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Review by Mark Isaacson

It?s been a long time since we last saw Indiana in the video games world. Since his last title in the early 90?s, 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 it?s 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 wasn?t 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 I?ll 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 Indy64?s 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, Indy?s 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 didn?t 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 hasn?t 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 doesn?t 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 it?s his movement that can be hard to look at. At times, while Indy runs, jumps and climbs, his stance looks a little awkward and isn?t pretty to watch. In fact, as IGN pointed out ?(it?s) as if he's got something incredibly painful camped out in his rear-end?. 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. ?Capture the treasure? sounds good to me. Or maybe a timed game, to see how quick you can find the stash. Oh well, maybe next time.

It?s 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 Media/Stories:
Official Infernal Machine Website
Infernal Machine Related Stories at IGN64 (Nintendo 64 version)
PC.IGN.com Review (PC 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!

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