Best Games - Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis - The opening credits
The exact second that video games became a lucrative artform, someone signed a movie tie in deal. Video games became a vehicle to advertise. Movies, TV shows, toys, candy, rock bands, clothing brands, and fast food restaurants all have video game tie ins. The overwhelming majority of them are terrible.
Just like a book often doesn’t translate to film very well, most properties don’t make for great video games. It isn’t because it’s impossible to translate them, it’s usually because what makes artwork good in one medium doesn’t always carry over into another. With a deft enough hand, and a solid understanding of the medium, sometimes properties can shine on multiple fronts.
When Lucasfilm started an internal video game development studio (LucasArts) it was really only a matter of time before they started making games based on their films. Luckily for the world, the rights to create games based on Lucasfilm movies were tied up in deals with Atari. This left the game developers at LucasArts little choice but to come up with their own ideas, their own games, and their own style.
When it came time to create games based on Lucasfilm movies internally, they had already created their own game design language (figuratively and literally). When they started work on Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis the LucasArts style of storytelling adventure game was several titles in and resonated strongly with players. They knew that games weren’t movies and that the medium asked different things of the material.
The opening shot of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis sees Indy crashing through the window into what looks like a dusty tomb full of relics and artifacts. In a voice that very obviously isn’t Harrison Ford but still feels like Indy, he asks himself how he’s going to ‘find that statue in all this junk’. The stage is set instantly. We know there is an adventure underway and that it involves finding a treasure.
Something seems a little off. This room is slightly too organized and sorted to be a tomb, but we carry on. If you hover your mouse over objects labels pop up and clicking sends Indy over to comment on the artifact you have selected. The game begins teaching you how to play it immediately and with no ‘How to Play’ preamble. Like an adventure, it just goes.
Eventually clicking on a particular statue causes Indy to fall and lay stunned a floor below. This room is even more odd. Brighter, more organized. Tidy shelves line the walls. An obvious passage leads down to an even brighter room. Introductory titles and credits continue to play across the screen letting you know that you are very much in the opening scenes.
When you direct Indy to climb down the rope to the brightly lit area, instead of a graceful action hero descent, he tips a statue over and crashes down another floor. This time he has fallen into a fairly standard looking library. Brightly lit by the sun streaming through large windows. Outside is a pleasant summer day. What you were initially meant to believe was a tomb raiding adventure seems to be nothing of the sort.
As the intro concludes, it is revealed that Indy has just broken into his own university to find something he or his colleague Marcus had misplaced. After swinging through a closed window, knocking over several priceless artifacts, smashing through the ceiling of one floor and rolling down a coal chute, he simply walks across the street to the building housing his office. Indy then immediately gets into a fist fight with a Nazi. This is the sort of game you are playing. This is the Indiana Jones of this world. He is constantly in adventure mode even when doing something mundane, and this game is self aware enough to know that the entire premise is silly.
The tone of the movies is captured without any attempt to ape the actual structure of a film. You came to play a game and a certain amount of that is suspending disbelief and reveling in the absurd. You might wander Indy around the same area for 45 minutes with no idea what to do, or struggle to solve a puzzle that is just a little to obtuse, but the game makes it clear that it isn’t because Indy is an idiot, this is just how game worlds work. The game lets you know all of this before the opening credits are over.
If you continue to play (and you will want to, this is a great game) the same tone is reinforced again and again. The characters and original ideas for this game might come from a movie, but this is a video game and the medium works differently. Interaction comes first.
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is one of the best games with maybe the best opening credits of any game.