[Arcade]  

Title: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Author:Atari Games
Rom Player: MAME
Reviewer: Andrew Schultz

Synopsis: Indiana Jones, being an '80s icon, was an ideal candidate for a video game. He's probably the most handsome character you can control, well before the wave of homogenous muscleheads who do ridiculous fighting combos. They still can't stack up to him--in fact as a young kid I was in awe of a certifiably attractive character such as Indiana Jones, who was Han Solo too apparently. But Dr. Jones, as he prefers to be called, gets a real adventure in this game. With eight mazes for each difficulty level, there's no shortage of caverns to explore. And I remember feeling brave whether I put two quarters(a princely sum back then) in for seven lives, or instead if I put just one in to test my technique.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom(IJTD) is roughly based on the second of the Indiana Jones movie. You must find three Sankara stones, hidden behind a ledge-and-ladder maze with a side quest of rescuing caged children, a mine cart with three parallel tracks, enemy carts, and dead ends, and the less than climactic altar room. The fourth iteration replaces the altar room with a showdown on the Rope Bridge where Indy must get close to Mola Ram, and an inanely difficult bonus round follows so the game can kill you of and pretend like it won.

And all you have is a crummy whip and your usual guile. The starting scene where you choose the level difficulty shows the basic obstacles to deal with. You can move in four directions and whip in eight. To get to the 'hard' door you need to whip at a wall-post that swings you across a lava pool. If you're fast enough, you can 'complete' this level for a bonus, which consists of whipping everything in the room--snakes which stay put but are lethal, and skull piles and skeletons on the wall which were probably the good guys, but they're dead now, so why not? It's a good introduction to the skills you'll need to ace the altar and cavern scenes.

Your whip's a bit too short and quick on the tougher levels at times, and it doesn't vaporize enemies like in most video games, but you can stun the Thuggee guards that chase you and beat them into submission so they fall down to the next level. You can also use your whip to jump across gaps via a post, and while sometimes you can kick the Thuggees on the other sides, on later levels they tend to run back and forth just outside of your reach, and there's a chance you'll get killed by this 'prevent' defense.

The altar rooms may not be the most exciting climax, even if they look impressive. There's a pool of lava guarding the Sankara stone, and the platform you need to step on to grab the stone slides in and out. There's also a bridge to solve the level quickly, although it can disintegrate. The main annoyance here may be when the bad guys decide to mill around where you go next. If things go smoothly you can whip everything in sight for an extra bonus and leave the bad guys in your wake, but otherwise they and Mola Ram, who appears and throws ever faster flaming hearts you must whip, will catch you quickly. Getting the stone and leaving is a bit easy, and completing the level officially subjects you to the whims of a random number algorithm(not even whipping the Thuggees so they fall to death in lava works--they regenerate somewhere nasty,) but fortunately the other two levels leave you searching for a bit of a break.

And there are other ways to die that make the caverns much more exciting. No one is particularly lethal but they all add to the atmosphere. Once you've dismissed the Thuggees and snakes as easy stuff, you may find yourself fleeing later, or just getting lost. Bats tend to chirp before entering the sceen, and then they fly where they think you're going to be, and the Thuggees get fast enough that you can't whip so disinterestedly. For extra synergy timed spikes test your patience sorely. And gas cans are just as fun to whip as skeletons but more lethal once opened.

Mola Ram hangs around too in case you decide to linger to beat up Thuggees for points. As whipping the curve-ball flaming hearts any major league pitcher would be jealous of is distracting, your best defense is pre-emptive: release kids in cages, which delays his appearance. Whipping the locks feels adventurous and daring when you do it from another ledge. And although the object is really just to get to the top of the map, it's fun to root out all the kids and get the big bonus, avoiding 'MOLA RAM WILL BE PLEASED.' Near the end there are nasty conveyor belts into rock crushers and sliding tunnels--the Thuggees, faster than you at that point, even fall faster. Falling plays a big role in the level whether it's knowing where you can fall for a shortcut or where to whip a Thuggee so he falls out of your orbit for a bit.

The mine cart scenes are sandwiched between the more manual combats, and they act as the big blocker that will eat up most of your lives. There are three possible parallel tracks you can go down. You have branches and turn-offs and merges, all of which facilitate crashes as you hurtle towards the end. And you probably will, caught up in the music at first. But it's not a great idea--you can whip the carts behind, or gas cans or rock vats for less direct carnage, and you will probably need to.

Once you've gotten the hang of basic Thuggee thumping, going slowly, in direct opposition to the movie, will become more vital. Standing guards are normally just for points except for the occasional huge brute who just sticks out his paw to turn your cart over, but once you've gotten the hang of the tracks this sort of challenge can't even be avoided by sticking to a far track. There will be dead ends or sharp merges, and enemy carts just shoot out of side tunnels. You can lose two carts in a row very quickly if there's a bevy of dead-end tracks, and then bats appear, along with breaks in tracks(jump fast over them) or missing rails(lean to one side.) Then there are diagonal down branches which add for immense confusion.

All this and if you get to the end without whipping the final gas can, your cart gets tipped over. It takes a while to get out and you'll be lucky to see a big 'THAT WAS CLOSE!' The will-Indy-make-it factor here is so great because unlike the movie, he doesn't always do it. The game uses narration well, with hints when you die('AVOID INSTANT DEATH' aside) and it's the first one to inform me how luckily I got off the hook.

If there's one weakness, it may be the ending. The rope bridge is disappointingly linear before the final scene, dubiously propagandized as 'bonus,' and the part after will confuse you and leave you a bit down after your accomplishment(even 'easy' is not that simple,) especially with the stupid possessed Prince of Pankot brat appearing randomly from the sides and stabbing you with a voodoo doll, the little punk, before you sit stunned for several seconds and the Thuggees get to you. It's all so contrary to the general action that although it's a nice infinite-life challenge it must have been annoying to people who got good enough at the game to win. At least few people had to suffer through it extensively, and only those cheating with infinite lives will have to put up with the victory-prattle.

IJTD features darkness aplenty but drab is totally out of the question. Twisting rock paths and log ladders are part of what gives the game of the India I've come to know and hold mysterious--well, the sort you might see in an ad, which is just fine really. The usual cavern-mouth caves abound and the eight-foot thuggee is amusing. Perhaps it's a bit heavy on red--lava, Mola Ram's cloak, the weird purplish thuggee robes--but the falling animations and mine carts tilting and tumbling, or Mola Ram raising his hand and waiting, just to distract you, shake you up just enough.The game's very fast paced, until it suckers you in and you miss a cue, and it takes advantage of your haste.

And the tunes play into this. With all your lives spent you get the Indiana Jones theme, a rousing effort and as good a going away present as video game ever gave human, but the three themes for the levels work well, from the questioning, slowly rising tune as you ascend to the mine carts to the manipulative, pressing xylophonic ditty that caused many players to race too fast. The altar room features your average tune that might not be impressive on its own, but with everything else you're already favorably disposed, and it sounds cool. Thuggees make satisfying noises when stunned or killed, much less stoic than Indy's reflexive grunt after a long crash. Yes, you're clearly not just braver and more capable, but more stoic than your opponents, who also taunt you by standing over you on your demise. The bats are nice and creepy and provide the right sort of clue.

Overall IJTD offers plenty of justified and personal violence that's usually off limits, and there's a high adventure factor with a cohesive progression. That the higher difficulties introduce entirely new puzzles makes the game last even longer. And the game's as fun to replay as the movie is to watch many times over. It obviously can't duplicate the movie, but in a way having seemingly more impossible tasks and several chances to do it raises the stakes. At the beginning of an era when a story could be developed, IJTD possessed cohesive plot that a game like Tron, a collection of entertaining sub-games, did not. It even had an ending, to satisfy purists, with enough variations in the meantime to give a lot of excitement

Best Cheats: Nothing Entered

Game Play: 7
Graphics: 7
Music/Sound: 8
Originality: 8
Overall Rating: 8

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