Review by Mark Isaacson
Itís been a long time since we last saw Indiana in the video games world. Since
his last title in the early 90ís, however, there have been others who have taken
his place at the top of the tree, namely Lara Croft, who has had many adventures
diving into unknown areas to retrieve long lost treasure. Finally, after rumors
of a fourth Indy movie spreading throughout the internet, and the incredible
success of Tomb Raider, Lucasarts revived the long lost character from the award
winning trilogy, but this time placed him in a full 3D world (sign of the times
really!). The Infernal Machine made itís way to the PC first, and just a few
months ago made its debut on the once powerful Nintendo64 entertainment console.
For this review, I decided to look at both titles, and compare them in certain
areas. Each has plenty of positives to bring to the floor. However, there are
flaws that hurt the overall quality of each title. So how does the original
adventurer stack up against his feminine opponent?
The Infernal Machine begins in 1947, where are hero, Indiana Jones, is excavating
in the dusty canyons of Utah. While considering retiring from the adventure
life, an old friend, Sophia Hapgood, arrives in Utah to tell Indy about the
Soviets and their plans to excavate near the Tower of Babel. According to physicist
Gennadi Volodnikov (who is heading the excavations), they are looking for parts
to the Infernal Machine, a mysterious device which allows whoever is controlling
it to travel through time to a parallel dimension called Aetherium. These parts,
missing from the machine, are scattered around the globe. So it is up to Indy
to find them, while avoiding death, and bring them home. And we all know how
good Indy is at that.
IndyPC is a very pretty game, with nice textures and a decent frame rate. But
overall, Indy64 is the neater of the two. As long as you have a 4mb Expansion
Pack Indy64 runs at 640x480 resolution. Add a particle effects system, something
that wasnít used much or even at all on IndyPC, and the appearance of Indy64
seems to be a much more polished effort by Factor 5 and Lucasarts. There are
animation and frame rate problems in both titles, but Iíll explain this later.
Now, you would think that IndyPC would win the sound score by a mile, considering
the fact that PC games come straight from CD. However, Factor 5 has worked their
MusyX software to perfection for the cartridge release (as they have on other
titles on the N64 including Rouge Squadron and the recent release, Battle for
Naboo). Both IndyPC and Indy64ís music score will make Mr. Williams very proud.
Certain effects, especially inside caves and temples, really add to the experience.
One of the things I loved the most on both titles is the voice acting, which
is of top quality. It can be very funny at times, listening to Indy talking
to himself as you find your way around.
In terms of gameplay, both are evenly matched. I liked the whole idea of each
time you collect an item, Indyís IQ rises. The higher his IQ, the better the
chance of finding certain items in each level. It adds a little length to the
gaming experience, as you can go back to previous levels and find items you
didnít see before. There are plenty of good puzzles to accomplish, which is
spread nicely between the action elements during play.
This is where, sadly, both titles start to slip off the accelerator. IndyPC
hasnít got a great control system. You can perform all the basic maneuvers ok,
but the way you control Indy around the areas seems a little unstable, in part
to the animation (see below). Thankfully, Indy64 corrects some of the problems
with a better layout using the control pad. Attacking your enemies is also a
problem with IndyPC, so with Indy64, Lucasarts uses a similar scheme to what
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time accomplished not so long ago; the use of
the Z button as a lock on target system. It helps when using the gun and whip,
as you automatically lock onto enemies once they come into a certain range of
Indy. Sadly IndyPC doesnít have this feature, but there is an option to use
a gamepad which is something of a conciliation.
Even with the improved control layout, Indy64 still has the same problems
the plagued IndyPC. Some tasks are very hard to accomplish, like jumping from
level to level (which you have to line up for, instead of just running up and
pressing the button, or not even pressing at all like Ocarina of Time). This
comes mainly from the slow response time from the character on screen during
some tasks. It really ruins the way that the game is played.
As I mentioned not long ago, there are animation problems with both titles,
even with the added effects of Indy64. Indy himself is an ok looking bloke,
but itís his movement that can be hard to look at. At times, while Indy runs,
jumps and climbs, his stance looks a little awkward and isnít pretty to watch.
In fact, as IGN pointed out ď(itís) as if he's got something incredibly painful
camped out in his rear-endĒ. I must agree, however it is improved on a tiny
bit on Indy64 compared to IndyPC, but not that much.
Also, during play, the frame rates are known to stutter and become choppy.
This is very much evident in IndyPC, thanks mainly to the older graphics engine,
first seen in Jedi Knight. Compared to newer PC titles like Unreal and Quake3,
Indy looks out of place. Again this problem has been improved upon for the console
version, but there are still times where the frame rate can drop, especially
in out door areas, if there are enough characters on screen. Add to this the
low polygon count to some characters, especially on cut scenes, and it really
hurts the appearance of both games.
I would have liked the opportunity to play this game with a pal, especially
on the N64. ďCapture the treasureĒ sounds good to me. Or maybe a timed game,
to see how quick you can find the stash. Oh well, maybe next time.
Itís a pity that the above problems do occur, but Infernal Machine is a great
attempt by Lucasarts to bring Indy back to the mainstream gaming world. Out
of both titles, Indy64 is a much cleaner product, but IndyPC is still a solid
title and well worth your money. I recommend both if you are an Indy fan, but
for those who have gone through each and every Tomb Raider, rent it out before
you buy and see what you think.
Related Stories at IGN64 (Nintendo 64 version)
Infernal Machine Related
Stories at PC.IGN.com (PC Version)
Official Nintendo Infernal Machine Website
Tendo Box Interview with game production manager Wayne Cline
For comments or questions email the TFN
Games Staff and thanks to Mark Isaacson
for the review!