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TheRaider.net Research Video Games Last Crusade - Action Game
 

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
The Action Game

 
Box Cover

Developer: Tiertex Design Studios
Publisher: Lucasfilm Games, U.S. Gold Ltd.

Release date:
1989

Technical Info:
Platforms: Apple Macintosh (1989), PC DOS (1989), Amstrad CPC (1989), Atari ST (1989), Commodore 64 (1989), Commodore Amiga (1989), Sinclaire ZX Spectrum 128 (1989), Nintendo's NES (1990), Sega Master System (1990), Sega Gamegear (1992), Sega Mega Drive/Genesis (1993), Nintendo GameBoy (1993)

Genre: Action, Platform Game

Mode(s): Single-player

 

When Indy fans get together and start talking about Indiana Jones video games, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is bound to come up in the conversation. It is one of the best video games ever made, let alone one of the best Indiana Jones games. Challenging puzzles and great dialogue with loads of humor and nice graphics comprise this wonderful piece of software. But that is not the game I am talking about. In Indy gaming circles, Last Crusade is synonymous with the Last Crusade point and click adventure game released in 1989 by LucasArts, then known as Lucasfilm Games. What many people and many Indy fans forget, is that there were actually two Last Crusade games released in 1989 for the PC. Both were packaged in gorgeous boxes with "Indy" emblazoned across the covers with stills from the film. The Graphic Adventure, the one we all know and love, had a photo of Indy and Henry Jones Sr. from the film on the cover. The Action Game had the famous "Indy on the horse" photo on the front.

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Amiga title screen

The Action Game was initially released for the PC in 1989 in conjunction with the release of the film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. At this point in the late eighties, video gaming was in a certain "phase" or "trend". Nintendo had long been established as the leader of home video games, and therefore led these trends. By this point, the NES had been around for a number of years and was still riding high, even in the face of Sega's recently released 16 bit Genesis. The gaming trend that it had set (that would ultimately be its downfall in the early 90s) was the "platform game". Put simply, your character (whoever that may be) runs on profile in the entire game that lacks depth on the Z-axis. In other words, your hero can move left, right, jump and possibly duck, but that's it. Therefore, the game was comprised usually of the hero running and jumping along "platforms", be they treetops or window ledges, while dodging baddies and collecting items for points, be they coins or other strange floating baubles.

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Sega Master System

Nintendo made a killing with these platform games for years with the original NES. The trend started with Super Mario Bros. and almost every action game after it was platform based. Anyone remember DuckTales, Ninja Gaiden, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Batman? All of them were very successful platform games, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. The NES continued pumping out platform games all the way up to its demise in the early nineties. One of the last games made for the NES, Felix the Cat, was a platform game like so many others. By the NES' end, the biggest complaint from gamers was the lack of variety in their game library due to the massive quantities of platform games, but in 1989, the trend was in full swing and gamers had no complaints.

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Sega Mega Drive/Genesis

Consequently it is no surprise that Lucasfilm Games decided that it would be good to make one of these "platformers" out of Indiana Jones. The result was The Action Game. In The Action Game, the player takes control of Indy (as if that was not obvious) running, jumping, punching, whipping, climbing ropes, dodging traps, and leaping pits to find the Holy Grail through a series of film inspired levels. For example, there is a circus train level and a Grail Temple level and the like.

The game made it onto an amazing number of systems over the next few years. In fact, there was a new version on a new system every year until 1993! The PC game was released in '89. The same year, adaptations of the game were released on the Amstrad CPC, Apple II computer, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and the Sinclaire ZX Spectrum 128. In 1990, U.S. Gold put it on the Sega Master System. The same year, UBI Soft put it on the NES. In 1991 U.S. Gold dropped it on the Sega Game Gear. In 1992, they adapted it for the Sega Genesis. In 1993, it reached Nintendo's GameBoy as well! It was like an epidemic on video game consoles. It makes one wonder how the game made it onto all of these different systems in light of the fact that the game was sub par in every way. Each version was unique in its own way, but they were all essentially the same poor game.

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Left to right: Commodore Amiga, Amstrad CPC, and Spectrum 128
 
 

Story and Gameplay

In the original PC game, Indy starts as a young boy in a Boy Scout uniform and tries to rescue the Cross of Coronado. He can run, jump, punch, and climb ropes. The play control is terrible (something akin to the NES game Spelunker for any game aficionados who may be reading) and it is difficult to navigate Indy on the many ropes he must climb. Throughout the game frustration abounds. Indy has to "earn" his ability to use his whip by collecting whip icons. So, if you collect a whip icon, you will get five lashes and after you use up those, hit or miss, you have to find another icon before you can use the whip again.

At the same time, Indy gets wounded when he jumps and hits his head on the ceiling! What's worse, the game is full of low ceilings. Indy does not take falls well either. At the same time his mainstay weapon against villains, his fists, are slow and weak. The enemies will usually manage to shoot Indy before he can lay his dukes on them. On top of that, the graphics are anything but impressive. The 16 color EGA palette makes Indy look like he fell into a bucket of red paint and it is worse for his surroundings.

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Left to right: Commodore 64, Nintendo's NES, and Nintendo GameBoy
 
 

Conclusion

Each subsequent version only improves the game aesthetically with the exception of the Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and Spectrum. These five systems only make the game look worse. The NES game only equals the poor visuals of the PC, with Indy looking like a pink, glow in the dark action figure. The rest succeed in attaining some superior color palettes and shading (except the GameBoy, which is monochrome but more detailed). Most later versions were altered slightly, removing the Boy Scout Indy sprite and just using normal Indy for the whole game including the first levels where Indy should be a young boy, but it is still the same unendingly poor fare of the original PC version.

In hindsight, it is understandable that this game has been forgotten. Who wants to remember it? The game has little to do with the film. Indy runs through caves dodging axe throwing natives (and I certainly do not remember any of those in Venice) while trying to keep his head from hitting the ceiling as he traverses all kinds of ropes and tunnels. It is like "Indiana Jones Meets Pitfall Harry". The only Indy things about the game are Indy himself and the music. Just to give you an example of the ridiculousness of this game, the "Word of God" towards the end is just a floor full of gaps that Indy must jump (while dodging the ceiling) with letters on the ground!

To all Indy fans, there are quite a few Last Crusade games out there and 99% of them are bad. The last percent is some of the best gaming ever developed, and we all know what game that is. Steer clear of the Action Game and choose wisely… (MF)

 

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