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Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis Reviewed

Gabez is about to become a permanent addition to this web-site. Who knows? In a thousand years, even he may be worth something.

“It’s too damn hot.”, I snarl, taking a long swig from my water pouch. It’s mid-day, I’m in the middle of the God damn desert and I’m sweating like a beast. Around me are the fabled ruins of Knossos, the vestiges of the great Minoan civilisation, and straight ahead of where I am is a bull statue. The thing is, I’ve seen it before, in a game - Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis - and here I am, in Crete, thinking about that game beneath the sweltering glare of the sun.

It’s not everyday that this happens. It’s not likely that you’ll get stuck in a dark corridor and be reminded of Doom III, or go for a walk and think “this is just like that bit in Everquest”. But the old LucasArts adventures? Memorable classics. It’s easy to learn something from them and remember it forever, and Fate of Atlantis is no different being one of the brightest Jewels in the golden guy collection. Kerosene lamp? Highly corrosive. Who were the Minoans? An ancient Bull worshiping civilisation. Are all Nazis evil? Yes they are. You can say what you like about these games, but at least they taught you something. But is Fate of Atlantis still worth playing now we’re in the 21st century?

Thumb "The perfect game for a Sunday afternoon"

Well yes is the answer, but in an entirely different way to how most modern games are played. These days gamers rely on huge graphical worlds to wow them, and every second must hold the promise of an action-fix to keep them bashing the keys like the drug-addled morons that they are. Well, if you’re looking for that then don’t try Fate of Atlantis; it requires someone with at least a double digit IQ and contains no gimmicky effects to keep you interested. Go inject yourself with a syringe full of stupidity. In fact, please just die.

FINE LEATHER JACKETS

For the rest of us, though, Fate of Atlantis offers much in the way of intellectual stimulation that is lacking in other games. I’ll be honest with you - I haven’t played an adventure game for a long time, and getting back into one was an interesting experience. In fact, I’m a complete hypocrite - I’m just as brainless as the next gamer, and I found myself itching for a “level up” or a “new gun”. Measuring my in-take of adventuring in careful mathematical doses meant that I could slowly adjust myself to the game play, however. Within a few weeks of playing I no longer felt the old cravings - guns were just inventory items, progress meant discovering a new area and even killing people lost its appeal, as characters took the shape of full formed human beings instead of mere cannon fodder. My blood pressure had gone down and I was eating healthily again. I also found myself thinking more logically and talking to people more. Adventure games, it seems, are of a higher calibre than most modern forms of entertainment.

Yet it is still a struggle to play Fate of Atlantis, and I feel that the fault lies not so much in the genre but in the game. Even though the dialogue is witty and the locations are varied, Atlantis lacks the patented LucasArts wackiness that is so beloved in titles like Day of the Tentacle and Sam & Max. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but there is something inherently dull about the experience. Not that I’m saying the game is really that boring, but rather it is just... less exciting than other games in the genre. As I’ve described above, though, it is good to play, and any decent doctor should heartily recommend it. Without so much wackiness the game feels more real and more logical, making it the perfect activity for a Sunday afternoon, but it’s hard to recommend for any other day of the week.

Thumb Picture perfect - I owe all my impressive horn(y) knowledge to this game

ISLAND HOPPING

But Fate of Atlantis has a lot going for it anyway. The music, lovingly crafted by Bajakian, Land and McConnel, always sounds great and fits the mood perfectly, and the way the Atlantis theme slowly becomes more prominent is both highly effective and cinematic. That said, it still doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of video game music scores as Grim Fandango and LeChuck’s Revenge do, but it is nevertheless an excellent soundtrack that boosts the game up that little bit further. The voice-work is also admirable, as is the norm for LucasArts, and Doug Lee does a more than adequate job of impersonating Mr Ford. Occasionally some of the foreign speech is hard to hear, but it’s sort of expected from an old game with that level of sound quality, and you can always turn the sub-titles on anyway. When all’s said and done, Fate of Atlantis does score good brownie points in the ear department, though it has to be said that it never goes beyond simply “very good”, making it highly competent albeit hard to get that excited about.

Then there are the puzzles, the core ingredient in any half decent adventure game. Most of the time they were clever and logical, and being able to travel around the world and use different locations in the puzzles is certainly a plus point, though it never goes so far as to reach the brilliance of Monkey Island 2’s “island hopping” section. Another great feature is the choice given to the player about whether to go with Sophia or do it alone, using either your firsts or your wits. It’s impressive for any game, let alone an adventure game, to offer this as it does very much change the way the puzzles pan out and the order in which events occur. But nowadays we’re used to choices in gaming, and this feature, whilst nice, doesn’t hold as much novel value as it did back in ‘92. It would have been nice to have been offered some choices that actually seem to affect the story and the characters, a la Deus Ex, rather than something that just offers new puzzles and a different way of progressing.

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It also feels, particularly in the solo-route, that the game has been let down by the technology available at the time. A high speed Nazi car race is reduced to clicking dumbly on a map, and in this day and age that sort of thing really doesn’t cut it. If Fate of Atlantis was made today, though, it would undoubtedly be the best game ever - fully 3D worlds to explore with real life choices and thrilling action sequences. As it is Fate of Atlantis is a victim of its own licence - whilst in games like Monkey Island and Grim Fandango there was never a need to attempt action, in an Indy game it’s an absolute necessity, and unfortunately the SCUMM engine can’t really handle the task.

MY FAVOURITE PIECE OF EQUIPMENT

You have to give the game extra kudos for trying so hard, though, and there are some lovely little details like Indy’s eyes adjusting to the dark and Sophia waving to you if you look at her through the archaeological instrument in Crete. Not that that particular section was realistic; as I sat next to the Ancient bull horns in Knossos I could see that they hadn’t managed to capture what it was actually like to be in the real life location, nor, to be fair, what it is like to be Indiana Jones. But I am being harsh here - the fact of the matter is, what other game lets you travel the world as a cool archaeologist searching for Atlantis with decent (if occasionally frustrating) puzzles and a good plot? Sure, it would have been nice to have had some better action sequences, but it is also refreshing to play something that rewards the use of your grey matter rather than the power of your thumbs. It’s a game that I’d certainly recommend to anyone, and it should especially be in any self-respecting Indiana Jones fan’s collection right next to their Last Crusade DVD.

When all’s said and done though, Fate of Atlantis is a lovely piece of work. The game oozes atmosphere from every orifice like some kind of sexy Vampire pimp. From the opening credits (which are probably the best you’ll ever see in a game, being as they are both cinematic and beautifully orchestrated) to the powerful finale in Atlantis itself, the game does an excellent job of setting the mood. In particular I always felt that the Atlantians were a real people who really once lived, and walking through their lost city was an eerie experience thanks to the music and the design on their statues and ornaments. It was a thrill to slowly gather a picture of their culture and to see it revealed piece by piece throughout the game.

I’m feeling dizzy from the heat, but I vaguely remember that in Fate of Atlantis the Knossos ruins were right next to the sea. I stumble around stupidly looking for some shade or possibly just a notch in the ground where I can place my world-stone. Now if only I had my bull-whip, a copy of Plato’s lost dialogue and a kerosene lamp...

Indy month continues over the next few weeks...

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Pros: Good dialogue, ambitious locations and plot, nice music, it’s educational, huge amount of gameplay, great ending

Cons: Occasionally frustrating puzzles, Atlantis drags a bit, hard to get that excited about

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