So the new Indy movie’s out. And it’s nearly twenty years after the last one came out! Extra-ordinary. The last one is what I want to talk about, though. You can keep all that Crystal Skull nonsense; as for this review, we want to take a look at the Last Crusade. Not the movie, mind you, but the game of the same name.
For the gamers of the time who weren’t movie fans, it must have been confusing to see that the first Indiana Jones point-and-click game was titled “Last Crusade“—and I have to admit that, on playing through it for the first time, I was a little worried. See, if you play Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis before Last Crusade, you will immediately be worried just by how the older game looks. It’s not the sharpest-looking knife in the drawer, and LucasArts continued to use their tried and truest, albeit super-basic, SCUMM system. However, if you’ve also watched the film, you’ll immediately recognize locations in the game. Graphics aside, the Venice library looks as it did in the film, you’ll recognise the interior of the German castle, and the characters look reminiscent of their acting counterparts. The whole franchise would be given an overhaul by the time Fate of Atlantis rolled around.
And it’s not just visually where the game seems to follow the movie—the puzzles even stay true to the film’s plot. The scene where Indy breaks through the floor of the Library has been copied action-for-action, you’ll be trying to avoid nasties in the underground tunnels when looking for the casket, and you’ll even be fighting off kids at the start of the game who just want answers regarding their test papers. So it follows the film a lot, which sometimes makes the game easier. Trust me—in this game, you need all the help you can get.
The puzzles are hard. At least they don’t generally use bizarre logic, but they are still hard. You just don’t always feel like you’re given enough information to even begin to consider how to get past certain obstacles. You’re presented with a lake of water, with a plug visible at the bottom, and you feel you have the items to maybe fish it out, but nothing seems to work. It’s not until later when you come across a totally different area that you didn’t even know existed that the puzzle unravels itself. You’ll get a lot of this, where you’re presented with a screen where you think there’s a puzzle to be solved, only for you to waste a lot of time and find that the solution actually lies in a totally different place. But again, at least the puzzles aren’t nonsensical, like in, for instance, Maniac Mansion. They’re just a little dull, really.
LOOK!!! No, I’m not doing an impression of the world’s most annoying fairy—LucasArts finally added the “look” verb to the SCUMM system, and it helps a LOT. If you’re unsure about what an object does, you can finally get a basic description from Indy that will sometimes help you on your way. It is probably the biggest innovation found in this game, and a lot of players seem to overlook the importance of its introduction. Looking is good.
There’s a slightly different traveling option available in the game, improved from Zak McKracken‘s very interrupting travel mode. If you need to go to Venice, you simply click “travel” and then “Venice”. You’re there. No flights, no visiting airports. Swift and simple. Yeah, that was all part of Zak‘s puzzles, but it still felt jerky. It feels better now that they cut out the middleman and just send you on your way.
And for the first time in a LucasArts game: There’s FIGHTING. Yes, you can now get yourself into tussles with various enemies in the game. Sometimes it’s avoidable, other times not, but it’s all just a bit too easy. You often find that your opponents have half the energy you do, so they’re down on the floor within 30 seconds. It’s easy enough to do as well, with different keys controlling where you move and where you strike. It’s a nice touch and a pleasant alternative to all the puzzle solving you were previously doing.
Sound-wise, there’s not a lot to talk about. No memorable tunes, and very digital-sounding MIDI tunes and sound effects, but at least the opening title music is familiar. We’re still in the ’80s here, though, peeps, and of course, the technology was not what it is now. For the job required, the audio does the trick, but it feels supremely limited now. Even the punches sound more like a key turning a lock.
Is the game fun, though? If you’re a fan of Indiana Jones, you’re going to love just how close the game follows the film. You’ll remember a lot of lines, scenes, and actions from the movie, and you’re going to enjoy the additional scenes that you won’t recognize, as well. And while it’s nowhere near as good a game as Fate of Atlantis, it’s a good early attempt for LucasArts, and it definitely shows where they would take their adventure games in the future. They gave up the modern settings of Maniac Mansion and Zak McCracken in favor of fantasy and pirates, and it would be another five years before they returned to the modern-age in a game that, funnily enough, involves enough time traveling to make even Doc Brown shout “GREAT SCOTT!”
The difficulty will ensure that you won’t breeze through the game on your first play through, and, as it’s not particularly memorable, you probably won’t play through it again. It’s OK, but LucasArts was still quite a few years off reaching their peak. They were heading in the right direction, as the next game in its catalogue will show, but it’s hard to stomach this game, considering what was still to come from the masters of the point-and-click genre.