Indiana Jones and the Old Computer Games
Reviews By: Joe

So I thought I'd just do a bunch of (arguably) quick reviews about all the older Indiana Jones computer games, as in the ones predating The Infernal Machine (because Gringo already reviewed that one, see?). Turns out this is easier said than done. I thought there'd only been like three games, but there's actually been just over a bazillion. Ok, fine. Sorry, I can't really review all of these as I don't have access to all of them, but I'll review the ones I do have access to. Also, the majority of them are just the console or arcade games that got ported to home computers, but I'm not going to bother reviewing those. Jeff already did that. That would be silly. Don't be silly.

Indiana Jones in Revenge of the Ancients (1987)

What the hell? No, I didn't know there was an Indiana Jones text adventure either, but, well, there you go. The first problem is presented immediately with the fact that this game is called Indiana Jones IN THE Revenge of the Ancients. That's just wrong. It shouldn't be "in the." It should be "and the." Who made this game? Stupids? Yes. Apparently it's sort of based on Raiders of the Lost Ark, but is, um, different.

Ok, so I was able to get this one in a whopping 84KB zip file so let's see how much crazy fun I can have with bad boy!

Observe how the game box even informs you of its intent to fuck you masterfully.

None, obviously. It's a text adventure game. Sorry, but I can't really do these. What can I say? I love me some adventure games, but I started off with the graphical ones. I never played no Zork or anything. Well, actually, I tried, many years after it might've seemed novel, but I get tired of getting eaten by grues pretty quickly. The thing with these types of games is not only that I've been spoiled by purty pictures, but just how goddamned vague they are about everything. I mean, I'm no big fan of graphical adventures that still have text-based gameplay either, like the first four King's Quests because they suffer from the same problem. When you have the option to type bloody everything, it's often way too hard to figure out what, in the whole of the English language, the developers want you to say at any given time. It's like trying to tell a game to MOVE GARBAGE PAIL and it doesn't get what you mean because they want you to say MOVE TRASH CAN. Adventure games often suffer from being plenty vague in their own right; having to unravel these vagueries using only the unknown vocabulary handed down by the game developers is just insanity.

This tends to be much, MUCH worse of a problem with purely text games because, well, they were older and people didn't know what the hell they were doing then so the developers clearly had one thing they wanted you to type at any given point and of course to them it made perfect sense, but, oddly, as it turns out, you don't usually stumble upon the idea to type CREATE ANTIDOTE BY POURING CHEMICAL INTO VIAL WITH HOLY WATER BUT KEEP A FEW DROPS OF THE HOLY WATER AND THEN THROW THEM ON THE GOAT CARCASS.

SO, yeah, I can't play this shit. I tried it for about a second and managed to get Indy to pick up a skeleton hand (you have to type TAKE or GRAB, but not GET, no of course not GET) after dying about fifty times. Yeah, that's the other problem with these games. They want to create some sense of tension and immediacy and, because it's Indiana Jones and the game begins in an ancient tomb, I guess it's proper that you're dealing with getting out of traps from the get-go. But the way to create this sense of panic is for the game to just keep saying things like "Your eyes are burning" or "You're having trouble breathing" every single time you try ANYTHING, ultimately culminating in your death. What this means is that even if I want to just be reminded of what there is in the room by typing LOOK, it's another nail in the coffin and, yes, this also means that if I make a typo or use a phrase the game doesn't understand (like GET, for example), I lose even more time. So the game really boils down to dying over and over again and then stumbling upon what you need to type and getting to actually play for maybe a good ten seconds. I'm sorry, but if I wanted to be constantly punished undeservingly I would've grown up in an abusive household.

Actually, I think it's far more likely I'd never stumble onto these solutions ever. I checked out a walkthrough and there's all kinds of bullshit that just strikes me as absolutely stunning. I mean, how would the average gamer come up with these things EVER? I want to meet the person who beat this game using nothing but their own wits. If such a person ever existed, I think he died in that earthquake that only targeted nerds. It's a real thing, you don't know, you're too young and stupid. But, seriously, look at this shit:

So, if somehow you're able to get out of the tomb AND you've still got the totem you picked up there (because you have to tell Indy to put it in his pocket and if you don't, you drop it down a cliff), you eventually end up reaching your motorcycle. Apparently, once you're on the thing with Marion in the sidecar, you're supposed to type GIVE TOTEM TO MARION. Then she asks you what she should do with it and you're meant to say HIDE IT. To which she responds "I'll hide it where even you can't find it." Now, evidently this is necessary to do so you don't get fucked over by Nazis or something later, but, seriously now? How am I supposed to know Marion should hide it? If I even thought to try hiding it, why wouldn't I just be like HIDE IT IN YO PANTS or HIDE IT ON THE BIKE SOMEWHERE? Is she implying she's going to hide it in her cooch? I'm supposed to consider the hiding capabilities of Marion's cooch then? Ridiculous. You can't hinge your game on a cooch. It has to be several cooches at least. Like in Leisure Suit Larry. Actually, those games blow.

One thing that has the illusion of being kind of cool is that it seems like you can get away with doing things wrong and keep playing anyway because there were a bunch of things I totally fucked up right from the start. I dropped the totem and when I met Marion I said KISS MARION then she said "I need a drink" so I said KILL MARION, then she called me a jerk and walked away. Forever, apparently. I was still able to get on the motorcycle and drive off though. I doubt you can really play the whole game without the totem or Marion, though, so, the only thing I can assume is that the game relies on the concept of teaching through killing you a thousand times over so you have to shape up in advance. Maybe I'd even get to a point where my 6,897th untimely death would lead me to the realization that I need Marion to hide the totem for me. That is if I even managed to realize I have to tell Indy to put things in his pockets before I try climbing up my whip. That is if I can even figure out that the game wants me to use the phrase LASSO ROCK instead of WHIP ROCK.

Nuts to this.

Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade (Adventure Game) (1989)

SO, yeah, there were at least two action games (and a third if you're going to count the Greatest Adventures one) based on this movie, but like I said, that was Jeff territory. The one I'm handling is the good one. The adventure game one.

I think it's fair to refer to this game as one of the major ones that marked a transition point for Lucasarts adventure titles. Basically, with this one, you could see the graphics shaping up to look a bit more stylized and nicey-nice as they would with their next game, The Secret of Monkey Island and the puzzles starting to become often a bit more sensible, but, unfortunately, it was still saddled with the same verb system as the prior releases (Monkey Island also had this, but then got re-released with a much simpler system), which includes such goddamned useless things as two seperate verbs for "Turn On" and "Turn Off," neither of which I believe I used for the entirety of the game, as well as the absolutely stunning "What Is" verb.

Basically, moving your mouse over on-screen objects won't let you know whether you can interact with them or not. No, that would make too much goddamned sense, so what you have to do, just to figure out which things in an area are interactive, is hit the "What Is" verb every single time and THEN move over the screen, FOLLOWING WHICH, you click on the thing you want to interact with THEN click another verb you want to use to interact with the thing, like "Look," for example, then click it a second time, yes, a second time, because maybe you weren't really serious about it the first time. Now, I get that these are older games and Lucasarts was really just inventing this whole system and working out the kinks, but I seriously don't get how not only was the notion that, no, just mousing over the screen without having to click something every time first was too INSANNNNE and the player just couldn't HANDLE such CONVENIENCE. Even more amazing to me is that nobody thought "Let's revamp this" until like five games later. Seriously?! Was somebody on the staff just a huge Jeopardy fan?! Waste of my time!!!

All I'm saying here is that, yeah, it's a pretty old game so you do have to put up with a number of the things that made those older games a bit crappier in some ways. But it's overall a very fun thing. It's cool to play not only as Indy, but through his best movie. Now, the thing is, with an action game, it seems a no-brainer (although they did manage to fuck most of those up resoundingly) because you just put some graphics that look vaguely like representatives of things from the films and make a sprite that sort of kind of looks like the lead character and make the player kill those things. Adventure games, however, are almost totally dependent upon their storyline, so how do you take a movie, one that a ton of people have seen, with an established plot and tell the player to work their way through a facsimile of it and still keep it interesting?

Well, what's impressive here is that they did indeed manage. One of the major things is that you're often given the chance to do or say things just like in the film, but you're equally allowed to try something totally different, which will usually also work. This way, you hit all the major points of the film that you'd like to have a chance to play through, but it doesn't feel like you're playing something you've already seen done in a much flashier fashion on the big screen. You can actually even end the game with Indy dying, if you so desire. Nifty!

One thing that is true: the parts in the film that had some emotional drive behind them tend to lose any sense of such a thing because, well, it's just an old video game. The game does have actual orchestrated music popping up throughout, which I do believe was lifted straight from the film, which is nice and adds some extra awesomeness to it all. However, things like Indy's dad getting shot are in no way as MIND-BLOWING as they were when you first saw them happening to Harrison and Sean and the designers were certainly aware of this. After his dad gets shot, Indy simply says "Be back in a jiffy!" and goes on to face the trials of the temple. They even go so far as to reference the fact that you're playing something you've probably already seen a movie of. Once you reach the temple, if you try to leave, Indy says, "We can't leave! We still have to get the Grail, get the girl, and not fall in the lava pit."

Anyway, this is a rather good game, overall. It mostly works and it is just fun to play through the movie. I really do think it's worth playing, but it's just a lot easier to list the negatives, since they're far more obvious to pinpoint. SO HERE ARE MORE!!!

It has a bit too much of a reliance on mazes (though not particularly difficult ones) and the fighting system is pure crap (especially considering that on my laptop I don't have a numpad, which is basically how you're meant to control those parts) AND there are still a number of puzzles that I can't imagine any people figuring out. On the bright side, like I said, the game is pretty impressively open-ended in how you can solve many of the puzzles so, if you can't figure something out one way, there's a good chance you'll be able to get through anyhow. I especially like the fact that you can get through the entire castle section without fighting one guard if you do it right (although, honestly, it's pretty difficult to be able to do that without using a trial-and-error method and saving and loading your game a lot). Also, the trials at the end of the game are almost total bullshit and are based on minor differences in where you click your mouse, which is just stupid, especially if you're legitimately playing the game old-school style, in which case you aren't allowed to save at any point and have to do them over each and every time. Also, choosing the grail is almost completely based around stuff in the manual, which I sure as hell didn't have a copy of, so it's another trial-and-error situation.

But, yeah, this is hardly the best Lucasarts adventure, but it's fun, and if you like the movie, this is a treat. A treat so sweet!!!

Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis (1992)

This is an Indiana Jones adventure with a completely original storyline and, first and foremost, I'd like to mention that there actually was an action game of this. Lucasarts simultaneously released this adventure game along with a completely different action version of the game with the same general plot. This strikes me as really rather retarded, I have to say. I get it with the Last Crusade; they thought, "People want to play the movie, but some people like them some thinkin' and others like them some jumpin' and killin' so we's gon' make both." In this case, however, there wasn't any movie! So why bother? It's not like people took a look at the box of the one game and thought, "Nahhh, if only it was an actiony type thing...HEY! LOOK! THERE IS ALSO!!!!" It would be like if Namco put out the version of Pac-Man we're all familiar with and simlultaneously put out a Pac-Man strategy game where you manage your power pellet deposits and move him around the board using a turn-based system.

Indy's head in the bottom left looks like a turd wearing a fedora.

If you're basing it off something famous, okay fine, but in this case, just put the damn game out and tell people that's what they have to play! None of this watering down the storyline, shoehorning it into a crappy isometric perspective, and upping the punching and kicking! Stupid!!! That said, yeah, I'm fuggin' right, because nobody played the action one and nobody ever mentions it anymore. Hell, it doesn't even have its own Wikipedia entry! Talk about a loser!!! Oh, wait, somebody did play it. And he writes for this site. And his name is Gringo. Here's his brief take on the thing:

"I tried playing it once. IMPOSSIBLE. The first level is in a casino. All I remember is it was like my time in Vegas -- walk round casino, get angry, go home."

Thanks very much to our special contributor.

Okay, now about the REAL game, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is a wonderful Lucasarts adventure game. In it, Indy and a hottie (as hot as a girl made up of a handful of bits can be anyhow) named Sophia go gallavanting around the globe trying to find the lost city of Atlantis before some Nazis get there first. I would say that there are three major aspects that put this game leaps and bounds ahead of the previous Indy adventure.

First, we have the new system that the game is controlled with. It's just a pared down version of the old one and there's no more stupid-ass "What Is" to deal with so you just move around the screen to discover what can be messed with. Also, there's the bright idea of right-clicking your mouse to have the game use the most logical verb for you in reference to whatever you are attempting to interact with. This doesn't ruin any puzzles; the best way to explain it is that if you right-click on a closed door, the game will automatically chose to "Open" it or, if you right-click on a person, the game will elect to "Talk" to them. It just makes for infinitely more fluid gameplay.

Secondly, and most importantly, is the original storyline. Again, the Last Crusade game suffers a bit on this front because it's really just hitting checkpoints from the film. There's also really only four major "parts" to that game, whereas this one feels like a grandiose adventure, because you're jumping all over the globe all the damn time. And, yeah, although you're dealing with some still relatively dated graphics here, it doesn't really matter, because there's just so much more storyline here that you should, at least on some level, have some kind of emotional investment in what's going on. Yes, this also means a lot more dialogue and exposition, but it's not overkill and, frankly, if you're not into this sort of thing at least somewhat, you probably shouldn't even be bothering with adventure games in the first place.

Thirdly, this game takes the concept from the previous one of providing you with several possible solutions to a number of the puzzles and basically applies it to the game as a whole. What I mean by this is that there are three distinct paths by which you can approach the game: the Wits Path, the Fists Path, and the Team Path. The first two have Indy spending most of the game on his lonesome, figuring lots of puzzles out or punching a lot of people, respectively (although this is an adventure game so you'll have to figure puzzles out in both, regardless). The Team Path has Sophia tail you all the time and, sometimes, control her. She's actually a fairly helpful sidekick. If you ask her what you should do next and there's really nothing else to be done in that particular location she'll straightforwardly tell you, "Let's move on," which is a far more helpful thing than it probably sounds like when it comes to adventure games.

One of the major problems with games of this type is their limited replayability; once you know how to do everything, you can't really get any more out of the game by playing it over. This game largely does away with that problem with this system. You can play it through three times (and there are several instances, like in Last Crusade where you can arrive at solutions to puzzles a few different ways) and the path to the ending truly does differ enough to keep it interesting. You can also get two endings, though one is clearly negative.

It is, however, worth mentioning that the same thing that allows the game so much replayability also adds a bit of shittiness into the overall proceedings. Basically, most of the locations are designed to only serve one or two functions depending on the path you've chosen, so you end up going to a lot of areas only to discover you're literally there to pick up one thing or have one conversation and then you're off again, which just seems a bit silly. There are even, on occasion, parts where you can explore an area in full and find absolutely nothing there because there's just no purpose to it in the path you've chosen. I would think this could be a bit frustrating to someone playing the game through for the first time as they might waste quite some time in such an area, assuming there must be something worthwhile about it. Anyway, this is hardly a problem that pops up often.

So, in terms of other improvements, everything looks quite nice. There's a fair amount of well-drawn close-ups and the backgrounds are all nice and pretty and, in my opinion, still hold up fairly well. There's also full voice-acting in the CD version. Indy doesn't particularly sound like Harrison Ford, he just sounds like some classy, suave guy, but, whatever, the little graphical Indy doesn't even particularly make me think of Harrison so his voice doesn't really jar me. I'd actually only played the text-based version until just recently and Sophia's voice strikes me as slightly annoying. I dunno, I think it's too low or something and I had trouble getting a boner. Well, I'm being picky.

There is not orchestrated music in this game, probably because they didn't have a movie readily available for them to just take it from, so this is midi stuff, which is fine enough with me. It does allow for some dynamicish transitions that happen based on what you're doing and the music was composed by Michael Land, who did the music for a bunch of the old Lucasarts games and it pretty much always rocked my socks. The songs here usually provide a nice background, often bringing the original Indiana Jones theme back into them, which is cool. Also, the camel-riding song is the best thing ever.

I feel fairly comfortable calling this the best Indiana Jones game to date or, at least, the best adventure one. Yes, it still sometimes has the issue most of these do of a puzzle being far too obtuse and they apparently couldn't resist just a bit of annoying mazey parts, but, overall, this isn't just the best Indy game, it's probably one of Lucasarts' best adventure games ever, which, in turn, means it's simply one of the best adventure games that ever was.

I have a question. Why has nobody ever made an animated .gif of the Man in the Red Fez swinging his head around in a circle? Seriously, I need one of those, stat. Thanks much.

Indiana Jones and his Desktop Adventures (1996)

What? I thought I was done. But, no, no. This game, which easily wins the award for most dramatic and stirring title of any Indiana Jones vehicle ever, was a tiny little thang released on floppy disk and was Lucasarts' attempt at adding a bit of personality to those little Windows games your mom is always playing, like Minesweeper or Tetris. It's an overhead view with cutesy little graphics in a small window and an adorable Indy that you walk around from screen to screen, old-school Zelda style, making him perform simplistic tasks like grabbing gems and putting them somewhere else whilst whipping little snakes and leopards and foreign people like they deserve. Although you play through several basic storylines, which you can exhaust after so many playthroughs, the game randomizes its maps and content every time so no one game is ever exactly alike.

Wouldn't it be awesome if in real life people YELLED the parts of their sentences at you that were the most IMPORTANT?

There was also a Star Wars one of these done called Yoda Stories. Now, from what I understand, these games get a lot of flak for not doing anything particularly interesting either with their storylines or gameplay, but, seriously, these games are supposed to fit right alongside all the others you play when you don't want to do any work. They don't even open in a full window so you can shrink them down easily when your boss comes by. I can't exactly say why I was so into them, but I bought both of these games and was personally rather amused. They were just fun distractions and there's not all that much I can say about them. There's no real reason to go out of your way to find these or anything, but I had an okay time with them.

Oh, yeah, there is one more thing I guess I can say.

This was a very simply programmed game so they made no effort to hide the .wav files of all the in-game sound effects. This meant, with only the tiniest bit of technical savvy, one could venture into the game folders and fuck everything up in there. As a young lad with few friends and bucketloads of free time, I went about changing nearly every single sound file to something horribly irritating. As such, any time you killed an enemy instead of the charming *POP!* that one would hope might accompany someone's demise, you got my voice, complete with microphone crackles and distortion, shouting "OHYOUKILLEDMEYOURAZZAFRICKIN'OHMYGODALA!!!!" and I believe I replaced Indy's whip sound with a lengthy toilet flush. The game wasn't really smart enough to stop one sound effect when another started playing so this meant that, once I messed with the files, playing for even five seconds was an exercise in constant cacophonic suffering.

Indy is no! NO!!!

In conclusion? Play Last Crusade and Fate of Atlantis. Oh, and no, I choose not to play the new Lego Indiana Jones game. Why? Because I played some of the Star Wars one and, you know what? I've already seen the Indiana Jones movies and, frankly, playing a game deliberately geared towards FIVE-YEAR OLDS gets old after about ten minutes. Thanks.

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