Raiders of the Lost Ark
High adrenaline action-adventures are not meant for all humans. While many humans do have a subconscious lust for the ecstasy of adventure, many are simply incapable of handling the tensions involved; there is a reason many humans stays "safely" at home. However, literature and later film has offered an interesting alternative to the status quo. It is through these mediums that our imagination is developed, and many humans has their quench satisfied. One of these film franchises would be the Indiana Jones quartet (though many still thinks of it as a trilogy).
Indiana Jones, contrary to popular belief, is not a very original character. He was actually founded from old film serials that used to play at theaters before the feature presentation. Essentially, the Indiana Jones films were high-budget B-movies, if such a thing could exist. Yet, they were loved by the masses when each film came out (well the fourth one being an exception but is excusable considering the large time frame between the third and fourth film). It is somewhat ironic this would also prove to be one of the early movie based video games (along with the numerous sci-fi related movie-game renditions) that would help kick-start a tradition. Considering how sloppy a significant number of movie to game ports occurs, it is a little alarming to look back upon this game in the present day for the first time, but is it as bad as one may fear, or is it a gem in the library?
Visually, the game looks nice but technical restraints causes some serious problems in trying to actually complete the game. A game's graphics should not be a top priority IF the visuals and animation does not hinder game play. Now this game's visuals are technical for the console, but the game was in many ways too ambitious for the technical limitations at the time. The problem lies in that it is nearly impossible to distinguish what the items are supposed to be. For example, one of the items is a pot of gold, but without prior knowledge it would not be identifiable as such. Otherwise, the animations are largely fluent, the environments looks good, and the developers came as close to replicating the vibe of Indiana Jones as the Atari2600 would allow. On an audio level, the standard Atari2600 vibe is there, but pushed a bit further. This game makes an attempt to replicate the Indiana Jones theme, and it remains one of the finest theme renditions from the era. The rest of The audio remains high caliber for the Atari, but it it is still largely subjective.
The controls...actually immensely benefits through using keyboard and through an emulator. The Atari2600 would have required two controllers in order to play the game: one to control the character, and one to control the inventory. However, the keyboard allows for very fluent controls and it works near perfectly. The only flaw is figuring out what the controls actually are, as the player needs to hit the buttons for the second controller. However, once the controls are figured out, they are extremely easy to master and scores high in that regard.
The key thing that separates this particular Atari2600 title from other ones is that this came can theoretically be finished. Most Atari2600 titles didn't have a definitive end: the arcade game play would just get harder over time until the game either glitches out (the 256th level glitch for some games) or the player succumbs to the unrealistic difficulty levels. However, Raiders of the Lost Ark got a definitive end to the game which can be achieved rather quickly, assuming the player knows exactly what to do. The game play is true early adventure class: short, but cryptic. The player would move around the map with their inventory of items, and trying to figure our how to proceed to the next section. There lies one of the biggest problems with adventure-style games on the Atari2600: clarity. It is often unclear, without instructions, to identify certain items and what is supposed to be done to complete the game. The basic goal is supposed to be to find the Lost Ark, like in the Indiana Jones movie, but no instructions are given. Whether this is because of an attempt to mimic the Indiana Jones vibe, or because of restraints is not entirely clear, but it has failed. One part of the game, for instance, requires the player to go through a room where touching the walls sends them back to the beginning, but there are no visible exits. However, to exit the room requires walking into a specific part of the wall on the opposite side of the room. This is one of those games that requires the player to take apart every last possibility of movement and every single item/scenario combination to figure out. This can prove immensely frustrating, and force the player to scream out in absolute agony at the seemingly impossible nature of what lay before them on the TV screen.
This is also one of those games that one would pick up and complete once, theoretically, and never play it again but to remember their first experience. Being an early adventure game, replay value was not considered as many later games had to take into account. The only real reason to play this game is to try and beat it faster than the first time, but there is no reason to replay the game otherwise. Throw in the frustration it can ensue, a lot of people quits before they finish it even once. This is the curse of being an early part of any genre: the flaws are often most evident in these early prototypes, and this is one of them.
To conclude, when all is said and done, is this game ungodly awful and an abomination? No, it is not. In a historical context, this game was a part of what started the concept of video games becoming more than killing a few minutes, but transforming into adventures of epic proportions. While games like The Legend of Zelda made the concept popular, this release brought the adventure game into the light of day, and that's worth something. It was a part of an innovation, and that alone makes it a good game to look at in one's spare time. Is it a game you'd have a lust to return to repeatedly? Probably not, but it is worth looking at least once, and looking past its premature form you'll see it was born at the appropriate time.