom.
For the third Indy film, the decision was made to create two separate games with one being a point'n'flick adventure game and the other a side scrolling action platformer. The difference between the two is that one is awesome (the adventure game) while the other isn't worth the effort it would take to toss it into the trash. Somehow, the Action game managed to find it's way to several different platforms where it proceeded to get suck all over everything.
This game excelled at having horrible controls and even worse hit detection. Indy's movements are pretty stiff with an extra floaty jump, an inability to attack while jumping and apparently his whip breaks after a few uses. Add in the fact that he takes damage from even the shortest of falls and dies whenever making contact with water or, of all things, searchlights and you've got the makings of one frustrating experience.
Nobody should ever play this game for any reason whatsoever. There is absolutely nothing good to be found in it and everyone involved in it's creation, along with their children and their children's children, should have to apologize every time the words Indiana, Jones, Last or Crusade are muttered in their presence. If you want to experience the awesomeness of Indy's third movie, then either watch it or play the adventure game.
Oh, what's this, why it seems like there was another game based on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade besides the two mentioned above. Taito created this NES exclusive and it's vastly superior to the steaming shit sandwich that was the action game, not that that was a difficult goal to reach. Well, maybe vastly superior isn't the right phrase to use but it's still an interesting title that plays around with the film a bit.
This Last Crusade takes things in a sort of "choose your adventure" direction by giving you a choice on where you want to go in the film's plot. For example, in the beginning you can go to Venice and get the Grail sketch before obtaining the Cross of Coronado, which happened earlier in the film. Depending on what you choose, the gameplay will be somewhat different. There's the standard side scrolling action segments, an optional overhead motorcycle race and a tile matching puzzle game. It helps to break up the monotony of things but each section, aside from the puzzle one, suffers from some pretty lousy controls.
Still, it's the best Last Crusade game to reach the consoles, which is extremely sad, considering that an Indiana Jones game should be one of the simplest things to make. Really, how hard is it to mix Castlevania and Bionic Commando?
With a title like Greatest Adventures, one would think that they were in for some new whip-lashing action in places unknown but instead you just get to play through the three movies with 16-bit graphics. This SNES game was, naturally, the Indy version of all those Super Star Wars titles released before it and it more or less plays the same way.
The game's 28 levels are spread throughout the trilogy starting with Raiders and ending with Crusade even though, chronologically, Temple of Doom came before Raiders but that's just my inner nerd talking. Each stage is your standard side-scrolling platform deal where you'll run, jump, roll, shoot and whip your way through environmental hazards and enemies based on locations from the movies. You'll also be treated to vehicle-based stages slathered in the awesomeness that is the SNES's MODE 7.
As it stands, it's a nice title all around even though it has its fair share of flaws, but they can be overlooked by the prospect of finally having a decent Indiana Jones console game. Unfortunately, it would be the only decent one until a good nine years or so later when Emperor's Tomb was released. Infernal Machine means nothing to me but the Gameboy Color version was pretty good.
That's it for Indiana Jones and the Legacy of Mediocrity but if you're like me and just like skipping to the end of things, then here's a rundown. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom Arcade and Greatest Adventures are worth a try, everything else sucks.
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