Indiana Jones: The Search For King Solomon's Mines

Author
Hydra
Released
May 22, 1997
Genre
Adventure
Size
55.7 KB
Boards
43 / 57
Rating
No rating

Closer Look: Indiana Jones: The Search For King Solomon's Mines

By: Dr. Dos
Published: Dec. 11, 2017

That belongs in a museum

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Er, well, you'd think he'd be able to.

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The guard gets fired for his incompetence, and now that there's no guard Indy can now really enter the jungle. He also warns the player that they better bring food and a boat.

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TWIST! The game becomes a sidescroller temporarily.

ZZT is so very much not supposed to do platforming engines like this, and they always feel unresponsive and extremely rigid due to the grid based movement. They're a novelty at best, but that didn't stop Interactive Fantasies from publishing several games which are start to finish sidescrollers including Forest of ZZT, Freak Da Cat, and its sequel.

Just shooting away the one breakable wall takes a few attempts to get the timing right, and even that small jump from a raised elevation feels scary to try and make.

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When Indy makes it to the river, he uses his boat and the player can then begin rowing their way across.

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The river continues, and since the boat can't jump it instead automatically climbs upward for these hills. Before going over the waterfall, a vine is thrown down and somebody climbs it to get to Indy.

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*Googles to find out if "b*shman" is considered a slur because I wouldn't be surprised.*

As you can tell by me not actually writing the word out, yes. Yes it is.

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Indy is taken up into the treetop village, kind of like the one in Fantasy World Dizzy except with a lot more uncomfortable depictions of African peoples.

After following this person who brought them up to his village, another villager communicates with Indy by carving English into a piece of a wood.

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It turns out Indy is being helped by a mute tribe known as the Boendas. They offer Indy a place to rest up for a bit before continuing his journey and learned how to write in English from somebody a few years prior. Indy is happy to oblige them and stays with them for a few days.

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After some time has passed with the Boendas, one of them helps Indy climb down, throws him a piece of wood with a wish for good luck carved in it, and set sets off on his adventure once more.

The player regains control of Indy and gets to follow the path towards a lake indicated by the map acquired from the prisoner at the start of the adventure.

The shading on the grass here is the same sort of maze-shading (as I'm now decreeing it) as we saw last month in Sivion. I'm now wondering how common it was among games of this vintage, where using multiple STK colors involved constantly switching boards to put the tile that was wanted into the pattern buffer in the editor. Maze-shading would just require filling the area with the first tone, grabbing a second, and then running around with the draw tool to give some randomish blending of the two. It's certainly faster than the more complex shading you'd see in later games when the use of external editors made working with the full 16 color palette much less time consuming.

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The food from the earlier shop is about to come into play, but thankfully it's actually not mandatory.

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On the southern shore of the lake is a campsite that's still lit. Indy can rest there, but won't be able to fall asleep until his stomach is full. If the player bought food that's easy enough, but otherwise the player needs to notice that there's something hidden in the lower right corner.

I noticed it! I am very good at ZZT games!

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Inside the hidden cellar are three barrels filled with food. This is the alternative method to surviving this portion of the journey. If the player bought food they can still take some here, but it will have no purpose.

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Once rested and fed Indy can continue north without collapsing from exhaustion. There's a raft on the other side of the river which Indy manages to ford without issue. From there it's time to sail across the lake ever closer to the legendary mines.

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Uh oh.

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The next minigame can be pretty tough. The raft continually moves forwards and Indy has to quickly steer his way around the logs and other obstacles in the way to make it safely to the other side. It took quite a few tries to get through, but moved fast enough that it wasn't all that frustrating.

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Eventually I made it to the other side of the shore, but didn't land in the exact spot the game wanted to and got a game over for it! You have to sail the raft into the tiny gap at the far edge of the screen and not just land it on the beach.

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And a successful landing is a still a crash anyway!

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Indy gets up, unscathed with his now shattered raft and gets to continue deeper into the jungle.

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After a whole bunch of little engines and story boards I found myself really caught off guard by suddenly finding a board filled with ZZT's built-in creatures. Indiana Jones vs. some tigers feels appropriate enough, but this portion of the game feels removed from what we've seen in the rest of it. It feels more like what you'd expect an Indiana Jones ZZT game from a few years prior to this one to be like.

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After clearing my way through the board I finally noticed what I could only assume was going to be yet another Barney cameo.

Barney
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
"Hello, I am Barney."

You (talking to the author): "Oh geez,
can't you ZZT Programmers ever think
of something more original than Barney?"

Niels (the author): "You mean like...
the energizer bunny?"
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
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Putter





  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Author: "Okay, have it your way.
Then I'll just change it into a
nice hard ruffian! (hehehehehe...)"
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Including Barney and the Energizer Bunny in your ZZT game to make a statement about how unoriginal and annoying it is when ZZT games include Barney and the Energizer Bunny.

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Oh hey. Remember this guy? He's doing a pretty good job of keeping one step above Indy despite not having a map or any sort of insider knowledge to help him find the mines for himself. He walks offscreen and Indy is free to run around and shoot at bears and centipedes and make as much noise as he pleases.

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This is where things really get tough. The last sidescroller had just a single jump to make, from a higher point down to a lower one. Here the player has to make several jumps and land on higher platforms. To make things worse, the brown platforms collapse when stepped on, so you have to do this in quick succession.

This alone would make it a challenge, but the hardest part of all is the fact that because the actual player element is surrounded, the player can't save their game here without breaking it. Nothing stops them from saving, but ZZT starts paused when restoring a save. The only way to unpause is to move or shoot and since the player is surrounded there is no way to do that. This screen has to be completed from beginning to end in a single sitting.

In a normal platformer, this would be incredibly simple, but in ZZT, even the most basic of jumps is a challenge. It takes quite a lot of tries and gets pretty tedious always having to do the opening portion of the level every time.

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There's also this cool zipline that Indy grabs onto to carry him across automatically. Still, not worth the effort.

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Fortunately it's the last sidescrolling sequence. There's another cutscene where Indy happens upon an unknown village in the middle of the jungle and is promptly found by two of the village guards.

Tribeman1
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
You hear them talking to each other.

"Manchaku, do you know who he is?"

"No Chalred, but I think he is one of
the white men, who tried to burn all
of our huts down, a few years ago."

"Let's execute him then."
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They have no time for any of this colonialism bullshit after what happened the last time a white man found their village. Instead they simply prepare Indy for execution.

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Manchaku draws his bow and arrow as Chalred holds Indy in place. Indy tries to explain he's not here to harm them, but they refuse to listen. Is this the end of Indiana Jones?

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Man it's a good thing Indy talked to this guy in a bar forever ago. Okwonkwo chides the others and tells Indy to come with him.

Okwonkwo
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
Okwonkwo:

"I'm sorry for their behaviour, but
they can't help it. I shall explain you
everything. This village was attacked
some years ago by some evil white men.
The people who attacked you, just
thought you were one of them."

You:

"But how do you know all of this, and
what are you doing here?"

Okwonkwo:

"Because, and this will probably surprise
you, I'm the chief of this tribe. Some
months ago, I went to the western world
to search for the evil white men. I
didn't find them, and I decided to
stay in Spain, but when I saw you and
you told me about the mines, the memories
started to come back."

You:

"Because I talked about the mines?"

Okwonkwo:

"Yes, the mines are very near this
village, but beware: there is danger
in them. Bo Margo, the village elder,
will tell you more about it. But now I'll
continue my story: I came with you
to Islamaba, were I met another member
of my member of my tribe, who took my
back here. I'm sorry I left you in
Islamaba, but I was really in a hurry."

You:

"And why are you speaking proper English
now, instead of the 'Me Okwonkwo' stuff."

Okwonkwo:

"Because that stupid Niels is to lazy to
type out all the sentences in
the 'Me Okwonkwo' language. :) . Now
go talk to Bo Margo!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

And so the truth comes out. Okwonkwo set out on a quest for revenge that never happened and became homesick when Indy reminded him of the mines. Indy is now free to go and Okwonkwo is more than happy to help Indy reach his goal.

This revenge plotline is immediately dropped and never mentioned again. To be fair, this is an Indiana Jones game and not an Okwonkwo one, but I think Hydra missed out on the very obvious opportunity to have had Von Klaumphauf be in some way responsible for the village nearly being destroyed in the past. I think it would add a lot to both Okwonkwo and the general's characters rather than basically being there to check checkboxes for characters you need in an Indiana Jones adventure.

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Bo Margo's hut consists of nothing more than a table and a small altar in memorial to his son who died trying to get the mine's treasures himself years ago.

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Bo Margo has some interesting choices for how to wake him up. I couldn't resist seeing what happens if you stomp on him.

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Jesus Indy.

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A guard bursts in to kill Indy and will definitely do so with all those stars. Please do not stomp the elderly.

Bo Margo
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
You decide to wake Bo very gently...

Bo:

"Who disturbs my sleeping?"

You:

"It is I, Indiana Jones. I came here
to ask you something about the mines."

Bo:

"The mines, there is great evil in there.
It has *SNIF* cost the life of my son
Dave."

You:

"What is the great evil?"

Bo:

"I can better tell you the whole story.
The mines were build by an ancient
civilization to storer the treasures of
their great King Solomon. Unfortunately,
one of the people who build the mines,
made a mistake with the roof and King
Solomon was crushed during an inspection.
Just before he died of his wounds, he
uttered the words: "..get you for this.."
Nobody dared to enter the mines for
hundreds of years, until my son wanted
to get the treasure. I couldn't stop
him from entering the mines. A few
hours later we heard a terrible screaming.
We went looking, but Dave's body had
disappeared. I believe the soul of
Solomon is still in the mines, killing
those who dare to enter with traps and
other things. After this many adventurers
have tried to get the treasures. None
came back. So if you try it, I wish
you good luck."

You:

"That's a pretty heavy story. Apart
from that wierd General I now have
also King Solomon as an enemy."

Bo:

"Weird General? I saw a German General
entering the mines, just before you
came to our tribe."

You:

"Thank you very much for all the
information."

Bo Margo doesn't hear you anymore,
because he has continued his sleep
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Indy learns of the death of the elder's son in the mines and how the spirit of King Solomon still defends them from intruders. Worse yet, Von Klaumphauf has uncovered the mines as well! Indy needs to work fast to keep the treasure from being stolen.

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Just outside the final village is the entrance to the mines. They're not particularly hidden once you get this close.

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The mine entrance immediately collapses once Indy is inside. He comments on how it looks like nobody's been here for thousands of years despite there being lit torches on the walls. We already know the general is here, and it sounds like the prisoner and dying man from the start were as well, but maybe they didn't go inside.

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Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes?

Indy makes no actual comment on the snakes that are found throughout the mines. Compared to the tigers and ruffians from earlier, they're definitely tougher. They take multiple shots to kill and rush right at the player. If you get pinned like this there's no way out since you can't shoot objects that are directly next to the player.

Some poorly thought out code makes each snake bite take away 10 health, but there's no label to jump to if the player doesn't have 10 health. Since I ordered a beer at the start of the game my health isn't a multiple of 10 meaning Indiana Jones pictured here is going to be bit by snakes endlessly for eternity as he cannot actually die. Yikes. (Touching the fire from the torches also hurts Indy enough to make him snake immune.)

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The player is better off not trying to move around and just stand still and shoot straight at them, but even then they can get pretty close to Indy before finally being killed as you can see by the red fake blood they leave behind.

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Up ahead is the body of a victim of one of the many traps in the mines. Once the player gets too close bullets (probably intended as arrows here) are repeatedly shot from the wall.

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Up ahead is this board which is just fantastic visually. By using black on light gray fake and normal walls, Hydra creates a board that looks like a dark ZZT room with the exception of a few pockets lit by a torch and fire. "Wow, this is impressive." I thought to myself before opening the cheat prompt to -DARK so I could get a screenshot of the whole board until I realized my mistake.

I think the ability to designate something as a light source is probably one of the things I most wish ZZT had because you could definitely do some great stuff with it. Here you get a great visual effect, but nothing can actually be in the darkness without ruining the illusion.

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At the end of the room is a large treasure chest which is trapped. Opening it causes the room to shut and flood, drowning Indy. There's a missed opportunity for the fire in this room to be extinguished once the objects are surrounded by water, but I suppose the room would still be lit. Regardless of the visuals, it's a game over for Indy. The entire room exists just to get the player killed.

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The next room has a trap of its own as well. A large gem can be examined, but it causes the room to seal itself and a hidden blinkwall to reveal itself, once more forcing the player to their death. Perhaps the blood should be taken as a bit of a hint.

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But the time for hints is over as Indy goes deeper into the mines and crossing thresholds results in deadly poison darts flying from the walls! There's also a really cool looking lava pool that animates bubbling. I was so preoccupied on getting a screenshot of it that I didn't even see the darts in this screenshot. By then it was too late and I died once more.

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The northern exit is blocked, but heading in that direction causes the player to become aligned with more hidden darts which is all that's necessary to activate them. Another set launches with Indy safely away from them.

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Next is a return to the jungle combat from earlier. This room is dark, filled with enemies, and the walls are lined with ricochets that make it easy for the players bullets to bounce back at them. In a few cases the ricochets form a corner which lets you bank your shots down a hallway which can be very useful.

You can see I was pretty injured by this point, but even playing the board in darkness I was able to get through it okay. The reward for completing it is the key to the locked door from earlier. Once you've gone through that door, you're on to the final stretch.

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The ghost of King Solomon annihilates the general in an instant. As always, Nazis and the supernatural just don't mix. In the films, Indy never fights the supernatural so much as he figures out a solution to not be killed. Here though, it's very much a fight to the death.

Solomon doesn't do a whole lot. He does tell Indy at the start of the fight that his gun will be useless, and it is. He wanders around pretty aimlessly, and will take 10 health from Indy if they come in contact with each other. Like the snakes, Indy will be invincible if his health isn't a multiple of 10. As for defeating Solomon, it's not immediately apparent what you're supposed to do. Eventually I noticed that part of the bridge was missing and led directly to the lava below. I went over towards it to see if there was a special death where Indy falls into the lava.

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As it turns out, walking alongside the lava is Solomon's weakness. Well, the player's supposed to lure Solomon to the lava to defeat him, but the code only checks that a tile is blocked, not whether or not it's being blocked by the player. So in my case Solomon's demise just happened abruptly. The lava is supposed to erase Solomon by putting a fake wall over him, but it can't do that to the player.

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Instead, Solomon just stops moving and the green key he's supposed to drop appears. It's very anticlimactic this way.

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Indy emerges form the bridge room victorious, and discovers the mythical treasure of the mines. I was a bit worried here that the end would be "And so Indiana Jones looted the mines and retired", but Hydra doesn't disappoint. Indy knows this sort of thing belongs in a museum. (Discussions about whether or not the mines are actually Okwonkwo's tribe's and thus theirs to do with what they see fit rather than some guy showing up and taking them aside.)

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Good old Indiana Jones takes the treasure to the "archaeology museum" in Spain and is paid handsomely. Just like the start of the game, Indy can finally get some rest now that his latest adventure is over.

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At least until somebody else shows up at the door!

The player receives some bonus points for their leftover supplies and gets to watch as Indy falls asleep in bed. The game ends here.

Final Thoughts

Indiana Jones And The Search For King Solomon's Mines was a lot of fun to play! I think it serves as a great example of a ZZT game that takes an existing property and makes it work. Hydra shows a lot of understanding of the series and its tropes, and while the story itself is pretty thin, the overall journey does very much feel like an Indiana Jones movie. You have the various exotic locations, plenty of danger, an evil German general who receives his comeuppance, the works.

What the game doesn't do right is all the instant game overs. These gotchas are thankfully not that difficult to avoid, but running into one and losing progress could definitely kill a player's motivation to see the game through to the end. I do wish the story had a bit more to it. The cast is mostly there because they need to be, and you'll never really feel any attachment to them. Von Klaumphauf works as a villain only in that overly cartoonish way. The mines only offer treasure while the films made the stakes higher with immortality or unstoppable power being the goal if the enemy obtains their prize before Indy.

The gameplay itself is pretty solid. The slower moments of exploring towns still hold the player's interest, and the engines, while rough, work decently enough. Hydra shows a lot of variety with sidescrollers, rafting, and train hopping in addition to your basic ZZT action boards. Put aside the reliance on stereotypes and you'd have a pretty fun little introduction to what ZZT is and what you can do with it. It demonstrates not just what you might find people making in ZZT in 1997 but also the kinds of people who were making that content, budding programmers who had an opportunity to make the kind of games they enjoyed. Dig around and you'll find a ton of ZZT games based on a license, most of which are a mess. Hydra definitely had an understanding of what would make the game fun, memorable, and fit thematically with the Indiana Jones character. It's no surprise that if you look at his later titles you'll see a lot of refinement to an eager and enthusiastic early outing with Solomon's Mines.

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