Available on: SNES, Virtual Console
Developer(s): Factor 5, LucasArts
I’ve been an absolutely insane fan of Indiana Jones since childhood. I was actually three when I first saw Temple... that’s scary. Being a fan, I was totally committed to getting this game and playing it to death when it was first announced. JVC had already released a quite formidable series of SNES games based on the original Star Wars trilogy – classy and cinematic, but extremely difficult games, one for each movie. Well, Indiana Jones is three classic movies in one, and it runs on that very same Super Star Wars engine. So, it’s kind of like three (short) games in one. Squeezing three movie licenses on one single SNES cartridge is hard, as proven by the very vague cutscenes and the total exclusion of some very important plot twists which are directly tied to the many stages. Also, one might also remember Indiana Jones as one of the greatest point ‘n’ click heroes of our time, which he is, but as an action hero – nah. The original Last Crusade game was bad, not to mention the NES game Temple of Doom. I have heard many complaints about Greatest Adventures, and indeed, it’s faulty. I personally turn to my PC and the classic Fate of Atlantis when it comes to the greatest Indy game of all time, but as a loyal fan of the franchise, I can’t help but enjoy this bundle to a certain extent.
“We are going to die!”
Raiders of the Lost Ark: It’s the year 1936. When it is found that the Nazis are in search of an ancient artifact known as the Ark of the Covenant, which they believe to contain powers strong enough to give them concrete tyranny over the inferior race, Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones is called in and hired to find the Ark before his long-time rival Rene Belloq, who works with the Nazis. Indy’s accompanied by Marion Ravenwood, a young woman from his past whose legacy has granted her wide knowledge on the Ark and its location.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: It’s the year 1935. Indy crosses the wrong people and crash lands on the Himalayas together with his puny, Chinese sidekick Short Round, and night club singer Willie Scott. He is hired by the inhabitants of a nearby village, who have lost their greatest material treasure as well as many of their children to a religious cult they believe to operate somewhere in Pankot Palace – owned and inhabited by people in high standing. Indy grows suspicious, and for once in his life, he regrets being right. The palace conceals terrible secrets even Indiana Jones himself has problems to deal with.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: It’s the year 1938. Indiana Jones’ greatest rival of all time, his very own father Henry Jones Sr. goes missing in search of the greatest treasure of them all, the Holy Grail, which he has studied his whole life neglecting his son in the process. Accompanied by his father’s colleague and close friend Elsa Schneider, Indy travels across Europe to find his father and the grail, and eventually discovers another Nazi plot.
The graphics are OK by 1994 standards. It’s the Super Star Wars engine, no more, no less, and it looks good as always. The sprites are rendered nicely and the cutscenes, puzzled together from actual stills captured from film look as smooth as they possibly can in a 16-bit environment. The graphical design of the million different stages is usually quite basic, good even if a little blocky stuff, but Mode 7 really doesn’t look good here. The 3D stages are scruffy and not very dimensional. Things are hard to make out from that pixelated mess which really makes the stages harder than they already are in sense of gameplay. The sound... well, there are some simple voice samples from Harrison Ford and Sean Connery, which are ripped straight out of the movies, and well, at least they’re comprehensible. The classic Indy theme plays constantly in different phases of the game, it’s always a treat in any form. The original music’s OK, but gets boring towards the end as the background tunes don’t change that often, regardless of the “movie we’re playing”.
Disclaimer: for a fanboy such as myself, regardless of the conclusion this game is damn fun to play in its own right and even more fun to review, since there are so many things I like to point out about it after seeing the first three Indy movies like a million times. I’m also a huge fan of LucasArts’ SCUMM based point ‘n’ click games, including the fabulous, classic Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis – which is actually an official part of this very same timeline. Way back when I owned the original Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – the action game – on Amiga, I thought I’d never touch an Indiana Jones action game again. The game was so bad and so overshadowed in every way by its point ‘n’ click counterpart. The concept of Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures is so rad it absolutely has to be tried at least once by a serious Indy fan. I rented the game when it came out, I absolutely had to, even though it got a mere 84 out of 100 in Super Power magazine; to the editors, anything under 85 usually meant a game was total crap but they just didn’t dare to bash it too much for some reason. I guess the reason in this case was that it starred Indiana fuckin’ Jones. As great as Super Power magazine was, in retrospect I have disagreed with it more times than I can count. They really were unfair on a lot of games that are now considered perfectly fine or even undying classics, and praised some really lacking or downright shitty games. The magazine gave the abysmal Accolade platformer Bubsy in Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind something like 89 points, and one of the best conventional RPG’s of all time, Super Mario RPG, got 80 – though even the least impressive official Mario games were seldomly rated under 90. But, before the topic at hand gets completely lost in the horizon, let’s get back to it.
Basically Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures is a six-hour story told short, and it’s obvious a lot of essential stuff is left out. There are a lot of cutscenes, but if the player has missed any or all of the movies, he or she will lose track of the plot very easily and very quickly – of course, who’d want to play the game if they haven’t seen the flicks? The first time I played the game, I hadn’t seen Temple of Doom or The Last Crusade in years. Raiders was the only Indy flick I had on tape, because for some reason, it was the only one shown on Finnish TV periodically; like it had never had sequels, and in total ignorance of ARGUABLY the best Indy of all time and one of my top three movies of all time, The Last Crusade. I had an extremely hard time connecting and gathering all that was happening in the edited plot. If you’re disturbed by it, just do like I did and concentrate on the action. Skip the scenes if you want to. The idea of the game is to hack through the best parts of the three movies in a very Super Star Wars-like fashion. Like in the Star Wars series, there are several stages influenced by classic scenes, or direct recreations of them, with an occasional easter egg and/or a comic relief thrown in. I think it’s best to talk a little about each “flick” separately, but first, to those who have no clue of what’s going on and what the gameplay’s like, let’s go over some basics.
You are in control of Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones Jr., the baddest-ass archaeologist there is, period. Indy isn’t just some boring professor from some equally boring university; he goes out there, kicks ass and has hot dames for every possible finger and toe. In this game, you’ll guide Indy through multi-influenced stages full of platforms, action, stipulations, Nazis, crazed cultists and whatnot – odd for a movie license that a lot of it is actually believable, on Indy’s b-movie scale, except for some birds carrying large rocks and dropping them on Indy’s head. Nazis had birds in their service?! There are also boss fights which never happened in the movies – the most laughable being against Belloq and Donovan, the main antagonists from Raiders and Crusade, respectively – they both died very embarrassing deaths brought on by greed. No fighting ever happened. I truly understand, though, that these boss fights were added in for action. The developers did quite a good job with the boss fights altogether and kept the most important threads intact the whole time; and, at least these characters really are in the movies, they’re not just some generic killer tomatoes created exclusively out of scratch to make fanboys cry bloody tears from their assholes.
Indy starts out using only his fists and surprisingly awesome jumping ability, as well as a duck ‘n’ roll to proceed, a while later we come across some considerable power-ups and collectables. Indy’s primary weapon is, of course, the whip – an extremely effective all-around weapon with decent range. Never leave home without it! It is also a handy tool to cross chasms. Is it just me or do some of the stages based on the grappling ability yell out Super Castlevania IV? The pistol is another common weapon, and you can shoot it in five different directions, same goes for the whip. The thing about these weapons is that triggering them is slow and a lot of the game’s straightforward action sequences are based on good timing – which practically is the sole key to succeed in beating the game. One more weapon comes along, the grenades, which are found in very scarce numbers and for a good reason. They kill everything on screen, regardless whether or not it falls down a chasm. It goes off – BOOM – everyone and everything plaguing you is gone, except for bosses of course. The grenades are extremely handy and should be saved for situations you really need them in. Hearts are there for health, but there’s a very retarded twist to acquiring them in this game, which makes me doubt the IQ of the developers. You see, most hearts you find in this game are in the very beginning of the stage, OR the very end of it – in those points, the hearts don’t matter one bit. You probably would’ve killed for some in the middle of the stage, but the game presents them to you at moments your health is already at its max, or will soon be without any distractions coming your way in between. It’s like some kind of a bad inside joke. I’ll also tell you at this point that each time you die, you’re stripped of all your weapons, which might not be so bad at first, since there are a LOT of different item boxes (depending on the theme of the stage) along the way, and they very often contain a whip or a pistol. When you’re near the end, however, this quirk starts to get a little more troublesome, because Indy’s fists are simply not enough to truly get to great lengths in this game, and surviving just by using fists is impossible in the final squeezes. Besides some obvious extra lives, there are also orbs. These golden orbs are some sort of lifestones; once you collect a hundred of them in a true Super Mario Bros. fashion, you get an extra life and the pleasure of Sean Connery congratulating you with a deliciously self-righteous “Wonderful”. Always a pleasure listening to Mr. Connery or Mr. Ford, be their voices sampled or not. Have I mentioned how much I love Crusade? Seriously, to swerve a little from the topic again, Harrison Ford has done two movies which have been classics on arrival just because the two main cast members have been so totally, utterly awesome. The other one’s The Fugitive (with Tommy Lee Jones), the other one’s Crusade. Since I love the original Indy trilogy so much in general, let’s break the game down in three parts, starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark.
|Snakes. And bats. Lots of them.|
|Kind of lonely here without Willie's nagging |
and Short Round's thick accent.
|Nazis without swastikas are like Indy without|
Nintendo’s weird sense of censorship becomes very clear during the Last Crusade segment of the game. All of the Nazi swastikas are replaced with regular crosses. However, during the course of the game, Nazis are mentioned in that very term several times, and even the most ignorant kid knows which symbol is connected to this certain group of foul bastards. Once, I was babysitting a five year old kid. I had something to do at the moment and he was bored, so I let him play the game for a while. He asked me aren’t there supposed to be swastikas – he described the symbol, he didn’t know what it was called – since it’s a Nazi castle? A five year old kid! ...And he just asked me because he felt it would represent the theme better, not because of being obsessed with the “superior race”. I agreed... and felt very dumb because I hadn’t even noticed!
I repeat: the game is not quite as difficult as the Super Star Wars trilogy, but it’s far from humble. It’s quite inconsistent, because there are some really easy stages even halfway through Last Crusade, while there are already some true tests of strength – as well as patience – even in the very beginning of Raiders. A lot of the difficulty is made up by some stupid ideas of a ridiculous jump backwards if you get hit in mid-air (by anything), or simply the clumsy patterns and range of attacks available. Somewhat luckily, the enemy A.I. in the game sucks ass for the most part, especially that of the Nazis... intentional?
Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures is an incomplete, but satisfying execution of a concept that’s worth a 10. Fanboy’s reality checks take place here and there, there are some major problems concerning gameplay, the application of Mode 7 was a good idea following the Star Wars tradition but the end result is crooked... yet, all in all, I can’t help but be entertained by the game every once in a while. I guess it’s time to dig out my Indy DVD boxset again.
Graphics : 8.4
Sound : 7.5
Playability : 7.9
Challenge : 9.0
Overall : 8.0
a.k.a. Indiana Jones
GameRankings: 73.50% (SNES)
Indiana Jones’ sprite is the same as Han Solo’s in the Super Star Wars trilogy. Only his clothes and abilities are different.
The bar in the beginning of the Temple of Doom segment is called Club Obi-Wan, and it’s named after Star Wars character Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi. Another bar is exclusive to the game, called the C’Baoth Bar. This bar is named after Joruus C’Baoth, a major antagonist in Timothy Zahn’s Star Wars novels.
Special thanks in the end credits of the game go out to George Lucas (senior producer of all Indiana Jones movies), Steven Spielberg (director of all Indiana Jones movies), Harrison Ford (who plays the character of Indiana Jones in all movie adaptations of the franchise) and Sean Connery, who plays Indy’s father Henry Jones Sr. in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.