Friday, 1 January 2016

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (MS-DOS)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade DOS title screen
Developer:Lucasfilm Games|Release Date:1989|Systems:Amiga, Atari ST, CDTV, DOS, FM Towns, Macintosh, Windows

This week on Super Adventures, I'm having a quick look at another one of those Lucasfilm/LucasArts adventures. It wasn't really part of my masterplan to play a pair of Sam & Max games in July then follow them up with a pair of Monkey Islands in September, but seeing as that happened I might as well finish the trilogy with a duology of Indiana Joneses. Uh, bit of a spoiler for the next game there, sorry.

The difference this time though is that I've never played this and I've got no idea what it's like. I don't even know if it's considered to be any good. But one thing I do know is that its full title is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, as Lucasfilm also developed a multi-platform Last Crusade platformer in the same year called The Action Game and they didn't want gamers to get them confused. That's good responsible labelling, I applaud them.

Weirdly another developer called Software Creations went and made a third Last Crusade game a couple of years later, exclusive to the NES. Which means the console got two entirely different Last Crusade action games. Later Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures and LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures would revisit the movie as well. Not a whole lot of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull games out there though, you'll be shocked to learn.



Shiny!

It’s not an animation of the Gold Guy LucasArts Man jumping around with an Indiana Jones hat on or whatever, but it’ll do. Lucasfilm Games were still months away from transforming into LucasArts at this point, though I'll be seeing the famous 'L' logo at the start of their next adventure, Fate of Atlantis. And I'd better see it do something.

Clowns... why did it have to be clowns?

I'd been wondering if anyone I've heard of had worked on the game and now I know. Ron Gilbert, David Fox, Steve Purcell, James Cameron... oh sorry, I read that last one wrong. Still, having people who would go on to make Secret of Monkey Island and Sam & Max: Hit the Road on the team is definitely a good sign. Also it turns out that this is running on the mighty SCUMM engine which powered all the LucasArts classics from Maniac Mansion up to Curse of Monkey Island.

Uh, so the credits show running across a train as a teenager... but then when the game begins he's suddenly a soggy adult, leaving a mysterious puddle on one of Barnett College's longest carpets. I guess the developers were counting on players having seen the 'Last Crusade' movie first and being able to fill in the gaps themselves, which seems a pretty safe bet.

Hi Indiana Jones!

Well our hero's goal was to change into dry clothes and he’s done that by himself, so now I don’t know what to do. Teach archaeology I guess? There's so many verbs down at the bottom of the screen that I'm sure 'teach' has to be in there somewhere.

You know what the game doesn't have though? Music. Not here anyway.

Oops, I accidentally clicked above Indy's shoulder and he got automatically got changed and jumped into the ring. So the game's got the same dialogue system as Monkey Island then: all text, no cryptic icons. We’re not quite into the talkie era for adventure games at this point though, so no Harrison Ford impersonation for me. Plus it keeps putting the dialogue up at the top of the screen, which isn't actually the best place for dialogue to be. I didn't realise how well the typical adventure game habit of having each character's lines floating above their heads works until now.

Well I'm in the ring now so I might as well see what happens when I choose to spar with the boxing coach.

Uh, what the fuck? It's put me into an actual fight! This is supposed to be the Graphic Adventure not the Action Game.

Our punch power bars regenerate while we’re not punching, so I guess the trick is to keep my distance until I can strike with the heaviest blow. Trouble is, I don’t know how to back away or punch. The mouse does nothing!

Ah, I’m supposed to use the number keys!

Well I just knocked out the boxing coach. I'm sure he'll be fine though, no need to get someone in to check up on that sudden traumatic loss of consciousness. I mean he was only out for 10 minutes, going by the text that flashed on screen.

Okay I've been in college for a quarter of an hour and I've already left a puddle on the floor and beaten someone senseless, so let's see what else I can do here (because the game's not giving me any hints).

The students here don’t even register as existing under my cursor, but I can chat with Marcus some more and examine these shelves. Hey Indy, I thought these things belonged in a museum, not your trophy cabinet.

The interface looks very Monkey Island, but it's not quite as user friendly. For one thing it doesn't automatically select a sensible verb for what I right mouse click on. If I want to talk to someone, I have to click that 'Talk' button (or press the shortcut key).

Also it doesn't automatically tell me what my cursor's hovering over; I have to click 'What is' before I can sweep the screen to see what I can interact with. Then once I've memorised where the objects are, I have to 'Look' at each of them to find out what they are.

Could be worse though. At least I don't have to click 'Walk to' every time I want to go somewhere.

Lucasarts adventure game timeline
(Lines only vaguely point to the right month, especially for the earlier games.)
This seems like a good excuse to get more use out of my LucasArts adventure game timeline picture. Took me ages to make, this did.

Last Crusade is down there on the bottom left, before Monkey Island but after Maniac Mansion. The film came out in 1989 as well so they timed that well. Sadly the last of the original Star Wars trilogy came out in 1983, a few years too early for us to get a Return of the Jedi: The Graphic Adventure game.

Actually, looking at this has just reminded me of something.

It's reminded me of how terrible the box art for this game is. Somehow they put Han Solo and James Bond together on the same cover and made it look boring. Of course just sticking photos of the actors on a box would've been enough to shift copies so they didn't have to try too hard, but the movie had a fantastic poster, painted by legendary poster guy Drew Struzan, and this doesn't come close to it.

Plus why does it have INDY written across the top in giant letters, with the actual title hidden just below it in tiny text?

And why did they use those incredibly 80s looking fonts for 'and the Last Crusade' when the movie already had a perfectly good logo? And why am I looking at the cover with a magnifying glass when I should be playing the game that came inside it?

Well I've walked from one side of the college to the other and it doesn't seem like I've got anything to do here. I can't pick anything up, I can't talk to any of the students, and all the doors on this wonky hallway seem to lead to a class in session.

There's some nice shadows on the wall next to the front door though. That's a point, I could always try just walking out of college. Maybe he's not even supposed to be working here today, maybe he just wanted to punch someone and drip everywhere.

Ah, there you go. I just had to keep checking doors until one of them opened.

Man that's some weird shading on those students. The two on the bottom left have to make do with just two colours for their shirts, while the girls next to them have a full dithered gradient across their skirts.

And I don't even know what's going on with this guy. It looks like his face is leaking out all over his jumper. That's not how pixel art is supposed to work!

The game was originally designed for EGA video cards, so the development team originally had to make the best of a very limited set of colours (most of them bad). I'm playing the shiny VGA rerelease though, which was completely redrawn to make use of the hardware's redefinable 256 colour palette... with gradients on every wall! I think the artists must have gone a bit mad with power at times.

Amiga version compared to VGA DOS version.
You wouldn't mistake it for a painted background, but I can't claim the redrawn VGA art isn't a massive improvement. No one should be forced to stare at that much cyan. The Amiga version of the game is the only one I'm even slightly familiar with and that uses the EGA art, so I'm genuinely surprised at how not crap the game looks.

I'm also kind of surprised to see Sam & Max show up (in their various forms), but with Steve Purcell working on the game it makes sense. Indy claims he recovered the totem pole from a strange Brazilian tribe that worships dogs and rabbits, so basically he stole it and then dragged it all the way from Brazil. And now it’s taking up space in his office. Maybe he should think about moving some of this stuff somewhere else, like to a museum perhaps?

He's also got a statue of a 'thousand year old falcon' sitting on his desk, which apparently means a lot to him. Not enough for him to take the damn thing with him though! Or that meteor fragment dripping with purple slime. My inventory's feeling so empty right now.

I was able to take the pile of junk mail though, revealing… a pile of letters! Then I took the pile of letters, revealing… a pile of papers. Eventually he dug down deep enough to recover a package from the desk. It’s his father’s Grail Diary, containing everything the man knows about the location of the Holy Grail! I haven't actually got any goals yet but I feel like I've achieved something.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade DOS save load screen
The save screen seems to agree with me, as it's awarded me I.Q. (Indy Quotient) points for my puzzles solved so far. It's also letting me save my game, which is handy. I'm a bit concerned about that hint book advert though; it's making me feel like I'm going to need it.

To be honest I actually quit and loaded the Steam version of the game to take this picture, as ScummVM uses its own save menu. Steam's version runs fine and looks perfect once you turn off the filtering, but the music quality is terrible and I couldn't find a way to fix it, so I just stuck the files into ScummVM and used that instead.

I tried picking up everything else in the room, but there was nothing left to do but jump out of the window to freedom. I can already feel my I.Q. points rising.

Unfortunately I was immediately intercepted by two men in suits who took me in a car to visit a wealthy gentleman called Walter Donovan. Hey, I remember him from the film! I remember this whole scene in fact, though it was a bit more... cinematic in the movie. The game doesn't do any Monkey Island-style close-ups during conversation.

Donovan wants Indy to go to Venice to discover a clue to the location of the Holy Grail. Indy's not all that interested though, as the Grail was always his dad's obsession. The thing is, they already sent his father and he's gone missing, so Indy's got a bloody good reason to fly over there.

Which means I've got myself an actual goal! I've finally hit plot.

And then the game goes and dumps me right back outside the college.

I guess I'll just go back inside then and try clicking on everything again, hopefully stumble across the next bit of the story. It's really frustrating having no clear idea of what I'm supposed to be doing, especially when my character himself would know. C'mon Indy, its your life I'm living, give me a clue.

Oh hang on, I just realised that the ‘Travel’ option is lit! I can either go to his dad's house or take a plane to Venice. I can’t remember what Indy does in the movie, but it seems to me I should get all the info on the Grail I can before flying off to Europe, so I'm checking out the house first.


LATER.


I searched the whole damn house, all I picked up was a painting of a trophy. Indy himself painted it when he was a little boy, so I'm sure that'll come in useful on my quest. There was a chest there too, but it was locked so I had to leave it be for now.

Then I chose to fly to Venice and look, it's a proper Indiana Jones map scene!

I got a cutscene showing Indy meeting up with movie character Dr. Elsa Schneider in a Venetian restaurant... but she disappeared so quickly afterwards it doesn't seem worth wasting a screenshot on her.

Now I'm in an library filled with nothing but book stacks, plaques and Roman numerals, trying to find myself a puzzle and solve it. I wish I could remember what they did here in the film, but I’m drawing a total blank.

Okay, the plaques all seem to be in-jokes so I'll ignore them for now and the numerals are just minding their own business on the floor. The stacks on the other hand all go somewhere, so I'll check them out.

Bloody hell that's a lot of books. I'm not sweeping my mouse over each of them in turn, the game can fuck off. Especially as there's two corridors like this leading off each side of the Roman numeral room, and they both lead to...

...another room covered in Roman numerals. This time the stained glass window looks a little different, plus there's writing carved into the pillars on either side. "V III IX" on the left pillar, "VI VIII I" on the right. Well that's helpful.

I'll see what's through the next pair of book stacks.

Great, another near identical room with dissimilar inscriptions. It's enough to make me want to pick up one of those metal posts and launch it through the window.

Why do I get the feeling I’m in a 'forest maze'? Like I need some kind of map to know what bookcases to walk through in what order. Oh hang on, maybe I've been carrying a map with me the whole time...

There you go! My Grail Diary's as good as any hint book! Well for solving this particular puzzle anyway, Indy won't even read the thing anywhere else.

Third on the left huh? The third numeral carved into the left pillar in the room with that window design was... IX!

Crap, I'm so close as well!

So now I need to find a crowbar in Venice. Or something else that provides leverage. Shouldn't be hard, they probably have all kinds of shops around here.


SOON.


Well I found my way back up to the restaurant at least. There's no crowbars around and no Elsa either, but I found a cat to talk to at least. Actually the 'Talk' button is ghosted out so I can't speak to anyone up here. In fact I've only been able to speak to people twice in the entire game so far, which seems crazy. To be fair though it's infinitely more than I'd be able to in Maniac Mansion or Zak McKracken, as this is actually the first Lucasfilm Games adventure to include a 'Talk' button.

It's a shame really because if I could speak, I'd ask that couple over there on the left to give me their bottle of wine. Right, where did I leave that metal post? I really feel like smashing something now.

Oh shit, I forgot you have to be quiet in libraries or they send the storm troopers after you! Or maybe the Ghostbusters, judging by the gun he's holding.

So that clue about needing 'leverage' earlier was just to throw me off track then?

I’m really good at archaeology, me. I've even discovered some more of the game's soundtrack! It's nothing I'll be humming tomorrow, but midi music is a nice change from silence.

I found that all three doors led into these catacombs, with some of the passageways converging on other rooms.

You can imagine how this would be a bit awkward to navigate at the original resolution, but it's actually worse than you think.

Because this is what it looks like in game! I've got this tiny illuminated square following me around and that's all I can see. It was a real pain in the ass to stitch that map up there together from tiny pieces, but it was even more frustrating to try to find my way around without it.

Indy HATES water? What?

No that's snakes mate, he hates snakes. And Nazis.

Either way he won't swim across, which is a bit of a shame really as I was doing pretty well down here until I ran into this dead end. I found myself a hook to grab, a torch I couldn't move and a slab I couldn't lift. It's like I'm playing a proper adventure game!

Aha, a way out!

Wow, it turns out he didn't really need to solve that Roman numerals puzzle after all, as getting the manhole cover in the restaurant open would've done just as well. All I needed was leverage.

And that's where I need to be, just on the other side of this locked grate! A secret tomb known only to everyone who's ever worked down here in the sewers.

Well, I’m stuck. I can’t reach the rusty lock on the grate, I can’t shift the slab in the other room cause my hands slip, I can’t light the torch or pull it from the wall, and I can’t swim across the water. Plus I still can’t get the lovers in the restaurant upstairs to give up their bottle of crappy wine.

I give up, I’m checking a walkthrough, so I can reach some kind of natural conclusion to this article before 2017.

Huh, Indy's supposed to be able to just grab the wine right off the table after he's taken a look at it and confirmed out loud that it's crap? But I always 'Look' at everything... or at least I thought I did.

Oh wow, it worked this time, I have the wine bottle! Now I know exactly what I need to do next.

See, I wasn't lying, I really did figure out what to do.

I used the wine bottle in the flooded cave to fill it up, then poured the water onto the torch to dampen the hard mud fixing it to the wall. Mind you I expected the torch to come off when I 'Pull'ed it, not drop me into another dark maze. Which makes no sense really when you think about it, as there's clearly light shining up on him as he falls.

Aw yeah, I'm on a roll now. I'm lucky that hook hand I found had a corkscrew sticking out the other end.

Now I just have to use the red cordon to... oh, that didn't work. Oh duh, I know what I need to use!

Indy theme!

Yes, I’m basically a genius. Oh wait, I've just permanently blocked my path to that cave on the other side. Well I'm an idiot. Though to be fair I'm not used to LucasArts games giving me the opportunity to screw myself over like this.

I backtracked and found a way back up to dark maze #1 (turns out that the slab I couldn't open earlier was the hatch to a ladder). Then I trekked back to the now un-flooded cave, and walked across to find...

... a third dark maze! C'mon Last Crusade, now you're just taking the piss.

Well I was looking for good excuse to turn the game off I suppose.


CONCLUSION

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure literally gave me a headache. I'm in pain now as I'm typing this. But I don't dislike it in the way I do games like Dark Seed. It's got too much of that Lucasfilm Games charm. By that I mean I like watching Indiana Jones fall down holes. Plus it's much prettier than I expected, looking like a proper predecessor to Secret of Monkey Island.

I mentioned in my Dropsy writings last month that I struggled to get into the game because a lot of the appeal of point and click adventures for me is the dialogue, and it didn't have any. Well this has that exact same problem, as I barely found anyone to chat with. The 'Talk' button got about as much use in the end as the 'Pull' button.

But my main issue with the game (besides having to keep manually clicking 'What is' before scanning my mouse pointer across the screen for items) is that it wasn't pulling me forward. The best point and click adventures give you things you want to get done, this just dropped me into places and left me to look for puzzles on my own.

Also I browsed that walkthrough a little and turns out that I could've found a map to the catacombs if I'd took the time to search those books inside the library. Trouble is that there's no clue it's there and by the time you realise you need a map, you're already stuck in the maze and the only way back out to the library is through. Plus that cave I blocked off with the waterfall? Turns out it contains a crucial clue, necessary to beat the game. And Indy can even get killed later on. This isn't your typical friendly LucasArts adventure, with no way to die or get hopelessly stuck. Though on the plus side there's more scope to find alternate solutions than most LucasArts games allow.

Sadly from reading actual reviews from people who've actually finished the game, it seems that what I played of it was the good bit, as there's a lot more fighting later on, along with other rubbish mini-games and trial and error dialogue puzzles. Worse still, health doesn't fully return between fights so you can win every battle and still lose by attrition.

If I was going to rank all the LucasArts adventures I've played from best to worse, from what I've seen of it this belongs to be right down at the very bottom. But it's probably the best of the Last Crusade games at least!

USEFUL INFORMATION BOX.
Your two main choices for downloading the Last Crusade are GOG and Steam. The GOG version apparently comes with ScummVM, while the Steam version has its very own executable. Running the game through ScummVM is ideal as it provides better quality music and extra graphics options, but the software can load the Steam version's data files right from their install folder, so it actually doesn't matter where you buy the game from.


There you go that's the first game of 2016 played, written and posted. I've probably already given away what game I'll be playing next, but have a clue picture anyway.

Opinions and feedback are welcome and appreciated if you want to write something in the message box below.

5 comments:

  1. Yes yes yes yes !!! indy games ! woooo !

    Never like the last crusade adventure game, that pixel hunting in the library is terrible, and yes, there are lots of "zombie situations", that is, get stuck without getting a game over. In adventure gaming that's a big no no, and I think LucasArts learnt it from Sierra by the time they released either Loom or Secret of Monkey Island.

    Now with Fate of Atlantis .. just enjoy the music from the original dos version, all other systems had some issues, specially the amiga which is missing tons of music and the quality is terrible. But no more info, just make your analysis, and thanks =)

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  2. The next one is much, much better -- the C64 version is a different game altogether -- and has a great introduction sequence.

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    Replies
    1. In looking for videos of the C64 version of Fate of Atlantis I discovered that someone has ported this version of Last Crusade, and it doesn't look that much worse than the EGA version.

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    2. Well, not so much ported, more like "demo-ed"; those C64-clips of "Last Crusade: The Adventure" are a couple of demo snippets of what a true c64-port would look like, but it's still very far from being in an actually playable state. The latest of three was actually posted only roughly a week ago.
      Though it's looking pretty swell for a C64 adventure game, I give it that much.

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  3. Boy this brings back a lot of memories

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