Indy is back in US Gold's tatest action movie licence. This is the first of two games based on the box office smash The Last Crusade, and has been programmed by Tiertex - the team responsible for Thunderblade. Lucasfilm Games are intending to release the adventure game in the next few weeks but this is the action version, and it promises to beat the socks off of all the previous Indy games.
Simply, it's a platform shoot-'em-up but there's so much of the film plot involved that it is much more interesting than you might expect. Level one sees Indy as a young boy scout running through mysterious caves in an attempt to escape from a band of thieves, just as he did in the film. Ropes hang down from the roof of the caves and these are used to move around the different platforms. If you don't use the ropes to drop down a level then your energy is used up quickly.
Energy also suffers whenever the roof starts to crumble and you get struck by falling rubble. IF your energy level drops down to nothing then you lose a life, but this is not the only way to meet your death. Falling into underground streams of water or getting shot by the bad guys will make you instantly lose a life but with five to play with you can survive the occasional disaster.
Ordinarily the joystick makes Indy jump up and down, walk forward or punch if the fire button is pressed. If you're holding the whip at the time then pressing fire will cause Indy to lash it out.
The famous whip has been strategically positioned around the levels. If you find it then you're allowed five opportunities to test it out on your enemies.
Four levels will take Indy through caves, the mysterious underground dungeons of an old castle, a hydrogen balloon and finally the search for the Holy Grail - the whole purpose of the game. The Holy Grail will prevent anyone from dying but make a mistake on this final run and you'll perish instantly. Level four is the hardest one to complete, particularly since the controls suddenly change here. It's also the only one to look completely unlike a standard platform shoot-'em-up.
The Last Crusade enjoys some great graphical effects. Scrolling takes place across four directions but what's really important is the size of the sprites. Indy and his foes are huge and have been very smoothly animated. Some of the scenes where you die occasionally look dubious but apart from that, the graphics feel 'right' which isn't something you can say about too many games involving animated walking people. Most of the other effets are fairly realistic as well. The fireballs in particular are worth looking out for.
Although scrolling is smooth, Indy only performs a slow run on his way through the levels. Though speed isn't really a noticeable problem, the game might have benefitted from being faster even if a smaller window had to be used.
Sound isn't sampled, so bearing in mind the limitations of ST effects, it seems reasonably similar to the film. During play the game tries to treat you to appropriate sound effects, but they never quite come off.
My first impression when I played The Last Crusade was that it was just another platform shoot-'em-up similar to Navy Moves, but with large sprites and the occasional clever effect like walking across collapsible bridges. However, by the time you get into level two you really begin to appreciate that there is a whole lot more involved. Most similar games offer little outside of the chance to puncture everyone with lead. But here there are so many clever animation effects and tests of your skill with a joystick overcoming such obstacles as fireballs and ropes that you can get really excited by it. Indy fans particularly will find that it ties in well to the film.
The Last Crusade is one of the best US Gold games to date. The graphics are superb and although the game plan isn't original the twists and turns make it a brilliant challenge.