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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (NES) artwork

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (NES) review

"All the time spent trying improve your Temple of Doom skills could be better spent mastering far more interesting games, ones that don't consist of banal collecting in a confusing mess of platforms."

Welcome to India, where conveyor belts litter mountainsides, children carry numerous deadly weapons, and mines consist of various nauseating colors. Seems the local Thuggee have captured a whole score of children and put them to work in the mines. Said kids await the day a badass arcade hero will arrive and rescue them, presumably by causing his sprite to collide with theirs. As we all know, there's only one man bold enough to rescue children by touching them.

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker screenshot
Uh... Other than this guy...

Indana Jones rises to the occasion, deciding it's his turn to take his place among the other arcade action badasses with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, a game that hopes to be as fast-paced and addictive as its brethren.

It isn't.

In an overhead/sideways/WTF view, you guide Indy across miles of conveyor belts, over veritable lakes of lava, and along copious lengths of mine cart rails all to put an end to the Thuggees' plans of world domination and child hording. Spread all about the mines are random children waiting to be rescued. Grabbing one will net you points, as well as secure helpful items like swords, bombs and guns. Wait, these kids have guns and swords and they need rescuing? Okay, to be fair, it was 1987. It's not like games needed to make sense back then.

Freeing the slaves isn't the main objective of each level. Two of the children are holding a key that unlocks a door to the next level. It doesn't matter which key you nab, as long as you've got one of them. So Indy basically says, "Screw the rest of you kids, I'm only after the key. Enjoy your decades of misery working for the Thuggee." How compassionate of you, Dr. Jones.

Thuggee guards, bats and spiders will impede your progress, but they're nothing a whip can't deal with, right? A single whiplash won't take out a guard, but it will stun him. The only way to kill him via whip is to continue lashing like a dominatrix until he slips off the bottom of the screen and into lava. Not only does Indy not give a shit about children, but he kills his human opponents by torturing and horribly burning them to death. This Dr. Jones sounds like one sick son of a bitch.

Taking a shot at the spiders and bats is even more of a challenge. These guys are so tiny that successfully landing a shot on them feels like divine intervention. Even should you nail one, it's unlikely you'll score a shot before it takes a chunk out of you and sends you spinning, often into a pool of lava.

If S&M isn't your bag, you could bust out the sword or gun--that is, if you can figure out how. Without an instruction booklet or Google handy, I doubt anyone would figure out to hold the 'Select' button and press a direction to equip a different weapon. I'm guessing this was an attempt to keep the pace moving, rather than having you switch to an inventory screen a la Legend of Zelda. While having a separate screen for weapons might have slowed the pace, it at least would have been less complicated and awkward.

If you're yawning by now, it's probably because of the marvelous achievement Tengen accomplished: they made Indiana Jones boring. What do you think of when you hear the name Indiana Jones? Excitement. Thrill rides. Popcorn flicks. Summer movies. Things that we hope not to associate with boredom in the least. Sadly, Temple of Doom doesn't hold up in that respect. Every level consists of searching a dull, convoluted network of conveyor belts and cliffs looking for just the right kid, which amounts to incessant collecting. The only time challenge rears its head when trying to find the door to the next level inside the mines, where you will blindly leap from mine cart to conveyor belt to mine cart searching for the one pathway that will lead to victory. Many of those blind leaps will end in you taking a plunge in a burning bath of lava and losing a life, mainly because in some situations you can't see what's below you.

Games like this are more effective when they're roughly one screen. If they go beyond that it's not by much, and they keep the level pretty well contained. Temple of Doom its drags levels out much further than it should, and some of the later ones become so complicated that they're almost impossible to pass without checking out a map online. Take into account that levels loop both horizontally and vertically, and that the environments lack variety. Aside from aforementioned belts and rails, there's really nothing else; just a dull jumble of repetitive tricks and traps.

Now fathom this: the dull, tedious gameplay is the payoff. The tricky part about Temple of Doom is nailing the mechanics, and your reward for doing so is playing a dull arcade-style action game more effectively. It doesn't help that Temple of Doom is "one of those games": jump is 'B', attack is 'A'. If you're a long time NES fanatic, you'll confuse the two often enough to drive you insane. It would be tolerable but for the jumping mechanics. Indy doesn't jump side to side, but up to down. Hit 'B' and he'll automatically leap downward unless you're pressing 'Up', which will usually result in you taking a plunge when you don't want to. If you're lucky, you'll land on ground or a conveyor belt, but most of the time you'll take a blind leap into lava. Jumping left to right? Forget it. There are quite a few scenes where it looks like you can, but if you try you'll wind up taking a dive feet first into the great unknown.

This takes some getting used to, and frankly it's not worth it. All the time spent trying improve your Temple of Doom skills could be better spent mastering far more interesting games, ones that don't consist of banal collecting in a confusing mess of platforms. Perhaps Temple of Doom would have benefited from shorter levels, or maybe a variety of environments rather than the same mines and mountainsides ad naseum. The film had many different sets and scenes that would have been great to incorporate into a game. It's not like Tengen didn't have material to work with.

Bottom line: if you want to play a videogame adaptation of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, then grab a copy of Lego Indiana Jones and skip the NES game.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (September 05, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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