Like I said in my last review, today let’s steer clear from action titles and into one of my personal favourite graphic adventures. And since I failed to review a Star Wars themed game this month’s 5th, let’s remedy that with another of George Lucas’ former intellectual properties. I’m talking about Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade.
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure was made by Lucasarts and originally released in 1989 for Amiga, Atari ST and DOS. The following year it was ported to the Macintosh and released in CD-ROM format for DOS and FM Towns. The CD-ROM version was re-released in 1992 for the CD-TV, in 2009 for Windows and again in 2016 for Linux.
The original floppy version features EGA 16-color graphics and the CD-ROM version features VGA 256-color graphics, but no speech whatsoever, unlike other Lucasarts CD-ROM titles.
But before we start with the game, let’s look at the cover:
It makes sense that a movie-inspired game uses one of the official movie posters as the box cover. For those very few who haven’t watched the movie, this cover features the movie’s 2 main actors: Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones (on the left) and Sean Connery (on the right) as Henry Jones Sr., Indy’s dad.
And the back cover is equally awesome:
As you can see, it features the Holy Grail, the Grail diary (a very important item in the game, as you’ll see) along with some still shots from both the movie and the game. I have to confess I like the back cover more than the front cover. Just add Indy’s iconic hat and whip and you would have an original cover more than appropriate for this game.
But it’s time to whip this sucker:
For those of you familiar with the movie, I don’t think I need to worry explaining the game’s plot. Apart from a few changes here and there, it follows the plot of the movie quite faithfully.
The intro’s based on the movie prologue, where a teenage Indy is running along on top of a circus train carrying the Cross of Coronado, then it cuts back several years later, when adult Indy arrives at Barnett College with said cross and has a small exposition dialogue with his friend Marcus Brody.
And it’s here that the game introduces the one element that wasn’t adapted from the movie: a peculiar self-referenced sense of humour that borders on fourth-wall breaking (more than once Marcus and Indy face the player directly).
While the comedy elements aren’t as big as in other Lucasarts titles, like Maniac Mansion or Zak Mckracken and the Alien Mindbenders, the game is still quite funny and it follows more or less the comedy staple that became synonymous with Lucasarts’ graphic adventures.
The game was designed using the SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) engine which, as one can see, uses a graphical interface in the lower part of screen where you can find a list of commands and below that, the inventory. Using the mouse, you click the action you wish to perform and then click the object in the inventory and/or the place where you want said action to occur. It’s a very intuitive interface that was used in all early Lucasarts’ graphic adventures.
The interaction with the NPCs is through dialogs, where you choose which line to say and if the correct dialog tree is chosen; you can either progress, get hints or objects, or solve puzzles.
In some sections where you need to bypass Nazi guards, it’s possible to avoid any fights whatsoever if you select the correct dialog choice. But on one particular section (that can actually be bypassed in its entirety if you know how), there’s no way to sweet-talk your way out with the guards, so if they catch you, you have no other choice but to fight.
The fighting sequences (and the dogfight sequence) are the only action-oriented sections you’ll ever find throughout the game. But right at the start of the game, you can practice Indy’s boxing skills with a boxing coach. To fight, you use the numeric keypad with one set of keys to attack, another to back away and the another to block attacks (it changes accordingly whether Indy’s is on the left or right of the screen).
However, the fighting can be quite complex because there are 2 bars on screen: one for health and another for punching power. If you start the fighting simply by bashing the attack buttons, you’ll lose punching power fast, so to fight effectively, you need to block or back away when your opponent attacks and strike when you see an opening in your opponent’s defences. It’s easier said than done, so I suggest a bit of practice with the coach before getting on with the game because if you lose a fight with an enemy, it’s game-over. And your health bar recharges very slowly, so it’s very hard to fight all the Nazi enemies in the game.
But don’t worry about the dogfight sequence because there’s no penalty if you get shot down (remember that’s what happens in the movie). Even if you fight all of the Luftwaffe Air Force, your plane will eventually run out of fuel and crash.
Like I said before, the game follows more or less the movie plot, although it expands some parts (like Venice, which is probably my favourite part in the game) and reduces other parts (like Hatay and Salim, that aren’t even mentioned in the game) but it’s still well written and very faithful to the movie’s spirit.
As far as game length go, if you go to every possible area, the game has a proper length. But if you bypass certain areas (by solving the right puzzles and/or having the correct object), the game might appear somewhat short. Besides, apart from one hard section, there’s practically no reason to avoid areas (especially if you want to follow the movie’s plot as close as possible), unless you’re going for a speedrun.
This game even takes a page from Sierra’s graphic adventures and introduces a score points system, called IQ Points. But unlike Sierra’s games, to get the maximum score of 800 points, one needs to replay the game several times and choose different outcomes and solutions for the puzzles. It gives the game poor replayability value because, although I do like the different solutions for certain puzzles, it doesn’t change the plot all that much and there’s basically just one ending with some mild variations here and there based on your final actions. There’s actually no need to replay the game unless you want to see everything this game has to offer and/or you’re a completionist.
And talking about the puzzle structure, the puzzles themselves aren’t too hard or too easy, just the perfect amount of difficulty. Although in Venice you’ll have to do a bit of pixel hunting at the beginning, the rest of the puzzles aren’t as frustrating.
The most important item in the game (just like in the movie) is the Grail Diary (diaries, actually), which the in-game version is essential to solve some of the puzzles, while the physical version that came bundled with the game is essential to solve the final puzzle (whose solution changes randomly in every playthrough). It even features some Indiana Jones’ lore, including some references to The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles TV series. In fact, as games extras go, the physical Grail Diary must be one of my personal favourites game extras of all times and for me, it’s probably more faithful than the movie replica lorewise.
As far the graphics go, in both the EGA and VGA versions, I think the graphics look great with detailed sprites with a good range of colours (even with just 16 colours). The animations are more or less fluid and all the characters have a good range of movements, even during the fighting sections. And both the mouse and the keyboard controls are quite responsive, especially during the action sequences.
The sound effects are okay and you can tell the designers tried to provide a good atmosphere with the sound of footsteps (even muffled and splashy footsteps, depending on the terrain), but just the sound effects without any musical score sounds weird to me. And talking about the musical score, I think the quality of the MIDI music it’s okay, even the iconic Indy theme. If you manage to run the game with a Roland MT-32 soundboard, the soundtrack should be even better but unless you have said soundboard, the only way to truly appreciate the soundtrack in a modern PC, it’s to run the game either through Dosbox or ScummVM along with a Roland MT-32 sound emulator (like Munt). I simply wish that there were more musical themes, although the few that are present, are actually good.
So in conclusion, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a very good graphic adventure, perhaps even one of the best made by Lucasarts at the time, but it quickly got eclipsed by other Lucasarts’ graphic adventures, like the Monkey Island series and The Last Crusade own sequel, Fate of Atlantis (both of which we’ll review at a later date). Needless to say that I highly recommend it for both Indiana Jones and graphic adventures fans.
The Mac version is very similar to the DOS version, except for a smaller resolution and better menus and there’s practically almost no differences in the Amiga version. I haven’t played the FM Towns version, but it’s considered the best version due to having not only having VGA graphics but also a CD audio quality soundtrack with some of the themes taken directly from the movie soundtrack.
You can buy the modern re-release here on GOG.com or here at Steam. But I don’t recommend the Steam version because although it is the VGA version, the soundtrack is in MIDI format (although you can still use a MT-32 emulator, if you know how).
So, are you a fan of Indiana Jones? Which is your favorite movie and/or game? Tell us by commenting below or by following us on social media. Next time, let’s move genres again but not very far away. Until then, put on your hat, grab your whip and keep on playing!