Allow me to digress a little here before beginning my review. Disney’s 2012 procurement of Star Wars and everything Lucas related came as something of a double edged sword. Whilst I am indeed giddy as a schoolgirl over the prospect of more Star Wars, I think there can be no greater crime to the gaming community at large than the incorporation of Lucasarts into the unstoppable juggernaut that is the Disney corporation.
Upon gaining control of the studio, Disney saw fit to halt production on all current Lucasarts projects and lay off most of the staff. Whilst one could argue that Lucasarts’ performance in their later years was perhaps a little lacking, it’s a tough pill to swallow that the developer we all know and love will most likely forever cease to be.
The upside to this however is that Lucasarts can now assume the mantle of legend for the genius pioneering developer they were, a title to which one need look no further than 1992’s Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.
Developed using Lucasarts’ signature SCUMM engine, Fate of Atlantis is a point-and-click adventure that puts you in control of the eponymous Doctor Jones as he seeks to find the lost city of Atlantis. Set in 1939, shortly before the beginning of World War 2, Indy must solve the mysteries of the lost city, always one step ahead of the meddlesome Nazis who want to harness Atlantis’ orichalcum, a metallic energy source upon which the city was built. Along the way Indy is occasionally joined by psychic and fellow academic Sophia Hapgood who fills the position of obligatory female sidekick off whom Indy can bounce zingers and good ol’ fashioned 1930s innuendo.
Whilst much of the gameplay is typical point-and-click fare, what sets Fate of Atlantis apart from most others in the genre is a set of three story paths, namely the Fists Path, Team Path and Wits Path. Presented to the player early on in the game, each path gives a unique way to play, altering the story and puzzles slightly. The Fists and Wits path feature Indy journeying mainly on his own, relying on his fists and his wits respectively to get through the various challenges. The Team Path on the other hand focuses on utilising the teamwork of Sophia and Indiana. Each path has its own pros and cons and some locations and characters in one path won’t feature in another, giving the game a depth of replayability.
Rereleased as a CD-ROM version in 1993 with full voice acting and remastered audio, Fate of Atlantis packs that same classic Lucasarts humour made so famous by the likes of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle. There is something charming and pleasantly calming about listening to Indy and Sophia have at each other throughout the game and the classic Indiana Jones soundtrack is nostalgia inducing all on its own.
Whilst some of the puzzles may require the use of a walkthrough for most modern time-starved gamers, most of them are manageable and will leave you feeling smart in spite of the randomness of some of the tasks. If there is one large gripe I have with Fate of Atlantis, it’s the backtracking and overall grim aesthetic of the last portion of the game which may put off many players. God knows I struggled with it and I’m a die-hard fan.
As for the setting, the turn of the 20th century was a time in which the world was opening up in new and exciting ways. Indiana Jones as a character personifies and celebrates this time of great adventure in the world as much as the likes of Ernest Hemingway or T.E. Lawrence. Perhaps it is that in him which attracts so many fans to the character.
Earning several game of the year awards, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is the epitome of the click-and-play genre, and a product of a golden era in game design, a pioneering time in which the possibilities of games as a storytelling medium were just starting to take shape.