Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis ★★★
Indiana Jones’s adventures stopped for many years after the release of his third film but he remained active in the realm of video games a bit longer. Released in 1992, one of them stands out even today. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is a point and click adventure by LucasArts, creators of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion. It captures the spirit of the original films perfectly and remains a fun romp almost 30 years later.
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis features an original storyline in which the archeologist finds himself unwittingly embroiled in the search of the Lost City. Using Plato’s Lost Dialogue as a guide, his quest will take him from Iceland to the ruins of Tikal, with the myth of the flooded island becoming more and more credible with every step of the way.
Like in other point and click adventure games, players will be tasked to guide Jones through his ordeals. We’ll come across puzzles, find items to solve them and make our way through a colorful cast of characters, which we’ll need to help, overcome or trick in order to reach Atlantis and save the world from the Nazis.
The best example of this dynamic occurs early in the game. One of Jones’s first tasks is to find Sophia Hapgood, an archeologist-turned-psychic at her Atlantis show in New York. Left with no time to waste and no ticket, we’ll have to find a way to get in her show. While we might sneak in through the fire exit, there’s an easier way to get in and that’s through the bouncer.
The bouncer is no man of wits, but his appreciation of Sophia’s work is genuine. Impress him with your fake adoration of the psychic and he’ll let you in as a fellow fan. It’s simple enough, but fun. You must choose the right answers so as to hide Indy’s contempt for her line of work, which is hilarious. It’s not the typical interaction one has with a video game character.
There is a third way to get in, which is to fight with the bouncer. The game includes a detailed combat system, which is completely optional and which I don’t recommend using. Unlike the movies it’s based on, Fate of Atlantis is not an action title. It fares poorly at its attempts to do so and it’s best played like a straight point and click adventure. Fortunately, they are never necessary.
After all, the game features three different paths for its first half. We might either partner with Sophia, delve into some white-knuckle action minigames or simply go alone for slightly more difficult puzzles. These paths converge once you reach Atlantis and I believe the team path is preferable, but I appreciate the attempt at providing some variety.
What distinguishes Fate of Atlantis, above all, is the quality of its writing. It’s consistently funny, charming and well-researched. Its dialogue constantly made me smile and the chemistry between Jones and his partner is fantastic. I love that when you answer her in a rude manner she coldly turns around and gives Jones the cold shoulder. These small details are a joy to watch.
Fate of Atlantis approaches the series in a comedic light. The initial sequence shows a clumsy Jones who falls down repeatedly to let the credits roll. However, it never crosses the line into parody. The tone remains close to that of the original films, which already had their share of funny scenes. It’s probably closest to The Last Crusade in this regard, which is not a bad thing.
The key here is that Fate of Atlantis captures Jones’ skepticism, a central but often forgotten component of his character. His standoffish stance regarding the existence of Atlantis and the occasional snark about it is very reminiscent of his religious incredulity in Raiders of the Lost Ark where he claimed not to “believe in hocus pocus, the boogeyman”.
Most importantly, this skepticism is left in the hands of the player. The majority of dialogue is interactive and we may choose how to reply or interrogate other characters. While choosing a response over another does not change the overall plot, characters do react to our answers. With this, Fate of Atlantis remains an interactive experience throughout, even if the choices are somewhat illusory.
The writing and overall mood are enough to carry the game at first. It’s so much fun to talk to Sophia and the other characters that I didn’t mind that the puzzles weren’t up to par. Sadly, this state of events changed by the time I got to Atlantis. The pacing started to falter and the lack of substance became increasingly noticeable.
Most of the puzzles in Fate of Atlantis are not puzzles in the strict sense. Rather, most of them simply require finding certain items and then using them in the appropriate place. Hence, most devolve into little more than pixel-hunting or blindy trying combinations by trial and error. It never becomes obnoxious, unlike in King’s Quest, but it is disappointing.
Let me use an example. In order to progress to the inner circle of Atlantis we must open a door. Sadly, the statue whose arm opens it is broken and we have to fix it. This is a great opportunity for a puzzle which the game squanders. The gears needed to repair the statue are thrown about the Lost City, an exercise in searching every room, and the way you have to put them is shown in a diagram, no thinking required.
Fate of Atlantis is one of those games where you better grab everything you can or you’ll need to backtrack. If you didn’t notice you could make a sandwich in the submarine’s kitchen, you won’t be able to progress in Atlantis. A few small mazes may need to be crossed two or three times if you missed the solution to a puzzle, which is a bit grating.
The game is normally quite fair to the player. However, it’s possible to get stuck in the very last room. It actually happened to me as a kid. The clue needed to solve one of the last puzzles is located on the other side of a lava pool. You are not able to go back once you cross it so, if you don’t write it down, the game becomes practically unwinnable right at the end.
Still, none of this takes away from the overall mood. It’s fun and I enjoyed it from beginning to end. Despite its age, its colorful backgrounds and large sprites give it a lovely look and its technical limitations, like Jones’ slow walking speed, never become too bothersome. It has none of the roughness that characterizes other vintage titles and holds up as well as it did on release.
In fact, I found myself wishing many modern games took a couple notes from it. Despite its low level of difficulty, it’s not afraid to make you lose if you really screw up. Sophia doesn’t lavish over the player and the whole game takes about 6 hours to complete, with no filler or any other unnecessary content. Despite its lack of depth, it’s a joy to play and a great way to revisit the heyday of graphical adventures.
|INDIANA JONES AND THE FATE OF ATLANTIS (1992)|
|DESIGN||Hal Barwood||SOUND & MUSIC||Clint Bajakian|