Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis - The Psychic Sidekick

Written by TBD

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis has one of the best opening sequences I can recall. After playing through it again now I was reminded of a discussion point we had a little over a year ago about the “Best Introduction to an Adventure Game

While my vote went to The Curse of Monkey Island on this one, I agree completely with Torch, Rowan Lipkovits, Alfred n the Fettuc and Draconius – this game had one of the best introductions ever!

So I thought I'd share it with those of you who don't own the game or want to revisit the opening. Enjoy!

For those who don't have the time or inclination to watch the video, the game starts with Indy looking for a statue for his friend Marcus Brody. He keeps getting knocked down through levels of the museum until he finally finds the statue he's after in the cellar. He takes it back to Brody, who's talking to a German man called “Smith” who wants the statue. Smith turns out to be a Nazi (Indy hates those guys), there's a fistfight and Smith escapes with the statue, but Indy has grabbed his coat containing a Nazi identification and an archaeological journal containing a story about a digsite once managed by Indy and his young apprentice Sophia Hapgood. Indy decides to find Sophia in case the Nazis try to get to her instead.

The intro was very Indiana Jones. There's comedy where he keeps falling, but never injuring himself, an action fight that Indy loses while still getting a vital clue and an introduction to a girl Indy has a history with and who we fully expect him to fall in love with over the course of the story.

Can't have Indiana Jones without punching a Nazi!

As for the voices, Doug Lee does a good job as Indiana Jones. He's clearly not Harrison Ford but fortunately hasn't tried to do a Ford impression but rather just tried to speak the way Indy would speak. I think it works well. Marcus Brody's actor doesn't do anywhere near as good a job but I think this introduction might be the last we hear of him in the game.

At the end of the intro, we travel from Barnett College to New York City where Sophia has a sold out show as a psychic. And this is where we're given full control of Indy.

The familiar Lucasarts interface

I notice immediately a feature I missed in the last game I played – tooltips – when I move my mouse around the screen, words appear when the pointer is on an item I can interact with so there's no guesswork. I know I can interact with the marquee and I know what it is.

When talking to the ticket taker I get some dialogue items, but whatever I attempt to say I'm interrupted by being told that I can't come in.

The obvious next move is to look for a back door. I pick up a newspaper from the newsstand and go around the corner.

Here I'm faced with a few areas of interest. There's the obviously inviting door where I enter the new screen, on the left, but there's also a small window with a ladder next to it, which when I look at it gives me a clue.

I have no idea how you can tell that from where you're standing but okay.

But before trying to find my way up there I try to open the obvious door, and am greeted by a bouncer. I get a few options in how to talk to him.

As he talks and looks like a stereotypical mindless thug, I choose the options with single syllable words.

We have quite a lengthy discussion, often interrupted by him saying “Now beat it!” before I follow up with “Wait a minute!” and choose a different option. This is a nice way for the game to say “You failed the dialogue puzzle, but rather than reloading a saved game, just choose this option and try again.”

Eventually I work out how to talk to him. He has a crush on Sophia because she's smart and makes things easy to understand for him. After convincing him I also feel the same way about Sophia he let's me in because I'm 'okay for a college boy'

That was easy

But first, I reload back to where I entered the alley. I want to try the other dialogue options to see what he says and I also want to explore the alley more thoroughly.

Back in the alley, I can't get through to the fire escape ladder because of the crates in the way, but with a little 'Push'ing or 'Pull'ing of various crates I can manoeuvre my way around until I'm in front of the fire escape.

That was also easy

The fire escape takes me to the same place as talking to the bouncer. Now I'll reload and try to confuse the bouncer to see what happens.

I just keep choosing the options that have words that someone who isn't a human thesaurus like a college professor might think are offensive

I keep confusing/offending him a few times until he gets upset enough to challenge me to a fight. I fight, and appear to be winning but lose on purpose to see what happens. I just get knocked out and when Indy wakes he postulates that he's glad Biff wasn't a Nazi spy or he'd be dead. A hint for the future I'm sure. I insult Biff again, this time trying to win.

The fight interface appears quite simple. I just click on Biff either high, medium or low and keep doing so until he's down. Looking at the manual it does seem a bit more involved than that, and I fully expect to need to use all options to fight when I'm playing the FISTS path (there's punch high, middle and low, block high, middle and low, and step back.) There's also a 'Sucker Punch' button which the manual tells me will win the fight, but get me no points. I don't plan to use this option but I'm glad it's there. I'll describe the fight interface in detail when I get to a harder fight later in the game. For now, I beat Biff and once again get backstage at the theatre.

That was extremely easy

I can now enter the open door and for the third time end up backstage.


This seems like a good point to tell you about Indy Quotient (IQ) points.

They are basically like the points system you'll find in many adventure games. You get points for solving puzzles, getting past obstacles or finding important objects.

The difference here to most games is that your points are counted for all games you've played. Let me explain.

Pressing 'I” switches between the IQ points screen and the inventory screen.

You'll notice in the screenshot that I currently have 8 IQ points and my total IQ points is 20.

What that means is that in 'this' saved game I have 8 IQ points, but because I solved the same puzzle three different ways, even though I saved and reloaded in between, I have a total of 20 IQ points. This feature seems perfect for completionists.

Specifically, I noticed that I had a total of 2/14 points before defeating Biff, then 8/20 points afterwards. This suggests that the three ways I solved this puzzle each gave me 6 points, which is why my total is 12 greater than my current. I hope there's more alternate solutions as I go along, as I like the feature.

I mentioned in the comments of the introduction post that I probably wouldn't be trying to get the maximum IQ points (1000) but now I'm starting to rethink that idea. Though I expect to fall short, I'm going for the 1000!!!

Of course, I don't expect other alternate solutions to be as easy to find as the ones for the first puzzle. Much like the first fight was extremely easy I expect the alternate puzzles were also made easy to get me used to the way the game works before really making me think.


And now that I've gotten backstage (three times!) I can see Sophia doing a talk about Atlantis, as well as an employee who controls some electrics – likely lights and the ghost-on-a-string thing.

I can just wait and listen to her speech.

DISCLAIMER: Artist's impression of Atlantis, not an actual photo

She tells us about how happy and technologically advanced Atlantis was, and how Plato wrote about Atlantis as a continent in the deep ocean (isn't that kind of a definition of the word continent?)

It has layers, like an onion!

Was Atlantis the first Earthan civilization to destroy itself by global warming?

She goes on to mention a particular Atlantean, the all-seeing NUR-AB-SAL, who is the Great Spirit who guides her thoughts.

She continues talking while I get control back and can interact with the worker. I get a choice of how to talk to him. I choose to be a prick.

I could make Indy be nice, but where's the fun in that?

Anyway, not having the authority to fire him, I continue to talk to him. I need him to leave so I can screw up his job. He won't take a bribe (and I don't know how much money I have to offer anyway) but when prompted he does mention that he likes to read. I offer him the archaeology magazine, but he's already read it. What he hasn't read yet, is today's paper. I give him the paper I picked up outside and he leaves immediately to find out if the Dodgers won.

Can't you read the paper while still manning your post?

The electrical contraption has three levers and a button. I try randomly pushing/pulling the levers until the lights go green, then press the button.

Due to my interference, the ghost of Nur-Ab-Sal had appeared on stage before Sophia was ready for him, but she continues, with Indy's unwelcome help...

You call me DOCTOR Jones!

She's surprised to see me, and quickly finishes the lecture while the ghost-on-a-string burns up, then suggests we go back to her room.

Ransacking a room? Kerner's been reading the stereotypical villain handbook!

Indy leaves the room and checks out the back alley. Seeing nobody, he goes back to Sophia. The 'camera' stays in the alley as Kerner pops out from behind a crate and makes a phone call.

The voiced dialogue says “Doctor Uberman” instead of “Fritz”. Kerner must be less formal in subtitles.

We find out that Kerner's stolen Sophia's statue – so now he has two Atlantean artifacts. While Indy ponders why, Sophia has an idea.

Sophia gets changed into her adventuring outfit, and tells us where to find another priceless Atlantean artifact

Why does everybody leave these historically important items just lying around.IT BELONGS IN A MUSEUM!!!!!!!!!!!!

She shows me what the special bead she keeps under newspaper clippings does. She tells us it's ORICHALCUM, the mysterious power source of Atlantis that Plato wrote about, then puts the bead in her Atlantean necklace.

Some mystical lights swirl around her, manifesting a ghost that's much more convincing than the one from her lecture.

Umm... did you just waste our only example of an extremely rare metal to show me a five second light show?

Ooh, that bottom option is exactly what I was just thinking.

Sophia suddenly holds her head as she gets a vision (or pretends to) from Nur-Ab-Sal telling us we need to find the Lost Dialogue of Plato.

That's another fine myth you've gotten us into, Stanley.

Indy isn't taking any of this Atlantis stuff seriously, but Sophia gets our attention by suggesting the Nazis already have a copy of the Lost Dialogue, and tells us that she found these Atlantean items in Iceland, near our old dig site.

So where to next???


Sophia and Indy keep pointing out how annoying they find the other. I've seen enough movies to know that they must be in love.

They go inside the Icelandic dig site and talk to the archaeologist currently working there, Bjorn Heimdall. He knows us.

He knows us well!

Heimdall is chipping away at a bronze eel statue stuck in the ice. He's trying to find the secret of Hyperborea, which is what the Greeks called Iceland. He claims the Greeks never got to Hyperborea because they were repelled by a force field created by aliens who used Hyperborea as a landing area...

Of course, Indiana Jones would never believe in aliens!

Heimdall tells us that if we want to find Atlantean artifacts we need to see Charles Sternhart in Tikal and Felipe Costa in the Azores. We have two new locations to visit. Before leaving, Indy asked Bjorn what his favourite city in Skyrim is.

And we'll stop for now. Tune in next time when we look for Sternhart and Costa and try to find the mysterious Lost Dialogue of Plato.

As for my feelings on the game so far: I'm loving it. There's a lot more action than most adventure games. By action, I don't mean fighting, I mean animations. The characters are always on the move - people's heads and arms move when they talk, and even one-off actions often have individual animations, for example, Indy finding the bead in Sophia's dressing room has an animation of him ruffling and throwing papers around to find it - which makes me think that the fact that Kerner didn't find the orichalcum bead is a sign that he needs to work harder on his ransacking skills.

Session time: 55 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes
IQ points: 23 of 35


  1. You're right, it's the best intro for the best game ever made.

    Marcus was suppsed to appear later in the game, according to my debugging skills he was supposed to have more dialogue, and he even has some unused animations. Probably in the same office room as the intro. But they cut it and just used Sophia for that sequence. So you can count Marcus as a cameo.

    Please, pay attention at the level of detail on the marquee at the beginning of new york, you can actually read it with that very low resolution. Those pixel art artists were really professional, the best.

    This is also, I think, the first game that implemented alternate dialog options when you choose poorly. For example, you can give lots of excuses to the doorman if you keep picking the wrong option like "I'm with the firemen department, I'm the lights coordinator, I'm Sophia's bodyguard, etc". They all cycle through the same kind of replies, but at least it felt more natural.

    Again, alternate solutions here, depending on how you handle the "how to enter the theater" situation, a very subtle change happens later. There are 3 alternate solutions. A first I think on the genre.

    In the ransacked office, there's a cut out room that's still in the game files. There's a room next to Sophia's office, with Chuck the plant ! The famous plant that appears in every LucasArts game, was supposed to appear in Fate of Atlantis, but it was cut out, and now only exists on debugging tools.

    Take note of all the pacing of the New York section. It's basically a tutorial. You can only pick up one item (the newspaper), you are introduced to different solutions. You are warned that you can die in the game by fighting, but this time you get a free card if you fail. You are introduced to fetch quests (give newspaper to stageman), you find out about pixel hunt (with the little button next to the 3 leveres), fortunately there is not a lot of pixel hunting but I remember one late in the game which is completely unnecesary.

    And you've got to love Sophia's hair flip animation. I once hosted a game with friends to have a shot everytime she flips her hair (best 4 frames animation in the game).

    Enjoy the best game ever made.

    1. The manual also explains (though not in detail) the three different solutions to the Biff puzzle as an introduction to the IQ Point system. The three solutions are meant to represent the three different paths through the game.

      I first played this before I had seen the movies, so I was really confused about who Marcus was - he's never really introduced and barely appear in the game. Shame to hear they cut the rest of his role out.

    2. Thanks, Alex. I didn't notice that the dialogue gives different options after failing.

      As for the subtle change based on how I entered the theatre, I have no idea which saved game I continued to play with so it'll be interesting to hear about it when it comes up.

      Adamant, I deliberately ignore the 'early game walkthrough' parts of adventure game manuals. I've always seen them as an introduction for people who haven't played an adventure game before. Then I read them later and often find I missed something unimportant but fun.

      And as for Marcus, I found him to be really cool and smart in Raiders despite having limited screentime, and was a bit disappointed when he turned into a bumbling fool in the Last Crusade.

  2. I'm really nostalgic for the Macintosh version of this game. Our family had what was, according to my memories, likely a Macintosh Performa 6300 or similar. The CD drive stopped working at some point, and I considered having it repaired until my mom threw it away. :-( Since then I have set up a Macintosh emulator and even played it through that way once, but emulation quality was pretty bad, especially sound as there were constant dropped or mistimed notes.

    Which is a real shame, as the Mac version uses sample-based music that IMO sounds much better than the AdLib/SoundBlaster counterpart, and which I even prefer to the Roland MT-32. I have uploaded some videos to YouTube once, which hopefully gives you an idea what it sounded and played like (it sounded MUCH smoother on real hardware, with no dropped notes). ScummVM nowadays has the capability to do the music of LucasArts Mac games correctly, but you all know how I feel about ScummVM. I haven't checked recent developments of old Macintosh emulations, so it's possible that better-performing emulators are available.

    Aside from the music, the most interesting feature is the smoothing filter (which I read somewhere has a hotkey to toggle it on/off but forgot what it was). There's also options for screen size, which changes the font, and for sound quality which appears to do nothing. Other differences include the lack of some visual effects (no fading between drawings of Indy opening the statue), and the sprite of Indy holding the small statue (the silhouette of the statue is better).

  3. Not sure if the opening video is representing your playthrough, but you can get improved music support by using the MT32 emulator build in ScummVM. No need for adlib quality sound anymore ;-)

    1. What you hear is exactly what I hear. I checked my settings and I'm using Soundblaster/Adlib for music.

      I'm using Dosbox to keep it more accurate, but will check out the MT32 music on youtube before doing the final rating (actually I've just checked it out a little bit now)

  4. I think the original Adlib version is the best one, the music from the introduction when you are in the library of barnette college is one my favorites from the OST.

    1. The MT-32 emulator music is good, and of course better than Adlib/SB, but using a real MT-32 makes a real difference.

      That said, I think most modern gamers lose out on the intended mood of the music a different way -- back when Indy 4 came out, most of us had speakers sitting on the desk, a distance away from each side of the monitor, facing us and blanketing us with sound. How many people, playing this game today, are using a laptop that has a speaker pointed out the bottom, onto the desk, or some equally bad distorted/muffled sound? Or using the speakers built into their discount computer monitor...

      Back to topic -- the music is great throughout, but I think some of the Atlantis scenes have the most hauntingly-beautiful music ever. This video claims to be a re-mix, but it's not far from the original MT-32 version. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJjsgKwZhtk

    2. Full MT-32 soundtrack: https://youtu.be/LF3i-ozWOso

    3. Or another great site: https://highland.mixnmojo.com/indy4.shtml

    4. Michael: I've done the opposite. Back in the early 90s I had sound coming from the bottom of the monitor, though by the time I played this game I had small stereo speakers that came free with the PC.

      But now I have surround 5.1 speakers set up here, though this game doesn't make use of it :)

      I had a quick listen to the MT-32 and while as you've all said, it IS better, I think the music I'm getting has the same feel for me, though I'm not an audiophile by any stretch of the imagination.

    5. >But now I have surround 5.1 speakers set up here,
      >though this game doesn't make use of it :)

      You can often get a decent surround experience from a stereo source with Pro Logic II on. Not much improvement on AdLib to be fair (none if mono), but it sort of works on MT-32 audio, and The Dig and Curse of Monkey Island sound particularly great this way.

    6. >I had a quick listen to the MT-32 and while as you've all said,
      >it IS better, I think the music I'm getting has the same feel
      > for me,

      TBD: It's almost the same feel because by this point in gaming, they had figured out how to get as much as they could from the SB16, and made some great tunes. And by and large,

      Going back a game year, one of the few times I really disagreed with Trickster was his comments on LSL3 - which was just one step below this game in use of the MT32 and more-than-passable SB audio versions of the same tunes. (He claimed that the music had barely improved since LSL2, which had almost no music at all. LSL3, at the time of release, had the most music of any adventure game released so far). By this time in history, hard disks were bigger and affordable, so they no longer worried about making a game that was easy to play with disk swapping (LSL2, for example). These games were intended to be hard disk installed, and the benefit was that they used extra disks for things like music.

  5. Also, since you asked for IQ point notes in ROT13: Ragrevat gur sver rfpncr jvyy tvir lbh fvk cbvagf ertneqyrff bs jurgure lbh'ir gnyxrq/chapurq lbhe jnl cnfg Ovss svefg, fb lbh pna trg na nqqvgvbany fvk cbvagf ol trggvat vagb gur gurngre va n qvssrerag jnl svefg, gura tbvat onpx bhgfvqr naq ragrevat guebhtu gur sver rfpncr.

    1. If I spend tonight replaying the first section over and over to try to get an extra IQ point or two I know who to blame :)

    2. Next post I'll write a long ROT13-encoded paragraph where I just say you got them all, then sit back and watch.

  6. I always wanted to play these games. They always looked so awesome, even though I’m not the world’s biggest Indiana Jones fan.