Developer: Tiertex Publisher: U.S. Gold Release: 11/92 Genre: Action
Indiana Jones is a cultural icon. A swashbuckling adventurer who goes hunting for famous relics? It sounds tailor made for a video game. Yet outside of his PC outings Dr. Jones console adventures have mostly been embarrassing. It says a lot that I enjoy the games that take inspiration from Indiana Jones more than the character’s own adventures. I disliked Raiders of the Lost Ark on the 2600. I hated Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom on NES. And I can’t stand Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in all its forms. The Sega Genesis version of Last Crusade is an awful, awful game that fails on every level. This game is an embarrassment for all parties involved.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for many is the best of the original trilogy. Personally I like Raiders of the Lost Ark a little more but this was still one of my favorite movies of the early 90s. Like all summer blockbusters the tie-in games soon followed but like most licensed games of the period they were of dubious quality. From Taito to US Gold, once again the only decent title to come out of this lot is the PC graphic adventure. It is baffling as to how these games were all so bad; the film has plenty of cool set pieces to draw from yet somehow their inclusion in this game is dreadful.
Right from the start you can tell the game has problems. The controls are stiff and unresponsive which makes the already questionable level design that much more intolerable. Indy can either punch enemies or use his whip. Every time you swing the whip its power decreases and its meter is short. You can still use it but at its lowest level it is incredibly weak. Unfortunately most enemies wield guns or throwing knives and melee attacks suffer from spotty hit detection. There are no other weapons so you have to make do sadly.
Each of the game’s levels pulls from a scene from the movie. You will explore the caves of Utah, take part in the train escape, explore the Venice catacombs, scale Castle Brunwald, and finally find the Holy Grail. These comprise some of the best set pieces from the movie. Unfortunately they all suffer from terrible level design. The stages run the gamut of every awful design decision you can imagine. There are far too many blind leaps of faith which do not jive with the game’s fall damage. The maps for the larger stages are confusing and badly arranged. But the worst issue is the proliferation of gotcha style moments. Falling spikes on the first level will confound you, telephone poles appear without warning on the train in rapid succession, and you have boulders and fireballs that spawn overhead randomly just because. Just thinking about it is making me mad.
As you can imagine the difficulty is through the roof. I knew it would be bad as the fundamentals are broken but this is ridiculous. You barely have enough time to reach the end of each level. There were many a time I found the boss but time would run out during battle. The game tries to push you forward by causing random hazards or enemies to spawn but it ends up being irritating more than engaging. The last level sucks because of this; here the platforms behind you disappear immediately and you must stay ahead. There are timed jumps and rotating blades that are almost 1-shot kills and a section at the end I still don’t know how I passed. This level is the absolute worst and I cannot believe it exists in this state. I stuck with this game out of spite and wasted my time.
Boss battles are usually a highlight of any game. Here they feel like busy work. Their patterns are simple despite appearances and they are ultimately unsatisfying. Honestly the Last Crusade would have been better without them. The only reason the bosses are even memorable is because of the game’s instant death mechanic. After each fight the tries to kill you with falling boulders, fire, or a lightning strike as a last minute fuck you. I guarantee at least one will get you. Just think, someone actually thought this was a good idea!
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is a terrible game and a waste of your time and money. There are no redeeming qualities, not the graphics, music and certainly not the gameplay. How they failed at making a competent platformer out of a slam dunk of a license is a mystery for the ages. I’d rather play Earnest Evans which says a lot.