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Help Support Research Video Games Temple of Doom - Tengen

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Box Cover

Developer: Atari Games
Publisher: Mindscape, Tengen

Release date:
December 1988

Technical Info:
Platforms: Nintendo NES

Genre: Action Game

Mode(s): Single-player


Soon after Nintendo arrived in the mid-eighties, almost every game developer in existence wanted to write games for the little console. Konami, Capcom, and Acclaim were just a few of the scores and scores of companies that started making games to fill the NES library. Early on, these companies, in co-operation with Nintendo, started adapting arcade games to the system. Some games, like Contra, became more popular in their NES states that they ever were as coin-ops. Similarly, Nintendo took advantage of the movie industry and many "movie games" made their way to the NES. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom fell in between these two categories. Not only was it a "movie game" but it was also an arcade conversion. In addition, there were 2 versions of Temple of Doom for the NES. One was distributed by Mindscape. Tengen, the makers of Nintendo's adaptation of Gauntlet, distributed the other.

The Tengen edition of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom came in an uncharacteristic, snazzy black cartridge. At the time this game was released, Tengen had pulled their license with Nintendo and was making unlicensed carts for the NES. Indy's game was one of them. Understandably, Tengen found themselves in a lawsuit with the people at Nintendo Entertainment for the infringement. As a result, the Tengen cartridge of Temple of Doom is considered to be a relatively rare game in NES collector's circles. The Mindscape version was officially licensed by Nintendo and came in the familiar grey cartridge, which is also rare, but not as rare as the Tengen cart. The cartridge designs and the box covers are the only differences between these two games. The software itself is exactly the same.


Story and Gameplay

The game itself is loosely based on the arcade game. The premise is the same. As Indy, you must work your way through the slave mines and cart tunnels, freeing the children, whipping the Thuggees, and evading Mola Ram to capture the Sankara Stones. Those are the only similarities however. The game layout is very different. The Atari arcade game follows the following pattern: Slave Mines, Mine Cart, Temple of Kali, Slave Mines, Mine Cart, Temple of Kali, etc. The Tengen game does things a little differently. Here, the game goes like this: Slave Mines, Mine Cart, Slave Mines, Mine Cart, Slave Mines, Mine Cart, etc.

click to enlarge
The opening screen.

Unlike the arcade game, you do not run into the Kali Temple every two rounds and get a Sankara Stone. Instead, you are expected to fight your way through a seemingly endless amount of mines and cart tunnels, saving children, and avoiding the Thuggees. Like the arcade, you have your whip and you can use it to daze the guards, knock them into pits, spark oil drums, and swing to other platforms. What is strange is that the whip is 90% invisible when used and when swinging on a post, Indy seems to be flying through the air with his arms raised. Tengen also gave Indy the ability to jump in this game, and while that sounds exciting, this ability tends to cause frustration for new players as Indy's default direction for jumping is downwards, regardless of what direction he is facing. As a result, if you are not consciously holding the direction you want Indy to leap in, he will automatically jump downwards, usually into a lava pit in a pitiful display of accidental suicide.

Indy's arsenal in this adaptation has been updated to include pistols, knives, and TNT, all of which can be used to vanquish the Thuggees. The knives and pistols are collected as "rewards" from the children Indy saves, and the TNT is procured from small caches that require the knives to open. These extra weapons are finite and must be used sparingly as they become harder to come by later in the game and more desperately needed. This is because the later levels incorporate large lava pits that Indy must traverse, and the only way to do this is to kill what can only be described as "lava alligators" so that they float to the top and Indy can walk on their heads. As the levels progress, there are more children to rescue, more intricate (almost crazy) networks of conveyor belts and mine carts to traverse, and an endless number of lava pits and Thuggees to deal with. You'll know when you've reached the Temple of Kali when you come to a huge lake of lava that stretches off screen. Hope you have been saving the TNT and pistol ammunition because Indy's going to need all of it to find the right "alligator path" to cross the lake. On the other side, the statue of Kali waits with the Sankara Stones. Even after you grab them, do not rejoice yet because NES Temple of Doom is hardly finished with you. Indy faces another series of mines and tunnels before he can escape to the rope bridge, fight Mola Ram, and escape the Temple of Doom.

I'll be the first to admit that I have owned this game since 1988 and I have still been unable to clear it. I have made it to the Sankara Stones and captured them on quite a few occasions, but I can never escape with my life. By the time you reach the level past the Temple of Kali, usually all of you resources are exhausted having been spent on the lake crossing and you have probably lost 90% of your extra lives.

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Indy in the mines and in the cart tunnels.


Nintendo's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is hardly the best Indy game out there. The game control is loose and sloppy, the color scheme will make your eyes sting after only fifteen minutes of game play, the levels are repetitive and too numerous, Indy looks like he's wearing a medical intern's dirty coveralls, and I hear that the ending to this game is hardly the fanfare one deserves for suffering through the ordeal. Instead, the game gives you mere text congratulations. The game is unendingly frustrating because of these factors (well, maybe not the last one about Indy's clothes, but you get the idea). The only saving grace to the game is a respectable attempt to preserve John Williams' musical score.

If you are a Nintendo fanatic, you will want this cartridge (or both as the case may be) in your library for its relative scarcity. If you are a collector of what I like to call "Indy Stuff" you will want it for the obvious as well as its rarity. If you are looking for an enjoyable and nostalgic NES gaming experience, there are over 700 titles for the legendary little Nintendo to choose from besides this one. If however, you have made a goal for yourself to beat every Indiana Jones game ever made (which is very respectable) then by all means run this game into the ground, don't leave without the stones, and be sure to let me know how you did it! Good luck, Indy! (MF)


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