Games time forgot: Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures

After last week’s Super Star Wars Trilogy write-up, it’s now time to highlight the other unknown trilogy game: Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures.

It’s basically like the Super Star Wars Trilogy, except it’s based on a much better movie series (that’s right, I said it), all three flicks are summarized in just one cartridge, and there’s about 60% more Harrison Ford. Other than that, though, the trilogy games are remarkably similar; both jump back and forth between side-scrolling and Mode 7 levels, both are unforgivingly difficult, and both play fast and loose with their source material.

So go ahead, hit the jump. Trust me.

Story:

Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures somehow manages to simultaneously be really faithful to the original films, and not very faithful at all. On the one hand, it refuses to take the Super Star Wars route and turn every single dialogue scene into an excuse for platforming and combat: you don’t have to punch and jump your way through Indy’s university before heading to Cairo.

On the other hand, the game also ignores some of the best action sequences in all three of the films. You won’t find the Raiders truck chase in Greatest Adventures, nor will you play the boat or motorcycle chases from The Last Crusade. And you won’t even see the Cross of Coronado.

Oh, and the final boss is an evil, zombified version of Walter Donovan. Instead of aging a thousand years and instantly dying after drinking from the false grail, he just sort of loses his skin and becomes eighty times more powerful. So, there’s that.

Gameplay:

Same deal as the Super Star Wars games, except a hundred times harder. You know those Mode 7 levels in Empire or Jedi? Remember how I was bitching that they were difficult? They have nothing on the Mode 7 stages in Greatest Adventures. Every chase scene, be it on a mine cart or a biplane, requires the player to dodge and shoot with the reflexes of a genetically engineered rabbit. If you can’t avoid the pitfalls, you die very quickly, and — as one would expect from a game made in 1994 — you have to restart the entire level again, even if you died right before the very end.

The side-scrolling stages are more or less standard, but they’re also kind-of-sort-of nonlinear. Indy can climb on top of many surfaces and use his whip to swing from wooden, wall-mounted pegs; since Indy can do so much, the Factor 5 developers thought it might be cute to give the player a bunch of different routes to the goal — only to dead-end all but one of them once the player has spent enough time on any given path to assume it’s the right one.

Duck when you could have jumped? Tough titty — you’re gonna have to either die or go all the way back to that junction, and we won’t tell you that this is the case until you’ve already spent another five minutes walking right.

The game isn’t all frustrating, though. The way it replicates certain moments from the film using gameplay are really, really entertaining. The boulder chase plays out exactly as you’d expect it to — the damned rock takes up the entire left half of the screen — and this badass scene from Raiders is perfectly translated into a 2D boss fight. The boss actually can’t be beaten unless you follow the film and shoot the dude in the chest; even if you try to smack him with your whip, the guy will just stand there and take it until you finally bust a poorly-animated cap in his ass.

Why you’re probably not playing it:

Gotta love this guy’s heavily-accented, occasionally stressed-out commentary as he beats the game.

In all seriousness, though, just watch the guy try to beat the last stage — it’s friggin’ hard. Each little platform has a huge spike which can knock you plummeting to your death in one hit, each of the timing puzzles takes off a significant portion of health with every hit…in many ways, this game is even more unforgiving than the Super Star Wars games.

It also doesn’t help that the controls are nowhere near as tight. Indy jumps rather sluggishly, and aiming his whip attack in any direction other than straight forward can be a real chore. Heck, you can’t even fire your gun and move at the same time unless you start firing after you start running, or if you jump in the air and fire your gun and keep the Y button held down or — whatever. The controls aren’t great.

Actually, considering the controls aren’t that great, the game itself really isn’t that great. It’s interesting, it’s got some cute level design, and its alternating faithfulness to and ignorance of its source material make it worth a try, at the very least. It is, of course, incredibly easy to NOT emulate — if you’re a fan of the Indy series, it might be worth the two-second NOT download time to hear 16-bit versions of the Indy theme song, and the famous boulder scene.

Anthony Burch