In 1992 one of the greatest adventure games ever made was released to the world. ‘Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis’ was everything a fan of the three films made up until that point could hope for.
It was a globe-trotting journey of epic proportions featuring one of pop culture’s most well loved protagonists. An updated version released less than a year after the original included full voice acting, and Doug Lee, the actor who voiced Indiana Jones in the game, even sounds like Harrison Ford. For anyone who grew up with Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade, this game was a dream come true, as it gave them the chance to embark on their own grand ancient historical and archaeological adventure with one of their heroes.
‘The Fate of Atlantis’ was released in the boom era of point-and-click adventure games, the masters of which were undoubtedly Sierra and LucasArts. The team at LucasArts that worked on ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ tried to make a break with the more cartoon-like graphics of their previous adventure games and focus on improving the feeling of realism. One of their methods of doing this was to use rotoscoping, a process that Jordan Mechner had employed in the creation of his wonderful action-adventure platform classic ‘Prince of Persia’.
Rotoscoping involved filming and tracing actors’ gestures to recreate natural movement in the game. In the case of ‘The Fate of Atlantis’ it worked quite well; the amount of relatively lifelike motion does help the payer to feel slightly more immersed in the adventure.
The creators also gave careful consideration to the game’s story; it was important that the focal point of the narrative be at least as exciting and profound as those of the Indiana Jones films. The movies had already dealt with the famous mysteries surrounding the Ark of the Covenant and the Holy Grail, so to maintain such a high standard must have been quite a challenge.
They decided to base the story on the myth of Atlantis, and this is one of the things that makes the experience so good. The team at LucasArts spun a high-quality yarn that measures in at a good length. In the early to mid-nineties there seemed to be a fascination with the Atlantean legend, and any medium that allowed one to explore it was considered hot property to those who loved a great ancient historical mystery. The subject matter was still very popular in 1996 when ‘Tomb Raider’ came around, and has made a resurgence recently with games such as ‘Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey’.
‘The Fate of Atlantis’ takes us on a grand tour of the world. Our adventurer starts in Barnett College, where he holds tenure, but travels far and wide—visiting New York, Iceland, the Azores, Guatemala, Monte Carlo, Algeria, Crete, and of course, Atlantis. The game’s artists designed each screen painstakingly well; each location feels different to the last, featuring unique scenery, music, and sound effects that suit their real-world counterparts.
Even if the artwork and sound now seem dated, they still do a competent job of immersing the player in the atmosphere of any particular locale. This is a game to work through slowly and relax with, and as the player will tend to spend a relatively large amount of time on any one screen, the atmosphere is important.
In order to progress in the game, and consequently advance the story, a plethora of obstacles must be overcome in the form of fiendish puzzles. Solving these is usually achieved through a combination of using inventory items that Indy has collected, scanning the screen for new items to pick up or objects to interact with, and by talking to a host of weird and wonderful people.
There certainly is a wide range of non-playable characters in the game—from stereotypical Nazi spies and scientists bent on world domination—to eccentric archaeologists. At one point the player even interacts with a talking parrot. Most of these entertaining personalities provide Indy with crucial pieces of information that enable him to move forward on his quest. Some of them also serve up moments of humour, which is in keeping with the spirit of the Indiana Jones films.
Our protagonist has a companion with him on his global adventure in the form of Sophia Hapgood, an archaeologist turned psychic medium. She assists Indy during his exploits, and the verbal exchanges between them not only provide light comic relief, but also add depth to their characters and the game’s story. As result of their interaction we gradually come to feel more involved in the events taking place in the world they inhabit.
Having a sidekick along for the ride is a concept that the game designers utilise well to provide branching paths towards the adventure’s conclusion. During the first half of the game, the player is given a choice to follow the ‘team’, ‘wits’, or ‘fists’ path. The team path involves working together with Sophia to solve problems, the wits path is based on figuring out puzzles alone, and the fists path is more action-focused—allowing players to partake in punch-ups galore. Each path includes unique scenes, meaning that one can play the game three separate times and enjoy new experiences. This provides good replay value and is rare in games produced in the early nineties.
Regardless of the variations between the three paths, the overarching adventure remains unchanged; it involves tracking down Plato’s lost dialogue and using it to ascertain the location of Atlantis. Upon discovering a copy of the ancient text, a certain historical weight is added to proceedings. The player is even able to open it and read through several pages, providing realism and enhancing the feeling that they are caught up in one of antiquity’s great mysteries.
Some sections of the game feature the occult which adds a bit of spice to the story. At one point an ethereal being from Atlantis appears and flies around a room, and in another scene, a demonstration is given of the magical power of the peculiar substance ‘orichalcum’—through its use as a fantastical energy source. This dose of mysticism leads to a better and more authentic experience because it maintains the tone of the films and leads the player to feel more invested in the whole Indiana Jones world.
The winning combination of bookish mythology and the supernatural hits the mark, and the feeling that one is playing through an interactive film is what creates such appreciation with Indy fans. The LucasArts team nailed the content, pacing, depth, and overall atmosphere of the game, making it seem like a natural next step in our famous hero’s adventurous life.
‘Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis’ was certainly the high point of the titular character’s appearances in gaming media. None of the other attempts to recreate the Indy experience succeeded so well.
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