Friday, May 3, 2013

"Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis", 1992.

You already saw the ad for the comic based on the game(s). Now, as we round the bend in this Lucasarts eulogy series, you can get a taste of it. (I would say that this series has been good for me and popular among the readership, as I'm about to tick over my next thousand-readers milestone, but in all truth the seeming increased per-post frequency with which I make those announcements doesn't mean all that much if I only cough up a new post about as often as the long tail delivers another kiloview. But surely this meta-commentary isn't of any interest to any of you.)
Wowie zowie! The front cover!
INDIANA JONES
AND THE
FATE OF ATLANTIS
Dark Horse trading cards inside
Where have I seen that "FATE OF ATLANTIS" font before? Surely another Lucasfilm game.

And here, a closing scene from issue 1, the only issue I accidentally came into possession of. Almost movie-storyboard-ish!
  

Dr. Hans Ubermann: NOTE, COLONEL KERNER.  IT FITS NEATLY INTO THE IDOL'S MOUTH. / NOW WATCH CAREFULLY, MY DEAR COLONEL!
Colonel Klaus Kerner: LIEBER GOTT!  THE TORSO IS SPINNING -- LIKE A DRILL!
(TRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR / *RRRRRRRTRRRRRRRRRRRR)
KK: IT'S STILL GOING!  THERE'S NO BOTTOM!
HU: IT WILL CONTINUE UNTIL IT REACHES THE MOLTEN CORE OF THE EARTH! / YOU REALZE WHAT THIS MEANS, HERR KERNER?  WE HOLD THE FATE OF THE WORLD IN OUR HANDS!
I love the way comics dialogue will suddenly become BOTH BOLD AND ITALICIZED to distinguish it from its standard CAPS LOCK YELLING for emphasis.

Apparently Dark Horse took it further with the license to issue comics based on Indy, also printing a 4-part series of Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix, the planned adventure-game sequel to Fate of Atlantis, dealing with a resurrection of Hitler in South America... deep-sixed after learning about the prohibition on portrayals of Nazi imagery in German games, a critical slice of the adventure game market.
And since "am I really going to revisit this subject a third time later on? of course not" here's the ad for the game, graciously borrowed from World 1-1.

EVERYONE KNOWS BUT INDY.
AND HE'D BETTER LEARN FAST .

Plato knew about Atlantis.
In a lost dialogue he wrote about the famed city and orichalcum, the mysterious element that powered the Atlanteans['] amazing machinery.

The Nazis know about Atlantis.
They tracked down the lost dialogue, and realized orichalcum would yield them the ultimate weapon of the age.

Sophia knows about Atlantis.
She unearthed a mysterious necklace and beads of orichalcum during an Icelandic archeological dig with Indy. Their magical properties made her a psychic.

Everyone knows but Indy
And he's got to learn fast. The Nazis are one step ahead of him -- from Iceland to North Africa from the Azores to... Atlantis.

Our biggest, most complex adventure ever.
Huge. More than 200 rooms furnished with vivid VGA art. Roto-scoped animation, a new icon interface. Exciting LucasArts electronic storytelling technology. Dramatic theatrical lighting.

Three ways to play and replay.
Three roads lead to Atlantis. "Puzzle path" features tough but logical riddles. "Action path" demands two-fisted reflexes. "Team path" calls on your intuitive sense and interpersonal skills.

Cinematic soundtrack.
iMUSE™, our brand new interactive sound system, supports all major sound cards with situation-based sound effects and music.

INDIANA JONES
and the
FATE of ATLANTIS
Iceland. The start of a new chapter in the history of Atlantis.

Indy and Sophia cross many paths on the way to rediscovering the lost continent.

The ancient necklace hides many mysteries from the past.

The illustration is compelling. Anything that starts with looking up at the ocean surface from below and is followed by lava as your eye trails down is an effective attention-grabber. Now, I understand why the camels are where they are but that's the point at which the coherence of the montage breaks a little for me -- there are, after all, no aqua-camels at the bottom of the sea. The left-hand column of plot points are all hooks. Introducing Sophia here is tough, but they cover all the important elements without feeling crowded. The right-hand side doesn't fare quite so well -- rotoscoping is a forbidden technique for animation enthusiasts, not a selling point, and Jordan Mechner beat Lucasarts there in '89 in Prince of Persia. I like the cocky one-word summation: "Huge", but that's an easy claim to make, as adventure games such as the earlier Time Zone and Snowball had hundreds and indeed thousands of rooms -- mostly empty, all uninteresting. As it turns out, even filler rooms in this game are beautiful -- Lucasarts never skimped on the production values -- but in this ad you just had to take it on faith. "A new icon interface"? Yawn. "Exciting Lucasarts electronic storytelling technology"? Who else's would you use? "Dramatic theatrical lighting"? I think I saw this in the rat room in Space Quest 3, but it was less subtle in 16 colours and came across as somewhat garish. I don't remember this feature at all, which means that it was probably used tastefully and effectively -- but effective application of good taste still isn't a selling point, it's assumed. The other points are more significant -- the three play modes is an important point almost swept under the rug, while IMUSE is indeed an important (and, alas, dead-end) technology, but again... like with a film soundtrack, it can be said that if a game's soundtrack jumps out at you while playing, it's being ineffective by drawing attention to itself and taking it away from the overall game experience. IMUSE in action really is magical, but it's pointless to talk about it in the game's ad. Guitar Hero aside, nobody buys games based on what they have to say about their soundtrack.

But all things considered, it's a decent ad for a heroic take at an epic game. A bit too much reconstructing of the "Antikythera mechanism" for my tastes, but though important bites of the Indy feel were taken by eg. Flight of the Amazon Queen, this was really a game that no other company could have made.

What will Disney do with the Indiana Jones license and a rapidly-ageing Harrison Ford? Harness his voice? Time will tell. Indiana Jones is a distant number two in Lucasfilm's valuable portfolio of properties, but number three is so far in the distance it's nigh indistinguishable from the horizon. We'll see what juice they manage to squeeze from Indy, though of course we won't be seeing any more adventure games.