Jones and the Revenge
of the Ancients
Release date: 1987
Apple II &
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.
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
Story and Gameplay
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
This game would be engrossing and
almost as equally engaging on the puzzle level
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
Machine), being confined to a series of single
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.