Written by: Anastasia Salter, Pop-Culture Editor
Some lament the return of Indiana Jones to the big screen, some celebrate it, few movie fans can ignore it — those are the hallmarks of a legend. I know I’m counting down the moments until I hit the theaters. You see, when I was little, I wanted to be Indiana Jones. OK, so I’m a girl. I know I’m lacking in some of the requirements to be an Indiana Jones. I don’t have a chiseled chin or the skill in fisticuffs or that pesky Y chromosome — but I know from experience that I look pretty good in the hat, and given the chance, I think I’d have fun in ancient tombs.
But as May 22 approaches and I see more and more of Harrison Ford’s gray hair in the trailers, I find myself wondering if this new — or is it old? — Indy will be a disappointment. To stave off this creeping fear, I say that now si the best time to revisit the dream to be Indy and load up some old Indy adventure games. Boot up your favorite old computer emulator and find a (legal, if remotely possible) copy of another ancient artifact, the Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis adventure game. Other Indiana Jones games have been made, but for this, as with Indy himself, accept no imitations: the other games are mostly either rehashed movie plots or painful attempts at action games. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is a new story and a chance to fill Indy’s shoes … and maybe try the whip out for size.
I played the Indiana Jones adventure game for the first time many years ago, when I was younger and even more naïve than I care to remember. I was thoroughly convinced at that time that the perfect life pursuit would be Egyptology: I could go off and be an archaeologist a la Indy and find some artifact rich in cultural legacy — a bit of gold wouldn’t hurt either. Unfortunately, the world was then as now lacking in obvious villains to fight for custody of said artifacts, not to mention lacking in clearly uncharted territory. Indy’s world is simpler: The Fate of Atlantis pits you and Indy against the Nazis, naturally, and the power of Atlantis you’re pursuing is supposed to be the ultimate energy source — something we’d probably go after just as quickly now as then.
Adding the words “adventure game” after the name “Indiana Jones” is almost an exercise in redundancy: everything Indy revolves around adventure. The old Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis adventure game let you be the Indy you most want to be. If you think Indy didn’t spend enough time with the girls, you can play in companion mode and take one with you the whole way through. If you think Indy was too much talk and not enough action, you can choose a mode that’ll make sure your journey as Indy is more about whips and guns. Or perhaps you like the intellectual Indy — always an option. (I can’t help but hope we’ll be getting more of an intellectual Indy in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. After all, an action Indy at 66 might be a bit hard to take.)
The game’s producers weren’t able to secure Harrison Ford as the voice actor in Fate of Atlantis, so the experience is initially disconcerting, but the actor holds his own despite his lack being Harrison Ford. This Indy becomes more interesting because he’s an Indy you can embody. Great adventure games, like popular action movies, succeed on the human qualities of their characters. The fourth movie in the Lethal Weapon series worked because the men weren’t afraid to acknowledge that they were getting a bit too old for this shit. The fourth Indiana Jones movie might succeed for the same reason: Indiana Jones has never been lacking in humanity.
The story of Fate of Atlantis has the usual level of globe-trotting from Iceland to Monte Carlo, and as you play you can imagine the story as Harrison Ford might have starred in it. The sets would be less pixilated and the girl would be showing a bit more skin, but the essentials would remain the same. Fate of Atlantis strikes a perfect balance between the interactive and the narrative — and other games spun off from movies should take note, because this game captures the atmosphere and character of the movies without becoming too cinematic (and therefore more boring).
In fact, here’s a look at Fate of Atlantis in action. This is a full run of the game, so if you’re patient, you can see every memorable scene.
Games are an interesting playground for revisiting the shoes of our heroes because they’re the closest we might ever come to getting to make some of the same decisions. I gave up archaeology a long time ago now, and I don’t even have an Indy hat around anymore, but when I boot up the old game I’m right back to fighting for artifacts. Indy was never a passive film character, and his life translates easily to a world of decisions and journeys. It’s not surprising that an installment realized for his character would become one of the classic adventure games: the genre itself owes a lot to heroes of his kind, the heroes who fill the heads of us everyday folk with stories of mythic magnitude.
So perhaps you might take a moment before you step into that theater and remember what it is like to become Indy. There are many ways to try out his shoes, whether it begins with playing a game or trying on the right type of hat. Who hasn’t dreamed of the perfect moment to use that one-liner, “No ticket”? Kevin Smith got his chance in Dogma with a moment of beautiful homage — the rest of us can’t concoct a scene so perfect. We must rely only on the little opportunities to spend a moment in a world where the bad guys are really bad, the artifacts are shiny and powerful — and the girls can hold their liquor.