Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom
-(1985) Atari Games
Indiana Jones whips a few asses, while getting his own whipped about a million times.
In the world of videogames, Indiana Jones has never had the kind of success as he had on the silver screen. Among his outings on platforms such as the Atari 2600, the Super NES, PC, and the Xbox, the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom arcade game is probably his most well known adventure, aside from the most excellent Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. The other Indy adventures? Mostly fun, but forgettable. The arcade game might be remembered fondly, but is it really that good? My answer: Sort of.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has one of the oddest beginnings to any arcade game Iíve ever played. The amount of quarters you put in determines how many lives you get at the start. You can either begin with three or seven lives. After you pick, you must select the difficulty of the game by having Doctor Jones run to either an easy, medium, or hard level door. Whatís notable about this part of the game is that this is perhaps the only arcade game Iíve ever played where you can die by simply picking the difficulty of the game. You see, Indiana can run into a couple of different snakes or fall into some lava here. Trust me, this is certainly an omen of things to come.
The game attempts to follow the plot of the film by having most of the action take place in three major stages inspired by the movie. Youíll find the majority of your time in the first stage where Indiana must free the kidnapped children from enslavement by the evil Thugge cult. The action takes place in a sort of 3/4th perspective side scroller. This wouldnít be an Indiana Jones game if Indiana couldnít use his whip. And whip you will! Indiana uses his trusty whip to put the smack down on the guards, to open the kidsí cages, and to occasionally swing across gaps.
This is all well and good until you realized that you can fall off the edge to your death very easily. And by easily, I mean all the Goddamn time. I believe even breathing while playing can cause Indy to fall to his death. Oh yeah, I also forgot to mention that Indiana dies after only one hit, so that means you have to be extremely careful while adventuring. If a guard finds you and hits you, itís all over. What happened to the Indy that can take on twelve foot tall German boxers and win? To help you remember not to fall and get killed, this handy message will taunt you until your eyes blur with rage:
Just to make things extra fun, whipping the guards will only make them fall down and cause them to be dazed only for a brief moment. Repeated whippings will only push them off the side of the cliff. Sometimes this will kill them (yay!), other times it will simply knock them down to the next ledge (boo!) where they will be ready to attack you again. Apparently, the Atari people totally forgot that Indiana uses a gun to kill people when he needs to. If all of the previous stuff wasnít difficult enough for you, if you stand around too long enough the head bad ass, Mola Ram, will appear and throw a flaming heart at you. The only way to avoid it is to whip it. Occasionally Iíd lose track of where the kids were trapped, leading to some great times falling to my death, getting killed by guards, and being hit by flaming hearts as I ran around a bunch of empty cages.
To advance to the next stage, Indiana must jump in a mine cart and make his escape. You can do so without rescuing the kids in the previous level, but you lose your bonus points. This is one of the few games were points mean something, because you need as many as you can to gain extra lives (you canít put in more quarters to continue, remember?). The mine cart ride is surprisingly faithful to the spirit of the film, despite the gameís limitations. Indiana must avoid various traps and guards chasing him in other mine carts, while he himself hurtles to the end of the mineshaft. This is perhaps the best translation from game to film that could be done at the time this game hit arcades.
The next stage takes place in the actual Temple of Doom, which Iím not sure if thatís its proper name or not. It doesnít matter, because the name is as appropriate as it gets. In the Temple of Doom you must recover the Sanka stone in order to give it to the scary old toothless guy in the movie. This is the easiest part of the game, that is until your thrown back into the meat grinder again.
After repeating the three stage process three times (thereís three stones you must collect), you finally get to the rope bridge from the climactic scene in The Temple of Doom. All you have to do is to cross the bridge and grab the Sanka stone from Mola Ram. Sounds easy right? Nope, not only do you have to fend off an endless supply of guards, but the closer to Mola Ram you get, the more flaming hearts he fires at you until he basically becomes a flaming heart machine gun of evil. Since you canít run and whip at the same time and you have to whip each heart if you want to live, that means by the time you are only inches away from your goal you can barely move. You have to inch your way forward, hoping that a guard wonít come up behind you and kill you.
At this point, Iíd like to say youíre done with the game and itís time to go back to the village of the starving people and give them back their kids before quickly dumping Willieís sorry ass before the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unfortunately, I'd be lying. Thereís a ďbonusĒ level where you have to grab some statues for points.
This bonus level has to be the most aggravating of all the levels in the history of arcade games. Sorry for the dramatics, but it's aneurism inducing hard. Itís send me to the insane asylum hard. The Thugge guards seem to run much quicker in this level than any of the previous ones. To make it even more difficult, the stupid prince will keep popping up and using his damn voodoo doll trick on you from the film. Every time he pops up and stabs the voodoo doll, Indy is stunned and is easy pray for the guards. This is about six times harder to deal with than the flaming hearts thrown at you by Mola Ram, because you have to keep running your ass off to avoid the Prince from even getting anywhere near you. Oh, I almost forgot, there are about 10,000 bats that fly around and kill you in one shot, too. If you end up near one of the cave entrances, youíll face an almost never ending amount of bats. Nice touch, game designers. After getting killed for about a million times and only getting a few of the bonus statutes, I decided to see if there was a way to beat the game online. From the FAQ I found, it looks like the bonus level is never ending. Or something like that. I donít care anymore.
One of the reasons to at least check this title out is the sound. In fact, it's an almost must play because of it. The midi background tunes are still pretty damn good representations of the music from the film and hold up fairly well today. Thereís also a lot of early voice work that is reminiscent of the vocal parts of games like Paperboy. Itís a really nice addition that makes you feel like youíre a part of the film, at least as close as 1985 technology could get you to it.
Perhaps one of the best things about the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom arcade game is that it is 99% Kate Capshaw free. Unfortunately, itís also 99% Short Round free, so youíve got to take the bad with the good. While I might have spent most of this review bitching about the game, I found myself enjoying Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom the more I played it. Thereís a sense of accomplishment that you donít get in a lot of other arcade games where all you have to do to win is insert more quarters. Iím glad Iíve gotten to play it via the magic of MAME, because I certainly never got far in it as a kid.