Thursday, May 22, 2008


Since it's Indy 4th here in the States (which should be a national hoilday, but whatever), I decided to post the first in a series of tributes to video games that I spent a lot of time playing as a kid. These meant a lot to me growing up, and effected me in some way, probably negatively.

I had the Raiders of the Lost Ark videogame for the Atari 2600 back in 1982. Right off the bat, it was hard to understand and seemed to have very little to do with the movie. As I recall I could only get as far as the Map Room and couldn't figure it out what to do next. This game just made me feel like a dummy. This marked the first time a video game was so confounding that I couldn't solve it (I would later add many games to that list). But since there was no "internet" to help you walkthrough the game, you had to rely on word of mouth and some abstract logic to solve it.

Here's a helpful video guide showing someone beating this classic craptacular puzzle game in real time. I know you've all been waiting for this.

* The inventory system was pretty groundbreaking at the time, listing all the objects you were carrying along the bottom of the screen. Here it looks like Indy picks up his bullwhip, gun, flute (to charm the snakes, duh), key, grenade, clock, hourglass, an ankh, and all sorts of other things I can't remember. You could only use one at a time, though. The other thing that was irksome: the icon on the screen frequently looked different than the inventory icon (pile of coins becomes a sack), so you had to be paying attention.

* I love how back then a grenade was just a single pixel (0:53), and you didn't even get to see the explosion, you only heard an off-screen "beep". Nowadays, videogame grenades are photorealistic and can be used to blow yourself up in spectacular ways in Liberty City.

* Using the grappling hook (yes, that's what that blue circling dot is at 2:40) to get across the desert mesa tops was maddening.

* Ah, then there's the Map Room (3:30). No, not the amazing Chicago beer bar, but the crappy pixelated one that told you where to dig for the Ark of the Covenant. The most excruitating thing about this board was that, just like in the movie, you had to wait for the "sun" to point to the proper place. And wait. And wait. Here it takes well over 2 minutes (FF to 5:38) for the little flashing dot to pop up on the map. Just imagine a 12 year old just sitting and staring at the screen for that long! I didn't have the patience (or probably thought the game was broken) so this is where I stopped.

* You then to avoid the "thieves" in the marketplace who would steal your loot (a board that suspiciously resembled "Frogger") to the Black Market (6:22) to buy a shovel. That's right, guns and grenades are readily available in garbage cans 15 seconds into the game, but shovels are treated as illegal contraband.

* I also love how the bullwhip can break through walls (7:18) which I never knew was possible, and which certainly didn't happen in the movie.

* For some reason he buys three parachutes (8:55)? You lost me. (I guess you could miss and have to buy another, but he makes it on the first try.)

* Now to the convoluted endgame: with the ankh in hand, you have to parachute down to the tree limb, avoid more "thieves" and dig at the proper spot (9:23). Voila! There's the Ark! Come to think of it, it's easier to accomplish here than in the movie.

This guide explains everything up to the Map Room.

What a bizarre little puzzle game this was.

(I realize that I'm the only one who cares about this stuff. Yes, I'm queer for Indy.)

Raiders of the Lost Ark video game [Wikipedia]

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