Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine

Posted by Zack Howe.
First posted on 20 March 2000. Last updated on 07 September 2009.
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Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
Exotic location demands exotic transportation.
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
Indy pauses to briefly reflect on the awe-inspiring sight.
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
Should Indy jump in for a ride?
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
Watch the step, Indy!
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
Indy hangs onto his life swinging in style.

In 1981, a new cinematic movie appears on the silver screen. The movie is called Raiders of the Lost Ark and the hero's name in the movie is Indiana Jones. This movie and its sequels have all enjoyed huge box-office success. Since that time, Indiana Jones has been among the most famous heroes in movie history.

Indiana, or Indy as known to his friends, is an archaeologist and an adventurer. He carries a whip and a gun as weapons, dressed in this trademark dark brown leather jacket with a fedora on his head. In addition to the silver screen, Indy's adventures have also taken flight in many computer and console games from LucasArts. Sadly, since Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, there has not been another game in the Indiana Jones series in the last 7 years. Project leader Hal Barwood has not decided on another sequel until he can make a game that can do Lucas' character justice. Now, finally, LucasArts has released the highly anticipated Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, and I believe Barwood has achieved his goal. The game may not be the best adventure game in the traditional sense, but it is among the best action adventure games that I have ever played.

The year is 1947. World War II is over, and the Cold War has just begun. Indy has decided to take a break from his adventuring and resume his excavation in the American Southwest. His yearning for peace and quiet is soon halted when he gets a visit from his former partner and friend Sophia Hapgood (from Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis) who now works as an operative for the CIA. Sophia tells Indy that the Soviet Union may have unearthed sacred artifacts in the desert ruins of Babylon where King Nebuchadnezzar II has built the legendary Tower of Babel 2,600 years ago. To make matters worse, an unorthodox Russian scholar named Dr. Gennadi Volodnikov thinks that the Tower houses a machine, inspired by the winged god Marduk, which can reach across the dimensions of space and time. When the Babylonians storm the tower eons ago, 4 of the Marduk's disciples and parts of the machine are scattered across the far corners of the globe. It is your job to guide Indy on his quest to recover the 4 parts of the Infernal machine before the Soviets and Volodnikov find them first.

Among the most impressive production aspects of this game is the graphics. The game uses an updated version of the engine that is used for Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. If you are lucky to own a 3D accelerator card that can produce true color 32-bit graphics, then you have the distinct privilege of gazing at some of the most gorgeous graphics ever appeared on screen in an adventure game. Unfortunately, there is a price to this graphical beauty. The game requires, at minimum, a 4MB PCI or AGP Direct 3D graphics accelerator. If you are someone who owes a high-powered beast of a computer and wants to play the newest games with the latest technology, then this game is your answer. Some critics have complained that the graphics look a bit dated. This is understandable, seeing how the game uses an engine that is based on a computer game made a few years ago. Clipping problems can occasionally occur where parts of Indy's body is seen fully engulfed by solid objects. Still, to me, the renderings look refreshing and realistic. Every location in the game is perfectly detailed, with nothing feels out of place. The game also has lots of cut scenes. What amazes me is how smoothly the gameplay shifts to the cut scenes. There is no graininess that is commonly seen in movie sequences from other titles. Kudos to Barwood and his team for designing these great graphics!

The installation system deserves another thumbs up for being so user-friendly. When you pop the installation disc into the drive, a screenshot from the game along with a list of commands automatically appears on screen. You may then choose between Install, Analyze your Computer, Help, Options, or Exit. The game can be installed using either 890MB or 56MB. I suggest that if you have enough space, you should select the first option. That way, you only have to play the game on a single disc. After you are done installing the game's required files, you are prompted to install DirectX 6.1 if you do not already have it on your computer.

My last rave about for the production value of this game is the voice acting and the music. The voiceovers are excellent. I know that it may be great if Harrison Ford is hired to play the voice of Indy, but I think that is asking too much. Admirably, Doug Lee has done a great job playing Indy's voice. In some ways, he almost sounds like Ford. Tasia Valenza has also done a good job playing Sophia's voice. Bruce McGill has done a fine job as the voice of Simon Turner. The voice of Marduk is chilling, and I am amazed that Lee and Adam Gregor are both playing the same voice. Needless to say, I believe you enjoy hearing these voice actors. Finally, professionally composed music soundtrack and sound effects serve to compliment the excellent voice acting. Conducted by John Williams, the soundtrack succeeds in making you believe that you are actually playing Indy rather than just watching him.

No matter how great the production value of a title is, the heart and soul of a game is the gameplay. Most action adventure games focus squarely on action rather than adventure. However, I am pleased to find that this game has more adventure than action. Any gamer who is hoping to settle down for a relaxing graphic adventure game with lots of character interactions is going to be sorely disappointed. The truth is that there is not very much character interaction in this game, an area which I feel has been somewhat neglected. I am glad to see that there are some characters who do not want to blow my head off at first sight, but still there are times when I yearn for more intellectual character interaction, particularly with Sophia. She is not in the game very much, and I want to see more of her.

Asides from these minor disappointments, the remaining gameplay is thoroughly enjoyable. The element that I have enjoyed most is fighting the Commies. I am not an action junkie, so you are probably thinking right now, "If that is so, then why does he enjoy playing this game?" The reason is because I have found fighting the Commies to be a very challenging quest, and I enjoy a good challenge. To fight off the Commies, you have an arsenal of weapons in your inventory, and each of them is linked to a hotkey. In addition to your fists, the weapons at your disposal include a 45-caliber revolver, a 9mm automatic pistol, a machine pistol, a combat rifle, a machete, a submachine gun, a pump action shotgun, a bazooka, a satchel charge, and a hand grenade. All of Indy's guns are auto-aimed, so it is easy to shoot down Commies, spiders, and other foes. All you have to do is choose your weapon, press the spacebar to pull out the weapon, and press the ctrl button to fire it. My favorite weapon is the Bazooka. I know it is silly, but it is neat seeing things explode by the force of the Bazooka's rockets.

Some puzzles in this game are in the Myst style, such as pulling levers and pushing secret buttons. All of the puzzles are nicely integrated into the plot. There are boss monsters that guard each of the 4 pieces of the Infernal Machine with whom you have to contend, but each encounter feels more like a piece of puzzle than a fight. To defeat the monsters you must use your brain and not brawn.

Another element about the gameplay that I have enjoyed is the exploration. In the exploration mode, you mostly walk (or run) around looking for treasures that you can sell at a Trading Post after you finish each level. The game takes place over a number of exotic locations, including Kazakstan, the Philippines, Mexico, and the Sudan. There are 17 levels in the game. Each level is absolutely huge. It takes at least a few hours to finish each one. Together they make a very long time. The game is scored using the Indy Quotient (IQ), telling you how well you are progressing.

Almost every aspect about this game is perfect. I really love the graphics in this sequel. I am amazed on what heights the designers have taken to make these graphics as realistic as possible. The user-friendly installation, the excellent voice acting, and the music soundtrack are all terrific. I especially like hearing the Indiana Jones theme song playing while the ending credits are rolling. I found the artificial intelligence of the Commies challenging. The Commies are always trying to run or roll away while shooting at me. Facing the boss monsters is equally challenging. In the end, however, the main draw for me in playing an adventure game is the exploration, and I have definitely gotten my money's worth with this game. Be sure to take your time in each of the 17 levels, including 1 secret level!

Sadly, this game has a few annoying downsides that prevent the game from being perfect. The first problem is the erratic controls. The game uses the keyboard which in theory should work well, but I have found the movement controls to be a little sluggish, especially when Indy is running. I suggest to you that you should take your time to practice moving around. The second easily spotted problem is poor lip-synching. Lip synchronization in this game is just terrible. When you see Indy or other character talking, the lips are not at all moving in sync with the dialog. It gives the game a somewhat cheesy feel. The third problem is the limited intellectual character interaction. For most of the time you are just interacting with machines, fighting baddies, or picking up treasures. The game may benefit from more meaningful character interaction. The last problem, from the viewpoint of a pure adventure gamer, is the mixing of action and adventure, even though this is not necessarily a downside for fans of the mixed genre.

Despite the use of a somewhat dated engine, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine still comes off to be among the best action adventure games that I have ever played. So, if you are an Indy fan at heart, I honestly think you should enjoy keeping up with the Jones!

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