Friday, 15 November 2013

Indiana Jones and the Might of Sprite

Forget Lara Croft, the man wearing the most famous fedora is the original tomb raider.

Thanks to Crystal Skull, Indiana Jones is now officially a tetralogy but I choose to treat that car crash as a bad dream.

If you grew up with Raiders of the Lost Ark and not Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark, thank the rebranding machine for revving its engine.

Who was this done for and why?

It’s funny because without sticking Indiana Jones in front of the second and third film, they sound wrong as The Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade don't fit like the first.

Anyway, they fucked it all up by opting for consistency.

I'm purposely ignoring The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and Instruments of Chaos on NES and Megadrive respectively, as they don't really count.

Brandish a whip and fire that pistol as I explore the exploits of an iconic movie hero with a passionate hatred for Nazis.

Who knows, in a thousand years it might be worth something.

The original trilogy and miscellany

Appropriately, Raiders kicked it all off in 1982 and aside from appreciating the technology available, what an experience.

Existing only on retro romper stomper Atari 2600, it took trial and error to a whole new level.

Tutorials that wiped ass and frequent gameplay hints didn't exist, so the player was forced to experiment and perform more research than a scientist.

Many Atari games were straightforward pick up and play jobs but kids and adults alike wouldn't expect this.

Initially, your primary objective was another controller, as it was impossible to play without this acquisition.

How insane does that sound?  Very fucked up.

One stick used an item and moved Indy, while the other selected item and dropped, so regularly swapping controllers or have somebody control whichever stick was a must.

If that large inconvenience didn't interrupt gameplay, then a rocking horse doesn't have a wooden dick.

Objects refused to look what they were supposed to represent, new areas are found by accident and screaming ‘what the fuck am I supposed to do’ did little to inspire.

Although excruciatingly bad, nobody can alter the fact that Mindscape's Indiana Jones in The Lost Kingdom on C64 became the archaeologist's first adventure existing outside the boundaries of the silver screen.

Shat into existence in 1984, we were asked to find an artefact that claimed to hold the enciphered history of a lost civilisation.

Horrible visuals, atrocious sound and ugly gameplay meant this was a relic that should have never been dug up.

Temple of Doom was definitely the worst of the original three, but the game fared better than ‘multiple joysticks required’.

The 1985 Atari arcade was primarily based around rescuing children from the evil Mola Ram while fighting his Thugee servants.

Indy rode a mine cart, farced near the Kali statue before reaching the rope bridge.

Highlights included digitised speech and recognisable theme music.

U.S Gold handled the 1987 home versions and events were naturally adapted from insert coin.

As with every arcade port, the quality of graphics and sound varied from system to system.

8 bits dominated and saw the Spectrum, C64 and Amstrad all having their fill.

Mindscape brought the NES version in 1988.

An annoying rendition played throughout but at least it sounded like John William’s famous March.

This could be part of compilation Arcade Force Four, together with conversions of Road Runner, Gauntlet & The Deeper Dungeons and oddly, Metrocross.

In a box dominated by Atari, why shove in a random Namco port?

1987 was a great year for films which saw the release of Predator, Fatal Attraction, Robocop, Full Metal Jacket, Lethal Weapon, The Lost Boys, Hellraiser and Evil Dead II.

Switching sides, there was also Revenge of the Ancients that abandoned all compassion for graphics.

Trying to ‘persuade’ any text adventure to carry out the simplest of commands was like pulling teeth and psychological profile was forced to endure a frustrating workout.

You know the doctor's drill, ‘you can’t do that yet’ or ‘don’t know how to [whatever]’, or something along those lines turned on the masochistic.

Personally, I didn't need an excuse to type ‘fuck off’ whenever the wind drifted in the wrong direction.

Ford and Connery exuded excellent chemistry in The Last Crusade and even Michael Sheard of the ‘original’ Grange Hill fame made a cameo appearance portraying Hitler.

However, pixels were ejected from the most incontinent of herds.

There wasn't an arcade equivalent and regardless of ‘bits’, this adaptation was fucking horrendous.

Ubisoft churned out the bullshit in 1993 on systems such as the C64, Megadrive, Spectrum, Amiga and Master System.

Scenes from celluloid were translated in a roundabout way, but the toxic fumes of putrescence are inhaled almost immediately as we stumble about in caves looking for the Cross of Coronado, before hopping across the circus train.

Never mind about humping ropes and stock baddies (who we assume to be the pursuing thugs), it's Indy that concerns.

Why the fuck are we controlling the older Indiana Jones when River Phoenix (in one of his final roles), portrayed the younger variety?

River Phoenix wore a yellow scarf which is seen on the Amiga but what's the bastard point, as we are still playing the older Indy, magically wearing his hat?

Appalling application is extended to Castle Brunwald, the Zeppelin and okay, the scrolling Holy Grail section did include traps.

The Last Crusade and The Fate of Atlantis were brought by graphic adventure masters Lucasfilm in 1989 and 1992 respectively.

The former predictably coincided with the movie's release and the other was automatically exciting as it featured multiple paths.

Those who have never had the pleasure of Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, the Monkey Island series or Zak McKraken seriously haven’t lived…

The Last Crusade recreated all of the famous booby traps on the way to getting the Holy Grail.

Indy even drinks from the cup and heals his father.

The Last Crusade point and click was also released for Amiga and on FM Towns in 1990, with the latter enjoying intermittent but very impressive CD audio.

It is worth noting the Amiga version looked far worse in the colour department.

So on NES you had the Ubisoft joke but in 1990, Taito had a stab with a completely different animal.

On paper, this was a far more interesting prospect as although fictitious dialogue and story was paramount; all were accompanied by fairly attractive looking stills.

Choices could even be made in regards to ‘what happens’ or ‘where next.’

Castle Brunwald, a tile sliding puzzle, riding the motorbike, fighting Vogel on the tank and an authentic looking final scene, albeit on a lesser scale hit the spot.

For whatever reason, the first challenge of ‘only the penitent man will pass who is humble before God' was omitted.  So I guess there’s no need to ‘kneel’.

It’s funny because the solution to the word of God is revealed from the Grail diary and serves as a memory clue, which effectively combines the leap of faith.

Once with the Knight of 700 years young, another clue will bring the true Grail.

So events were far more authentic but aside from screens connecting story, in-game sprites and backgrounds sucked ass.

Getting back to Atlantis, it was the seventh game to use the SCUMM scripting language engine.

Not too far in, a dialogue sequence gives the player the choice of three paths to take which formed the focal part of the game.

1. The Wits Path (brains favoured over brawn);
2. The Fists Path (a greater emphasis on brawling); and
3. The Team Path (two heads are better than one as sidekick Sophia Hapgood helps with numerous puzzles).

Each route eventually led to the fabled sunken city but boasted unique teasers, objects, scenery, chars and dialogue.

Suffice to say, the reels were spun and they both hit jackpot repeat.

Atlantis was re-released and the so-called ‘talkie’ edition featured digitised voices and effects.

A geezer called Doug Lee was hired to provide the voice of Indy as Harrison Ford was unavailable for comment.

For 8 bits, The Fate of Atlantis was literally sealed in 1992 as ‘The Action Game’ was the result of smoking some funky shit.

We yearned for the excellent point and click but instead, we got screwed with a desperately bad Last Ninja impostor making constipation seem enjoyable.

I’m not buying the C64 was incapable as Maniac Mansion ate this interface up for breakfast, dinner and tea.

Getting off track, the boys were definitely back in town as Sam & Max adopted the classic look and Grim Fandango mixed polygons on static pre-rendered backgrounds.  Making the decision to ditch the collective verb system for pure interaction wasn't a painful bite in the ass.

Excavating third person and Lego

With the inception of three dimensional objects running amok, Lucasarts made the obligatory leap which ensured the spoken word became trademark.

The Infernal Machine was introduced in 1999 and concerned a Babylonian device apparently capable of opening a portal to another dimension.

I wonder if they'll find Chell on the other side?

Instead of pesky Nazis, Soviets and the mechanical threat of ‘robots’ are baddies.

Hmmm.

Set after World War II, your principal aim was to find the necessary parts and complete the said machine.

Exotic locales include Sudan and Mexico and expect to also ride a minecart, go upstream in a raft and flee behind the wheel of a jeep.

Almost inevitably, comparisons were made to a certain Lara Croft and with VERY good reason as pulling objects, swimming, picking up items, hanging around, pulling levers, cut away scenes, jumping etc were all done in practically the same manner.

What really pissed me off is that Indy is portrayed as an asshole as 'stating the obvious' was apparently a good idea.

Along with other stupid comments, the voice acting left an embarrassed taste.

Regardless of that, it made a decent splash on Game Boy Colour, PC and N64.

The next made its merry way to Xbox, PS2 and PC.

Released in 2003, this is set before Temple of Doom.

In an attempt to freshen up the third person fruit bowl, a wee lassie named Mei Ling makes her presence known in The Emperor’s Tomb.

Another artefact, another dollar and this time, the Nazis are after the so-called Heart of the Dragon as this baby has the power to mould minds.

Once again, the hat will prove to be the fly in the adopted swastika’s ointment.

Featuring prettier visuals, nice bosses and global locations such as Hong Kong, Prague and Istanbul, this bus was well worth riding.

In 2009, The Staff of Kings may have raised eyebrows as apart from combat, the chance to swing your remote like a measured lunatic to form an imaginary whip probably excited Wii owners.

Other formats included the PS2, PSP and using the DS is always pretty stylus.

Used to help part the Red Sea, we're searching for The Staff of Moses, so I guess the decision of not calling it ‘Kings’ eliminated the risk of causing offence.

Vehicles including boat, plane, raft (again) and riding an elephant is all in a day's whip.

Let’s briefly turn our attentions to film in a chronological sense.

Doom – 1935
Lost Ark – 1936
Crusade (prologue excepted) – 1938

So can he operate 'all' transport?

The answer is yes because this is set around World War II in 1939, so after the original trilogy.

He couldn't fly a plane in Doom but could in Crusade (although not really land), so they either studied the films or just took an educated guess.

Anyway, more paradise awaits and if you're playing this shit on Wii, the signature weapon (which is also used for puzzle solving), takes a bit of practice but when mastered - it'll be alright on the night.

Places such as San Francisco in Chinatown, Nepal, Sudan and Panama don’t disappoint.

As an added treat, The Fate of Atlantis can be unlocked on Wii.

This adventure aggravates for a number of reasons which include:

1. perfunctory combat;
2. unnecessary QTEs (quick time events); and
3. most of the time, grappling ensures a cheap kill.

It’s therefore an unsatisfying way to hang up the third person whip.

Although the central protagonist never changes, his voice does.

Who cares?  Well somebody might.

Infernal Machine – Doug Lee (revisited)
Emperor’s Tomb – David Esch
Staff of Kings – John Armstrong

Of the three, The Emperor’s Tomb is definitely the best.

Now we enter spin-off territory as two blocky adventures offer something different.

In 2008, Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventure combined moments from the first three films in a more comedic way.

The language during the numerous cut scenes is gibberish and animations should raise several giggles.

Despite what you'd expect to be bullshit, the guts of which are largely authentic to events (with expected liberties) and accompanied by excellent music.

Action is also played out with more balls than a bingo hall.

After Henry is shot, Sallah goes with Indy to help find the Holy Grail.

We all should scream ‘oh no he didn't’ as Indy completed this daring feat alone.

Together with new levels for others, Lego Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues added Crystal Skull to proceedings.

Blitzed across many formats, those who have used the Force in the Star Wars equivalent will be no stranger with solo or drop in co-op play, which also plays an important part to puzzle solving.

Others franchises given the same treatment include Batman, The Lord of the Rings and Monkey Island er, Pirates of the Caribbean.

Aimed at kids and ‘big’ kids alike, you can't go wrong.

Wouldn't it be great if most of the key set pieces from original trilogy were brought to life on a single 16 meg cart?

Well that's exactly what Factor 5 endeavoured in 1994 with Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures on SNES.

Essentially mixing action with platforms, Indy fights back with revolver, whip and throws grenades to confuse millions.

Raiders of the Lost Ark

While inside the temple, Indy will have worry about the dangers of piranha, bats and Hovitos.

Traps are set off when standing in the light so that’s pretty cool.

After fleeing from a Mode 7 rolling boulder, we apparently get the golden idol.

Now in Nepal, you won't remember this happening for the simple reason it didn't…

Oh well, snow falls and audible ambience relaxes.

After negotiating hazards such as wolves, traps, birds and er, snow boulders, we reach ‘her place’.

I was going to say snowballs but that’s bullshit, just like this scene.

There’s no need to sing ‘come on baby light my fire’ because without explanation, it’s already happened.

So let’s just imagine Toht’s poker did the damage.

With fire slowly rising, the heat is definitely on to find Marion.

We are shortly attacked by some dude flinging torches.  Is this asshole supposed to be Toht doing what he never did?

Who the fuck knows but after he’s dusted, we press on.

The marketplace of Cairo (making day to night transitions), is pretty authentic looking as it’s when Indy goes on a basket opening rampage.

Predictably, we are not required to re-enact such a memorable scene as instead, you push the aforementioned objects to gain access to the unreachable.

Enemies range from rats, monkeys, sword wielding Arabs and those that open fire.

Cairo also sees women dropping shit from a window.

Insane 8 bit reference alert because how it’s done reminds instantly of Last Ninja 2 as The Street has a mental cow dropping plant pots from a window, presumably because she wants crushed ninja to go with chips.

Or she’s just on day release.

A segment involving guy chucking hay bales from a horse-drawn cart is followed by fisticuffs with another unknown.

Yeah, okay then.

The burial site in Tanis serves a feast of Nazis and crows.

Whilst in the Well of Souls, there’s a nice digitised sample of Indy commenting ‘snakes!’

So the search for the Ark of the Covenant begins and while avoiding snake pits, shooting bats and Nazis.  We do reach the Ark (without Sallah).

Wait a minute, never mind flying echolocation, why in the holy mother of fuck are Nazis in such a nasty place?

They had to do something for a boss and they settled on Belloq opening the Ark.

Hopping about like a rabbit on heat and unaffected by celestial Angels of Death, Indy must pick his moment.

For once, I reluctantly side with madness.

The Temple of Doom

Anything Goes.

The remains of Nurhachi, first Emperor of Manchu Dynasty are mentioned in a cut scene.

Referring to the antidote, Lao says ‘try to catch it’.

Ha ha ha!  No he fucking didn't.

Indy only gets the antidote after searching Willie in Shorty’s car.

So apart from avoiding the sight of a makeshift predator, tables on fire, baddies are shooting and chandeliers are falling sum up a shit day.

There is no escape sequence with the huge gong smashing the window.

Does he even get the antidote?  I don’t think so.

We find our way outside on the streets of Shanghai and they forget to Get Shorty.

What really screws us over is that during these opening scenes, Indy is already wearing his famous get up but should be dressed in a white suit.

He first emerges in his trademark clobber when on board the Lao Che plane.

Boo, hiss and grrrrr.

Players now enjoy something different as you must prevent the lifeboat from crashing into trees and rocks while hurtling down the snowy mountain.

Now his clothes are right but he didn't need to change…

Things get back to basics with Thugees at Pankot Palace but instead of straightforward action, you must push statues over secret spots and when located, will teleport to different rooms.

We turn up the heat with lava caves, brainwashed servants, bats and fire eruptions.  The ubiquitous chanting of 'Molo Ram' is a nice touch.

Kali ma… Kali ma… Kali ma… shakthi deh!

Sankara stones, fortune and glory and all that jazz.

A similar scene sees ‘collecting’ kids, falling rocks and more of the same enemy.

Indy does not drink the blood of the Kali and nobody is lowered into a hot pit.

The statue of their evil God and the huge water vat are background treats.

After riding the mine cart when baddies are shot and tracks must be switched, we already who's boss so it’s just a question of circumstances.

You’ll have to defeat Molo Ram, his army of servants and watch for parts of rope bridge falling under feet.

Rewinding time, it’s very much like the climax of the 1985 Atari arcade.

You’d expect that but not this.

The nonsensical choice of weapon is for him to lob an unlimited supply of Sankara stones.

Why would he be throwing them away because without them, the Thugees couldn't become all powerful?

Ho ho ho, green giant!

In the arcade, flaming hearts came your way so this bullshit almost makes that seem sane.

While I'm considering it, there's a fence over there that seems pretty comfortable to sit on...

Whatever, he doesn't become a tasty meal for the hungry crocodiles below.

The Last Crusade

The Holy Grail… Doctor Jones.

Yes, the final dollop is served and is sure to taste good.

Well, theoretically.

‘Young’ Indiana Jones is completely skipped so the next opportunity for action is taken.

In the Venice catacombs where the graving of the shield lies in the tomb of Sir Richard, Indy must avoid tidal waves of fire while taking out Grail protectors and rats.

After avoiding incineration, we hot foot it to his father’s location at Castle Brunwald in Austria.

When I covered Wolfenstein, I doubted if Nintendo would allow Nazi imagery, even after the relaxation of censorship in Mortal Kombat II and beyond.

Well read my newspaper, swastikas on tapestry drapes are censored by X marks the spot.

I am unable to confirm if these appeared in the Japanese version.

Apart from lightning, it’s raining, it’s pouring, and the old man is snoring.

Patrolling Nazis makes finding the exit more of a pain in one's ass.

When we get outside, it’s still slinging it down but the lightning seems to have subsided.

Weird.

Before escaping in the biplane, pissed off people appear to throwing what look like bones but I guess they are meant to be spanners?

Regardless, it qualifies as being the most pointless section in the entire cartridge.

Chocks away chaps and it’s time to shoot down unfriendly air freight.

This features a Mode 7 background and although boring, it looks good.

Before reaching the temple in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, we have to take out more hat wearing protectors and have a punch up with Vogel on the tank.

I can’t fault the fight but there's no 'horsing' around on the way.

Indy’s Dad doesn't get shot inside the temple so we assume we're just risking life and limb for kicks, or for his own glory.

It’s another scrolling action yarn with not much authenticity and the threat of more hats.

Why? Why? Why?

In truth, this is more like the booby trapped Great Pyramid area in Myth on C64.

Wow, I reference some crazy shit.


They saved the most ludicrous enemy for last because Donovan the skeleton is portrayed as a terrible Castlevania wannabe.

Surely a better idea would be an adrenaline fuelled escape as the place collapses?

Yeah.

Greatest analysis

Each ‘film’ is littered with static screens that mix digitised images and graphics.

They are complemented by informative description and script that’s best described as a concoction of 'based around', 'nearly right' and 'complete bollocks'.

My favourite mistake is when Indy meets up with Marion after defeating the mystery torch thrower, which is followed by a movie still of her nervously staring at the medallion.

First off, this screen happens before the bar even caught fire and Marion doesn't utter a word.

"Well, Jones, at least you haven't forgotten how to show a lady a good time!!" occurs outside the now destroyed bar and in the next breath informs "You will need this medallion to find the Lost Ark!" 

You could go on and on, and Ariston.

The password system is simple and sensibly frequent.

Just like third person, the plane journey is nicely depicted on the map.

Having the famous Indy March is a must and this doesn't disappoint.

Other compositions are present but are usually heard when they shouldn't, and even for the wrong film.

Henry, Marion and the Knight are all seen as sprites but play no part to proceedings.

Willie and Shorty are completely absent but they featured throughout most action scenes.

Hell, they are seen in the 1985 arcade so why not here?

Following Indy like sheep would have been acceptable but no, too much effort.

The Maharaja of Pankot also couldn't be with us.

Across the board, Lao, Belloq, Molo Ram, Elsa and Donovan appear in stills.

For me, key scenes missing are:

Raiders – Jeep chase and Pat Roach fight.

Doom – Pat Roach scrap and something representing the dinner scene with Willie fainting at the sight of chilled monkey brains.  Molo Ram’s heart removal could have definitely featured in a digitised screen.

Crusade – motorbike chase and a Holy Grail puzzle sequence.

The tank falling off the edge would be nice as after all, they bothered to recreate the part in Raiders when the huge Arab guy twirling his huge sword is famously shot by an unimpressed Indy.

I ask for too much but if they cared more and upped the meg count, who knows?

Overall...

It's more than fair to say the positives outweigh the negatives.

Some were great, most are tolerable and the despicable only point to a small minority, so it would be churlish not to applaud that licence was hardly disgraced.

After all, the same courtesy was not extended to franchises like Back to the Future and Terminator...

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