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TheRaider.net Research Video Games Revenge of the Ancients
 

Indiana Jones and the Revenge
of the Ancients

 
Box Cover

Developer: Angelsoft
Publisher: Mindscape

Release date:
1987

Technical Info:
Platforms: Apple II & PC DOS

Genre: Interactive Fiction

Mode(s): Single-player

 

There are many franchises that boast a huge variety of video gaming possibilities. The Star Wars gaming franchise is a prime example of this. There are games in the Star Wars library for every taste. There have been simulators, platform games, first person shooters, pinball games, and even strange variety games like Star Wars Trilogy Arcade where a whole series of formulas are thrown into one huge romp. However, few can boast having a text adventure in their library. I can already hear many of you asking, "Text adventure? What's a text adventure?"

As the gaming specialist, let me elaborate for those of you born after the 1980s, after the "golden age" of video gaming, who may not know what I am speaking of. Let us go back a few years, to a game called Pong. Wait, that is too far back. Instead, let us go forward to the middle of the eighties. During these fledgling years of video gaming, especially home video games, a number of formats were invented. Some survived the dark ages and are still with us today, such as the adventure game and the sports game. Some, such as the "vector" games and the feature animation laserdisc games of Don Bluth, were left behind. The text adventure is of the latter group.

click to enlarge
The opening scene!

Like the vector game and the animated game, the text adventure is synonymous with video gaming in the 1980s. What set this format apart from other formats, and ultimately led to its dissolution, was the fact that the text adventure utilizes ZERO graphics. There is a black screen, some white text describing what you can see, and a blinking cursor waiting for a keyboard command. Common type commands in these games were "look", "push", "jump", "use", etc. The compass points were often used to determine direction. For example, the text tells me that "You are standing in a big room. There is a door on the north wall." So if I type "north" and press "enter", the text will scroll up and give me a description of what I see after I go north, leaving me with another cursor to make a decision. Pretty simple right?

I know that for those of you who have not heard of this kind of game, you may be asking "How could that be entertaining?!" Well, for some people (me included), text adventures were really cool because there was a certain amount of freedom involved and a lot of imagination at work. In text adventures, the computer usually knew a good number of commands, so you could literally think and experiment your way through the puzzles. How many conventional games have you been playing where you wished you could grab that unmovable background object and hurl it at the enemy or bash it against that door you could not find the key for? In text adventures, you could do this, and the computer would be prepared to tell you what the results were. There was also a real sense of discovery with these games as you waited for the computer to deliver the next description or result. This kind of gaming environment really made the player feel more like the character, as the computer was literally talking to you. This was the perfect foundation for an Indiana Jones game.

 
 

Story and Gameplay

In Indiana Jones and the Revenge of the Ancients, Indy must retrieve the "power key" which "controls the Earth's pulse". Of course, the Nazis are after you and the power key, and Marion Ravenwood tags along for the ride. The game is a text adventure, pure and simple. There are no bells or whistles to describe. What I can tell you is that the game "plays" a little differently than your conventional text game, and not in a good way. In most text adventures, I remember it being much like a graphic adventure today (e.g. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis). The problems faced were usually puzzle problems. Rarely in text adventures were you "racing" death. Sure, you might take a wrong turn and meet instant death, but never were you trying to beat it to the punch, like an action game or shooter. The biggest problem in text games was getting lost and wandering in circles trying to get your bearings or find that small detail that would allow you to progress, much like graphic adventures. In Revenge of the Ancients however, the game seems to dislike uncertainty and does not allow for normal adventure game meandering.

From the first "screen" it seems like the game is trying to kill you off as fast as possible. Retrace your steps one too many times, linger too often, or make a few too many ineffective moves and the game will either find a way to kill you instantly, or start dealing out the death slowly. For example, in the first room, the game gives you a few moves (maybe four) before it starts telling you that it is getting hard to breathe (for no apparent reason). After the first message of an ailment, you have about four moves left to figure something out quick and get back on track, or the game will punish you with lethal justice. The frequency with which this game deals out the deaths is ludicrous! I am all for a little excitement and suspense every now and then (in the grand tradition of Indy games) but let's face it. Adventure games require time in places; time this game is not willing to give! It is almost as if the program is forcing you to hurry so it can get home from its shift on time.

 
 

Conclusion

This game would be engrossing and almost as equally engaging on the puzzle level as Fate of Atlantis were it not for the mortality rate in the programming. It is truly a shame that the game does this, because text adventures and Indiana Jones should be the perfect marriage. I'll admit that there has never been a game outside Revenge of the Ancients that made me feel like Indy more. You really feel like you are in Indy's shoes. You choose when to use the bullwhip and how, and you decide where to go rather than being forced to follow general paths (Infernal Machine), being confined to a series of single screens (Fate of Atlantis), or forced to run through your surroundings on a very guided path (Greatest Adventures). The game could be very engaging, but the programmers give you no time to break into Indy's boots, so to speak, unless of course you are an inspired prodigy and know all the right moves instantly, never allowing the program to punish you for a wrong turn.

I am a huge fan of text adventures. They inspire the imagination and engage the player in a very unique way. Indiana Jones and the Revenge of the Ancients should have been this way, but it is not. If you want to play text adventures, find some of the others from the 80s and give those a whirl, but leave this particular one in the past where it belongs. Ultimately, it will only frustrate you. If you are a collector of "Indy stuff" and you come across this game, grab it because it is a rare piece, but that is about all the worth I see in it personally. Who knows… In a thousand years even it may be worth something. (MF)

 

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