Developer: Atari Games
Publisher: Atari Games
The 80s where a simpler time. Reagan was showing the damn commies a thing or two, cocaine was the drug of choice, music creation was at its peak and the games industry was booming. A certain single company was like the One Ring of gaming companies and they were buying up movie licenses quicker than Legolas was blasting arrows into orc skulls. Lord of the Rings references aside, Atari was the gaming business… Up until it almost completely demolished the industry when they phoned in the E.T. game leaving many alienated from home gaming. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom came from the ashes of the crumbled gaming market and on the cusp of the SNES invading the west.
Dr. Jones, Dr. Jones. Calling Dr. Jones…
I stumbled across Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (not the movie) when searching the internet gaming archive (where you can play it for free) and given that everyone and their mother loves Indiana Jones – or just Harrison Ford – so why not give it a try. My experience was fairly average though the title is well polished throughout. As you start the game your tasked with a faux menu screen that’s controlled by where you take Indy in the time allocated to selecting your difficulty. It’s a nice touch before you even begin to journey through the Temple of Doom. Given the sheer ball busting nature of any game before the 90s my decision was a simple one…
From here the game falls into it’s motions which is the biggest pitfall of the entire game coupled with the short length. “But hey, if it was much longer you’d never finish it in an arcade and so we decided to double down on tasks to do for each stage to consume your precious, delicious money” beckoned the Indiana Jones arcade machine as you get ready to perform the same pattern of three tasks, three times before the final escape stage which I’m sure must take 3 minutes on average to complete for consistency’s sake.
Level 1, Version 1
The first stage consists of Indy running, not-really-jumping and whipping his way through the evil Thuggee cult’s child slave mines wherein you’re tasked with saving the slave kids. Indy does this in typical Indy style and fashion by whipping the lock of the tiny cages freeing the children who give a short victory pose before disappearing into the ether as though they’re the ghosts of the kids who probably worked in the mines. You’ll then need to make your way to the top of the map to hop into a mine-cart for the next playable section.
This is a vital time to discuss an important issue with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; the verticality of the levels. The game, for the most part, is viewed from an angle above Indy removing most of the visible height elements. You move around going up ladders and stairs yet at the same time the flat areas have the same perspective but are essentially a 3D environment allowing you to move all further back or forward on the platform. You’ll get your first taste of how jarring this is as you drop from a “ledge” that has no indication that’s a ledge based on how the game has played until that point. It’s like learning to run but someone showing you how by running up a wall.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Rail
Thankfully the mine-cart section doesn’t suffer from this as it’s an on-rail action-fest that sees you skillfully glide down a track whipping Thuggee guards as you pass by followed by the occasional explosive barrel to disintegrate any would be mine-cart follows. It’s surprisingly enjoyable and looks great on top of that. That being said, I’m not sure how you fail on this section. At one point I left the gaming running as I went to check a screenshot and somehow Indy had made it to the end of the track completely intact.
The chase sequence leads perfectly into the final stage of the three tier repetition and is the point before you start the process over again. It’s easily the shortest and simplest of the stages (though, in fairness, you can die on this one). This level consists of a platform that opens out to a lava swimming pool, one relatively useless Thuggee goon (who usually goes for a swim) and a shrine like feature at the rear. Large sprawling text demands that you take the “Sankara Stone”, a mildly gleaming item at the base of the shrine. You run forward grab the stone, doors open on either side and you make a bolt for it. SIMPLE!
Digital Harrison Ford
As mentioned earlier the design from this point repeats with each level varying ever so slightly; different ladders and slave placements in the mines, different design of the mine cart track and slightly different door positioning on the temple stage. Make it through the entire process and you’ve to cross the famous rope bridge from the movie will having fireballs shot at you and then BAM, you’re done.
It took me about an hour to get through the whole thing which isn’t an awful lot of time but that’s not to say no effort went into Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The level design and art style might be extremely lifeless but the characters including Indy are really well drawn. The controls are tight despite the rather mundane affair of running away from enemies and avoiding other hazards like snakes and large drops. The sound design is awesome with digitalized Harrison Ford, Amrish Puri (Mola Ram – the heart-stealing bad guy) and John Williams’ epic soundtrack. As it is, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is a mixed bag. Some incredibly loveless design is matched with some passionate video game production resulting in a strange title that feels both ahead of it’s time and yet strangely dated for it’s time. I’d recommend that you give it the hour it takes as let’s face it, you’ve probably wasted more time on less worthy endeavors. I know I have, just ask your mum…
My retro review score: