Cards on the table: until I had read Chris Scullion’s brilliant book, The SNES Encyclopedia, I never knew this Indiana Jones game existed. Sure, I knew about the various 8 and 16-bit home computer releases. The rather rough N64 “Infernal Engine” was a valiant attempt, and I was well acquainted with the original X-Box’s “Emperor’s Tomb” (though the less said about the Wii version of “The Staff of Kings”, the better…), but I’d never even heard about this title until reading Scullion’s book. With my curiosity piqued, I decided to give Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures a go.
Covering the three extant movies (at the time), each film is effectively its own level, with a number of stages dedicated to it (11, 7 and 7 respectively). Being a 16-bit licenced title, it’s a 2D side-scrolling platformer. However, the technical capabilities of the SNES are utilised quite well in three of the stages: Temple of Doom’s snowbound dinghy ride and mine cart chase, and Last Crusade’s airplane escape from the Zeppelin. The levels and stages are organised as per the films, though they should be considered as taking the themes from the movies rather than actual events, but then this is primarily a platformer.
The first thing you notice is the presentation. Factor 5 have done a brilliant job of capturing the style and tone of the films from the very first screen where Indy pushes away the Lucasarts logo. This continues into the game itself as stills from the movies along with on-screen text introduce each batch of stages. This extends to the familiar red line racing across a map of the world. The music that plays through these scenes is suitably recognisable and does no disservice to the SNES, even if it does sound like it’s your younger, more talented sibling rocking out on that Casio keyboard you both had to share last Christmas.
Graphically, Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures relies upon large 2D sprites that are well detailed and look fluid enough. They could do with a few more frames here and there but overall, it’s respectable. Backgrounds are similarly detailed and there is enough differentiation in palette to make each location stand out, even if there are only so many ways to portray a cave. The non-platforming stages add a bit more colour and move at a decent clip, but don’t seem quite as smooth as the rest of the game.
Sound quality is more debatable. There are a small number of speech samples in there (usually Indy at the beginning of each stage), and the whip is suitably… whippy. Gunfire, though, sounds like someone hammering at a piece of four by two. In-game music is, to begin with, brilliant. Oh, it still sounds like your sibling on that Casio, but it works really well. Each stage plays a decent rendition of one of the two or three themes taken from the first and second movies, which really adds to the atmosphere. The problem is that after a few hours of playing, you’ll be sick of the sound of them, even if you are a die-hard Indy fan. What was once brilliant very quickly becomes just plain annoying.
With presentation out of the way, what about the gameplay?
There are three difficulty levels and I struggled even on the easiest setting. Why? Those large sprites cover too much of the screen. For example, the second stage in Raiders is the infamous boulder chase and you have to stay too close to the right hand side of the screen to clearly see what’s in front of you. It becomes a reaction/memory test very quickly. There are random difficulty spikes which just seem to exist to make the game last longer, and the boss battles are all over the place: Toht and Mola Ram are shocks to the system when you first meet them, whilst Belloq and the Swordsman are almost too easy. Some enemies are one hit wonders, whilst others take four or five hits to get them to disappear in flames.
Then there are the non-platforming levels – a change of pace, yet the mine cart stage is pretty boring and the airplane fight feels off due to the weird shooting angle you use. It also lasts far too long. Other stages only take a couple of minutes but with those difficulty spikes, you will take a couple of hours to finish the game. After that, you’ve pretty much seen it all.
At first, I really wanted to like Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures. The presentation seemed spot on, the tone felt true to the source material and there looked to be some variation in gameplay. Sadly, the random in-game difficulty and the repetitive in-game music changed my initial opinion, leading to frustration at what, in my initial thoughts, was a decent movie tie-in (which would by default make it a champion in that particular genre). Sadly. behind the façade, Indiana Jones’ Greatest Adventures is a middling platformer wrapped in a licence that perhaps deserved better.
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Great initial presentation cannot hide a tired platformer that has some weird difficulty spikes and no real reason to replay it after it’s all over.
Quiet guy enjoying videogames (both retro and modern), military history, historical wargaming, sci-fi and fantasy. Run my own blog at tantobieinternettattler.blogspot.com which covers most of my hobbies and interests.