When I started doing the Nostalgia Lane series, I quickly realized that I could spend the first ten articles in it discussing nothing other than adventure games. MAN, I loved me some adventure games back in the day — King’s Quest, Space Quest, Star Trek 25th Anniversary, The Longest Journey, etc. People were quick to pronounce adventure gaming’s death from about 1995 on, even though these games continued to (and still do) endure and thrive. It’s interactive storytelling and puzzle-solving combined to create a fun experience where you have to put in some real effort and brainpower in order to progress the story — not just hit “A” a bunch of times and explode stuff.
But while I was going to hold off doing another adventure game review, I couldn’t resist dishing out a hearty scoop of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. It remains one of the most memorable gaming experiences of my younger years, and it needed to be told.
The year was 1992, and I was sweet sixteen. Guys can be sweet sixteen, right? Hm, how about sweaty sixteen? Okay, that really doesn’t sound better. 16. I was.
A friend of our family went on a trip and asked me to come over to do some housesitting for a few bucks, which I was more than happy to do, because he had a really spiffy computer setup and was fine with me playing on it. Before he left, the guy told me I had to try this new Indiana Jones game that he beat a week or so ago, and then left me to it. The game in question was Fate of Atlantis, arguably the best Indiana Jones title ever made, and I had no idea what I was in for. All I knew is that, pixels and cheesy MIDI theme aside, it felt very Indiana Jonesish from the start.
Made by LucasArts and using the SCUMM adventure engine — my first SCUMM game, actually — Fate of Atlantis used a combination of clickable key words, dialogue choices and inventory items to hunt through ruins, stay one step ahead of the Nazis, and find the fabled lost city of Atlantis and its immense power. It was notable in that the middle section of the game offered players a choice to progress in one of three ways: a Fists path (more action, fighting, less puzzles), a Wits path (more puzzles), and a Team path (you use another character more extensively to solve puzzles). That right there made playing through the game three times a requirement, just to see how each path felt.
The puzzles themselves were more or less logical, but pretty devious (especially for a high school student), and I found myself in agony trying to progress yet getting stuck on a tricky trap or complicated puzzle without any way to proceed. This was, of course, before the internet and GameFAQs, so my panic button was to call the guy whose house I was watching and ask him for solutions. Even though I must’ve called about ten times over the weekend, he was patient with me and — to his credit — didn’t give me the direct solution, just hints and tips to help me figure it out.
All in all, Fate of Atlantis hit the sweet spot that made the Indiana Jones movies work. It was funny, the characters memorable, and the set pieces fantastic. It’s just a shame that I didn’t realize back then how many other SCUMM adventures I was missing out on.
While I didn’t find the subsequent Indiana Jones games as captivating, it’s good to know that Steam re-released Fate of Atlantis lately, with voice-over included.