Platform: Windows, DOS, Amiga, Atari ST, CDTV, FM Towns, Macintosh
Review: One of the first adventure games by LucasArts filled me with great anticipation as it is based on one of my favorite movies. I was optimistic as the game was by one of the great software production companies, but hesitant because movie licenses are often botched horribly when turned into games. However, it works here for a few reasons.
For starters, the adventure movie the game is based on feels more like a collection of great scenes than a seamless, timeless story. There are many great set pieces and fun action sequences that take precedence to the father/son subplot and symbolic undertones. One can debate the effect this has on a movie audience, but it’s simply bread and butter for a game. Creating a solid flow to a game with a progressing, engaging plot is very difficult when you must often halt the experience with puzzle-solving. LucasArts never had to worry about this.
Secondly, much of the movie’s charm came from the wacky, slapstick humor and numerous in-jokes to Spielberg and Lucas fans. The producers and writers of the game took the exact same formula, changed many of the jokes, and hit dead on with quite a few of them. They even made fun of their own material, breaking the third wall if the joke works. For example, take the scene near the end of the movie where they enter the palace near Iskenderun. In the game, as in the movie, Indy sees a decapitated head roll in front of him. Here, he turns to the “camera” and says, “Yep. This is the right place!”
Lastly, the puzzles have been changed just enough to not be automatic for those who have memorized the movie, yet still fair and sometimes challenging. Many puzzles have multiple solutions, and the game can be made much easier (or difficult!) depending on who you make friends with and who you can trick. Even the obligatory copyright puzzle includes game elements that can make the puzzle easier or harder depending on your adventure skills. There are also four different endings to obtain, only one similar to that of the movie.
And if you get stuck? Forget puzzle solving and fight Nazis using your bare hands! There is almost no puzzle that can’t be solved by fighting, though it is difficult, not all that intuitive, and hard to keep your strength up after five or six fights. Thankfully, there is no puzzle that requires you to fight.
My only major gripe with the game is the conversation trees. Many of the puzzles revolve around Indy using his wit to fool Nazi guards into letting him pass by without a fight. Many times, this is done simply by saying the right things. Unfortunately, there are usually no clues as to what may work and what will get you a right uppercut. What will fool one guard will not work with another, even though their is no discernible difference between the two personalities. So at times it becomes a “guess-and-check” routine, saving and restoring until you exhaust your options and make it past.
Oh, and there is a pointless maze. @!#?@!
While the game feels dated due to the limitations of the engine used at the time, it is still likely to warm the heart of any true Indy fan. Those who have not seen the movie, or any of the Indy movies, will likely miss many of the jokes and get frustrated trudging through an otherwise mediocre puzzle adventure. I fit into the former and felt it was well worth my time.
Yes, you can punch Hitler.
Contemporary Rating: Medium. The random conversation trees and frequent need to save and restore would definitely turn off some.
Cruelty Rating: Polite. You can die frequently, and you must therefore save frequently. But you can’t get stuck.