month Lucasarts released their first volley of classic games on Steam,
and for adventure gaming stalwarts like myself it was a godsend. The Dig, Loom, Indiana Jones! No
longer would we have to worry about hunting down out of print games, or
getting our old ones to work on XP or Vista with billions of patches.
Plus, for people who have never played the games before there’s no
better or cheaper way to experience them.
Over the next few installments we’re going to bring you back to these games and see how they hold up.
May, 1989. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has just decimated the box office, making more money than anyone could possibly know what to do with. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull isn’t even a twinkle in Lucas’ nuts and the world still knew joy and hope. Two months after the film raked it in fans were given another chance to spend their money thanks to Lucasarts, when the official game tie-in hit PCs. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure was Lucasarts’s third game to use its famous SCUMM engine, following Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, and soon became one of its biggest hits.
The game follows the path of the movie pretty faithfully and remains to this day one of the better film adaptations. Somehow managing to dodge the multiple bullets that riddle most film to game attempts, it doesn’t feel rushed and actually expands a bit on the story. They were given a bit more artistic license with the dialogue than you’d expect, and the trademark Lucasarts humor shines through.
It also attempts to do something that no other adventure game had done before- actually add a bit of replay value! At numerous times during the game you are given a choice of how to progress. For example, in the Nazi castle you can talk to a guard and convince him to let you get by him, or you can simply punch him in the face. Or you can just sneak past him and take the wussy way out. It allows you to adapt the gameplay to your favorite style, and while it doesn’t really change the outcome of the game it was a revelation to have a choice. The game uses a point system similar to Sierra’s adventure titles (Space Quest and the like) but expands on it a bit. While you can amass a total of 800 points you can’t get them all in one playthrough. This was to encourage you to go through it again to try new things and see all the game had to offer.
Sadly, it hasn’t aged too gracefully. The limitations of the time mean that the UI is pretty lackluster (An inventory with words? That we have to read?), and we have to suffer through brief spurts of the atrocious midi theme song. It’s still fun enough and it’s amusing to play through puzzles based on the movie (such as figuring out which X marks the spot in the Venice library) but the old control style has aged it tremendously. For example, moving the cursor over an object doesn’t show you what you can interact with in each screen, no, you have to select “What Is” and move around the screen till you find hotspots to click on. It makes for some frustrating puzzles as there are times when you might simply pass over a tiny object that’s required to solve a puzzle.
But even if you have the film memorized the game offers lots of humor and great puzzles to entertain you. Hell, it would be an incredibly significant game if only for the fact that it paved the way for Lucasarts’ original Indiana Jones adventure Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, a game that can not only be considered one of the finest adventure games of all time, but also more compelling than the last two Indiana Jones films.
Like most adventure games of the era there were multiple versions released as technology advanced, and this Steam release uses the better version that came out a year later with an absolutely stunning amount of colors (TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY SIX GLORIOUS SHADES OF THE RAINBOW!!), in VGA no less.
One other treat is the instruction booklet. Buh? As with most of these old Lucasarts titles the booklet was more than just the crap you get nowadays, pamphlets that are 4 pages thick that contain nothing you wouldn’t learn 10 minutes into the game. No, this game came with a replica of Henry Jones’ Grail diary, a novella in itself that’s an interesting read for Indy dorks and actually references stuff you might need to know in the game. Check it out online.
You can pick up Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure for five dollars on Steam, but gamers looking for the better deal are recommended to check out The Fate of Atlantis instead. It’s better than Last Crusade in almost every way.
Till next time, when we reminisce about The Dig!