Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is now in theaters, finding Harrison Ford’s swashbuckling archaeologist returning to the big screen for one last (?) adventure. And boy, do people have opinions on this movie. I rather liked it (careful, my letterboxd review has spoilers); my friend, the great film critic Walter Chaw, hated it; and many a right-wing YouTube “film critic” is railing against it as the latest manifestation of Hollywood’s “woke agenda.” But even most of us who do like it don’t think it quite recaptures the magic of Indy’s greatest adventures. Y’know, I’m talkin’ stuff like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and, of course, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. What’s that? You’re not familiar with that last one? Well, there’s no better time than now to experience one of the greatest point-and-click adventure games—and one of the greatest Indiana Jones tales—of all time.
The year was 1992. Indiana Jones had literally ridden off into the sunset at the end of 1989’s Last Crusade, and for all we knew, we’d never see Harrison Ford don the hat and wield the whip again. But this was also the era in which LucasArts was rapidly establishing itself as a major player in the point-and-click adventure game field, The previous two years had brought us the one-two punch of The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, games which threatened Sierra’s long-held dominance of the genre by operating under a totally different design philosophy. While Sierra’s games routinely killed you at every opportunity, urging you to “save early, save often,” LucasArts’ adventures encouraged you to try anything and everything. Go ahead, say that dialogue choice you wouldn’t dream of saying in real life. It’ll be fine!
So even if we couldn’t have another movie, that was no reason Indiana Jones’ academic pursuits couldn’t continue in games. But could a point-and-click adventure by LucasArts where dying was rarely a possibility actually capture the tone of the movies, which are full of death-defying action? Indeed it could, it turns out, thanks to the story, dialogue, and game design, all of which manage to wonderfully evoke the globe-hopping, Nazi-punching spirit of Indy’s escapades.
Like the films, Fate of Atlantis is of course fantasy, but there’s just enough of a historical basis to its fantasy to lend it an air of archaeological legitimacy. It’s 1939, and the Nazis are seeking the power of Atlantis to aid them in their nefarious plans. If Indy’s going to thwart them, he’ll need to find the Lost Dialogue of Plato, which may actually exist or have existed at some point. (Orichalcum, a metal mentioned in several actual ancient writings including Plato’s writings on Atlantis, plays a key role in the story as well.) And as you’d expect for an Indiana Jones adventure, your quest to track down the clues to Atlantis’ location and the secrets of its true power takes you all over the world, from New York to Iceland, from Monte Carlo to Crete. All the while, the game’s gorgeous pixel art has you feeling the 1930s atmosphere and stunning natural beauty of its varied locations.
The adventure’s middle section even has three distinct paths you can take, called Team, Wits, and Fists. The first emphasizes Indy’s testy, flirtatious dynamic with his companion, a woman named Sophia Hapgood. The second puts a focus on some pretty tough adventure game puzzles, while the third sees Indy punching his way through many situations. (Some of those puzzles had me stumped for a while as a youngster, but there’s a discernible logic to all of them, and when I finally did solve them, it felt great.) Each of these paths feel consistent with the character as we’ve come to know him from the films, and they lend the game some replay value, which is a rarity in the point-and-click genre.
Whatever path you pursue, Fate of Atlantis builds up to a memorable showdown with Nazis that earns its place alongside the climaxes of Indy’s greatest adventures. So if Dial of Destiny has you craving more Indy, whether because you loved it or because you hated it, you owe it to yourself to experience this gem. I want to punch a Nazi just thinking about it.