The year 1999, and the start of 2000 for that matter, has been an interesting one for George Lucas. First of all, there was major criticism about his much-hyped Phantom Menace, especially in relation to the heavily-despised character Jar Jar Binks, and the ongoing controversy about no DVD release plans in the near future. The controversies continue to this day about who is going to play Anakin Skywalker in Episode II, with most of the rumors directed towards Leonardo DiCaprio (gag, barf, retch!), and there is also talk about a fourth Indiana Jones movie in the future.
In the meantime though, Lucasarts decided not to wait for that movie and get our favorite archaeologist back into action. In an attempt to one-up Lara Croft’s adventures which took the game industry by storm, this "original tomb raider" takes part in his own 3D adventure.
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine actually deviates from the normal time period known in the trilogy. Set in 1947, this game occurs after Wrold War II ended, and Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr. takes a much needed break from his adventures to do some simple digging in the American Southwest.
However, as the Cold War is now starting, his partner Sophia Hapgood (from Fate of Atlantis), finds Indy and informs him about the Soviets plan to locate the "Infernal Machine," a device located above the Tower of Babel in Babylon that is supposedly capable of transporting through time and space.
Indy is brought into the action with his trusty whip and .45 revolver in hand. Based on the screenshots I looked at before diving in, there is no surprise that this game borrows a lot from Eidos and their Tomb Raider series, but the Indy game uses a character that is more fit to the setting. After all, we’ve seen Indy whipping across deep chasms, being pursued by giant boulders, fearing snakes and stopping the Nazis’ nefarious plans. Granted we are now playing against the Soviets in a Cold War era, and this game does a good job recreating the atmosphere.
The graphic engine used is based on the Jedi Knight engine, which means fast frame rates with a decent 3D accelerator. As a matter of fact, on my computer it runs at a near constant 60 frames per second, only slowing down when there is a lot on the screen, which fortunately isn’t often. Characters look a little blocky, but that is because of the game’s engine.
I will mention though, that the control takes a while to get used to. Unlike Tomb Raider with its simplistic controls, Indy took every control of my Gravis Xterminator to the limit, and even with that it was a puzzle for me to figure out everything, such as using the hat switch to change and load weapons. Even with changing the configuration in the Options menu, it was still a pain to master all the control options.
Another concern I had was load time. Whenever loading a game from the beginning or right after I died, it took a long time, even with a 48X CD-ROM. This was done with the standard installation, which is about 75 megs. Using the full installation saved some time, but I still had to wait almost a minute sometimes, even on a Pentium III computer.
That said, the game is a lot of fun, especially for those of you who have played the 2D versions of Indy games in the past. Swinging across chasms as the Indy theme plays in the background is a huge rush, and some levels are unique and tons of fun, such as navigating rough river passages in a fragile rubber raft.
One more odd point to add about this game is that you can’t kill certain monsters, and I find this very annoying. This one wolf took a chomp out of me every time I went past it, which I had to do several times on a certain level of the game. Unlike Lara who can blast wolves to oblivion, the Indy wolves are apparently bulletproof. You can shoot and scare it off, but you can’t kill it, and so it always comes back. I’m not sure if LucasArts is trying to make a politically correct environmental statement or what, but you can slaughter humans at will in this game so I don’t see why you can’t pop an annoying timber wolf. In any event, you are left firing your unlimited ammo starting pistol constantly just to keep the wolves away, a turn of events that seriously takes the illusion of reality away from the game, at least for me.
In any event, Indy does provide a good Tomb Raider experience, at the cost of somewhat confusing controls, slightly over-challenging puzzles and long load times. An above average rating of 3 1/2 GiN Gems is appropriate this fun-and-challenging game.