Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 4 NO. 7 / FEBRUARY 1990

For The
Fun Of It

Indy, Project Neptune,
Falcon: Operation



Whoever designed Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Action Game, had to be, well, a sadist. I was hours and hours into gameplay and still hadn't made it through the first level. It would take another two weeks of sleepless nights before I'd finish the game. What were they trying to do to me?

Lucasfilm's latest game, based on last summer's hit movie, is being marketed concurrently with the role-playing adventure (called "The Adventure Game"). It has a lot going for it: name recognition, slick graphics and serviceable gameplay. Yet as I struggled through each level, died innumerable deaths and alternately cursed and praised the programmers, I started thinking about the nature of computer games. I realized that I wasn't just playfully addicted to Indy, I was obsessed. Only two other computer games have had this effect on me: Star Raiders and Tower Toppler.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the Action
Game, starts you off as young Indy. It is here
that you must fight a band of grave robbers for
the fabled Cross of Coronado. Three more chal-
lenging levels await you in Lucasfilms' latest

Indy Gameplay

In Indy, you're Indiana Jones and must pass a number of obstacles and innumerable bad guys over four levels to collect relics as a part of your quest for the Holy Grail. In some ways, it's a typical ladder game, not unlike Zorro or Impossible Mission 2.

The game does an admirable job at following the basic plotline of the movie. In the first level, you're young Indy and your goal is to wrest the Cross of Coronado from a band of grave robbers. If you've seen the movie, you can guess what the next levels are like; if you haven't seen the movie, then I'll let the game surprise you. Each level gives you five lives, measured by a bar at the bottom of the screen. Unlike the movie, however, Indy's father Henry does not make an appearance in the game (except for his heartbeat).

Overall, gameplay is a bit difficult and oddly enough, Level 1 is extremely difficult and very long, as well. It's a baptism by fire, because the following levels are cakewalks compared to it.

Game control is through the joystick. To make Indy leap, you jerk the joystick to the northeast or northwest. The fire button makes Indy punch or crack the whip at bad guys (or to help you past obstacles).

Some Hopefully Helpful Hints

Perhaps the most important bit of advice I can give you is to have a good joystick. If your joystick has lousy response, you're looking at a whole lot of missed jumps--and even more frustration.

On the first level, I found that the whips were less a help than a liability. A well-timed right to the jaw from a crouched stance worked better for me.

Later on, gameplay is pretty much the same, although in some parts the whip actually comes in handy. In Level 2, don't forget to use your whip when you make it to the castle walls. Seeing the movie helps here.

A word of warning about Level 2: to gain access, you must enter a doorway with three symbols that correspond to a date at the top of the screen. You'll find the correct doorway by referring to a special decoder sheet in the documentation. Take this part of the game seriously: if you use the wrong door, you can play through the entire level, but the icon you need to go on is simply not there. If you go through the wrong door by accident, go ahead and play the sequence out, just to get some practice time in.

Level 3 is graphically interesting, but there's not much more to say about it--in fact, it's the easiest level. In Level 4, the game control changes without warning and you need to press the fire button to make Indy jump. It took about three attempts before I discovered this, because it's not covered in the documentation.

How Not to Make a Computer Game

Despite (or because of) the hours I spent playing Indy, I think Lucasfilm made some basic errors in this game.

First, the on-disk copy protection: it searches for an extra track on the disk and makes your system sound like it's damaged--or is about to be. As many times as I booted and rebooted Indy, I certainly didn't need this strain on my expensive hardware.

Second, the documentation: it's just plain inadequate. The manual touches on the basics and that's it--no in-depth instructions, no hints, no nothin'.

Third, there's no save-game feature, a serious flaw. Indy is long, involved and frustrating--why add to the player's troubles by making him complete the game in one sitting? By way of consolation, you have unlimited restarts on the upper levels, but once you turn off your computer, it's back to the beginning for you.

Fourth, the first level is just too hard. Whatever happened to idea that the easier the first level is, the more the player is drawn into the game?


Despite the hours lost from my friends and family, I liked Indy, the Action Game, a lot. I figure any game that can can keep me so interested for so long has to be good.

If you're wondering how the game compares to the movie, I'll tell you: the movie's better, but that's mainly because it's shorter.



Once again, a tyrant wants untold wealth and power. But this one has decided to try something different. In the frigid North Sea, the villain, code-named "Yellow Shadow," is building a series of undersea bases to mine uranium to sell to countries who would probably not make peaceful use of it. The bases, therefore, must be destroyed and this dastardly plot stopped. To avoid an international incident in these oil-rich waters, a lone secret agent is sent in to do the job. So begins Project Neptune from Epyx, a game which effectively combines strategy and action to form a very playable contest.

Dive beneath the surface to combat the evil Yel-
low Shadow in Project Neptune, the new arcade
adventure from Epyx.

A Man Called Rip

As Agent Rip Steel, you must destroy the undersea bases of the Yellow Shadow. To do this, you are equipped with several weapons. The first is your submarine. You can control the speed and direction of the sub with the mouse or joystick, and the view out the cockpit window is extremely realistic, even down to the distortion you nominally see when looking at things in the water.

The sub is how you get from place to place. It is, unfortunately, a research sub and so doesn't carry much air or power for its shields. It does have some short-range torpedoes for blasting obstacles along the sea bottom--they're not much good for anything else. The sub is also equipped to receive signals from overhead satellites, from which a map is constructed of the current situation. The Yellow Shadow's bases and their connecting linkages are shown on this map, as well as your own friendly supply bases. These supply bases can be docked with to provide refills of air, energy and weaponry (more on this later).

Two Ways to Battle

Yellow Shadow's warrior patrols can be battled in two ways. The first is to use the submarine to launch a "concussion device". This is rather involved. You must click on the activating button, set the timer, and launch. This can take a few precious moments, but it is worth it--several patrols can be wiped out with one blow. You can only carry five concussion devices, but you can get limited refills from allied supply bases. While you are busily setting up to launch your concussion device, the patrol is pounding away at the sub. Each hit costs energy and air--run out of either and the game is over.

The second way to battle the warrior patrols is lots more fun and brings up the game's first arcade sequence. By clicking on the launch button for the Propeller Driven Platform (PDP), you're left facing the entire six-vessel patrol. Your view is from above and behind the PDP as it zooms along the sea bottom, and you can control it with mouse or joystick. The patrol ships will attack one at a time while the others hang back. They attack by launching several types of torpedoes and tracking mines, being hit by these robs you of energy and air. You fight back using a laser mounted on your PDP. A single hit on a warrior vessel causes it to explode rather spectacularly, at which point the next one (if there is one) moves into position. Your laser can also obliterate the oncoming torpedoes and mines if you're a good shot.

Choices, Choices

Project Neptune is lots of fun. Its arcade sequences are extremely well done, and yet it is heavy with the need to make strategic choices. For example, as enemy patrols gang up on your supply bases, you must choose between running over and defend them, or letting the enemy have some of them. Defending your bases takes time, and Yellow Shadow is busily building more bases all the time. The supply bases that are closest to Yellow Shadow's installations are the most vulnerable to attack, but also provide the easiest and fastest source of resupply. Choices, choices.

Project Neptune's graphics are very, very good. The illusion of 3-D in the arcade sequences is excellent and the twisting and turning of enemy vessels is mirrored by their trailing air bubbles.

There are also three levels of difficulty; be warned that level 1 is plenty hard, and Yellow Shadow builds bases so fast on level 3 that I haven't even come close to winning. You can also save a single game, which is handy if you reach a good stopping point. The "manual" is a series of "top secret" sheets of paper which are not bound in any way. While this is supposed to be realistic, it is instead realistically annoying, as the sheets of paper you need to reference fly all over the place in the heat of battle. Fortunately, before too long you won't need the "manual" anymore.

Problems and Recommendations

There are a few minor problems with Project Neptune. You control the sub with either the mouse or joystick, but must switch between the two operating modes (piloting the sub or using the pointer to press switches in the sub's cockpit) by pressing the [Return] button. Often in the heat of battle, you may forget and end up in the wrong mode. Another thing which sometimes occurs is that the program misses your keystroke. There are also a couple of minor bugs. Occasionally, the auto pilot will bring you up adjacent to a supply base, but you won't be able to see it on the viewscreen, and your supplies are not replenished. You can move away and try to come back, but if you're very low on supplies, that could be the end of the game. Also, the concussion device that you drop from the Scuba gear occasionally goes off prematurely, which severely depletes your energy and air if you're caught in the blast.

One final complaint involves the ending. It's disappointing and kind of anticlimactic, but you'll see what I mean when (if?) you get there. Despite the minor complaints, Project Neptune is a rollicking good time that will appeal to arcaders everywhere. And, if you're looking for a game with a little "depth" (excuse the pun), look no further. This one's a winner.



The last I had heard was that Falcon, the F-16 jet-fighter simulation from Spectrum HoloByte, was going to get some new areas of operation. I had been looking forward to a play-ground where I could splash MiGs and toss turf around with bullets and bombs.

But when I was handed a new set of Falcon orders by my old C.O., he said not to worry about packing my bags. He then added, "The area you're headed for has all you'll need."

He finished, throwing over his shoulder the comment, "Don't worry--it's just a new operating area."

I soon discovered that my orders for Falcon--Operation: Counter strike were another example of my C.O.'s legendary understatements.

Twelve Ways to Glory Or... ?

Twelve missions.

I was used to that, same number as before. But these jobs were linked. According to the operation profile, I could come back sometimes after a tough one, only to find more of those tanks trying to tear up my runway. No more "single-strike-flights-then-count-up-the-honors."

The mission profiles included objectives, recommended ordinance and words of warning about what could happen if I blew it. The whole idea was to stop the other side from being able to fight (destroy their ground assets). One pilot, one friendly base and ground crews. Yet, guess who had to go lone-wolfing it, bombing and shooting up the countryside. This was glory or bust.

Spectrum HoloByte's new mission disk for its
popular F-16 jet-fighter simulation is called Fal-
con--Operation: Counterstrike. Its 12 missions
promise no-holds-barred high-tech dogfighting at
its best.

Changes for the Better

This bad news aside, I quickly moved on to see if my old ride had changed to give me some kind of edge. First piece of good news was that they were called enhancements. Both aircraft systems and flight controls had been upgraded.

Radar and HUD had been moved up to reflect the current avionics. The AGM-65 Maverick's had gained a corrected zoom image on the COMED screen. The improved flight controls were tuned for easier handling and now included a select and deselect auto-leveler. With the ability to make small degree changes, the hits on target during bomb runs would increase. Also there was an autoview mode to switch my cockpit view to the one that the MIG was in.

A few last items also helped. I could make landings with more damage to the aircraft and I didn't have to be as close to the center line as before. I would have a little more slack after a tiring flight. I was sure that Sarge and I both thought a lot about that one. Also another big plus about this base: there were friendly SAM's all around. Now I could land in peace and not have some red-star climbing up my tail pipe.

As always, with the good came some bad. Those tanks I talked about were T-80s. It would require either a MK84 or an AGM-65 to stop them and they would only stop appearing after I cut the supply lines. Second trouble spot was the hard fact that the baddies were flying MiG-29A Fulcrums. Head to head we were about even. I would have the edge on speed down low, they would have it at altitude. Word was that as a close-in fighter, armed with either the AA-10 or AA-11, this was a good machine. But the designers still left rear-view mirrors in the cockpit. When the time came for me to test this bird I intended to make some use of that feature.

Active Duty

I read the "Strategy" section of the manual. Simple advice--just stay ahead and survive. Get the incoming ground forces, tanks and their landing craft, then take out the bridges and supply units. Finally take out the industrial base. Finished with all that, I went on active duty.

Engine startup, system checks and takeoff were all normal. With a load of six AGMs and a couple of AIM-9s (for morale purposes only) I needed zone-5 afterburner. The tanks wouldn't show on the COMED, so I turned toward the lake in the map and selected the Mavericks from the system discretes. Explosions in the distance told me where the ground attack was. So, at 350 knots and under 3,000 feet, I started eyeballing for a few T-80s. I spotted the first just about half the distance to base and I went for a lock-on. The lock looked a little off, so I unlocked and used the auto-leveler to help my correction inputs, relocked on target and had time to shoot before I overflew. A good hit and I continued toward the water somewhere below 1,500 feet. About ten degrees to the right was one of the landing craft. Selecting guns, I made moves to run a strafing attack. Another good position and the boat was airborne for a few seconds--at least some parts were.

Ground support called up with a MiG report while I was making a climbing turn back to the beach. It was far enough away not to appear when I placed the autoview on active. I continued the turn and caught sight of two more boats in the water. I got an AGM-65 lock on the nearest one and was rewarded with an in-range right as it happened. As soon as that missile came off the rail, I unlocked and relocked on the second boat and shot again. Two locks, two Mavericks in flight, two less landing craft to worry about. Back over the ground war, I spotted my second tank and attacked. Rushed the shot and missed! Turned toward base and there was the third T-80, but it was getting a little too close for comfort. I made a loop over the base, got number three in the sights, rolled upright, pulled out of it, locked on and knocked out my second one. Leveling out a little, I locked my last missile onto the last and fired it off. It was up, hot and true. No more working treads this side of the water.

This climb-and-dive had pushed my speed to 500-plus by the time I had finished. I was now back over the lake. Ground control advised me with a MiG alert and the autoview brought up the left side. It was a little above my ship and overflew, guns firing. I pushed down and turned, deploying the speed brake. This made it overshoot even more. Wings level and brake retracted, I looked right for my first closeup view of a MiG-29A. It was still higher than me and the caution lights informed me that the pass had taken out my oxy and gun systems.

The MiG was close to the west edge of the lake, so it would have to either turn right or climb straight ahead to stay out my SAM sites. The pilot elected to turn, I elected to stay low, turn under him and go for a behind-and-low solution. With that decided, I opted for out-of-cockpit view and AIM-9s. A smooth Low-G Yo Yo to stay inside its turn, speed brake out again to get some separation, so the missile would arm. The shoot diamond was on flashing. Fire and splash one Fulcrum! That autoview kept me up to date on this one, without having to search the compass to see where the bad guy was.

Return to base and landing the ship was a breeze. Just like all through the flight, the controls were smooth. With auto-leveler and trim working for me, staying on the ILS only required me to watch my power and AOA. Touchdown and roll out were beautiful.

No Time for laundry

You know, sometimes, it doesn't pay to unpack your bags. Sometimes, you don't even get to pack them. This action is a case in point--why have a clean flight suit Iying around at a base that has been under attack by tanks ever since you started up the engine. Next, I get to try my luck, pushing max speed, down low with a full load of MK84s and AGM65s, hanging out in the wind! Then maybe get one or more of those MiG-29s waiting around to pounce me once I clear the local SAM zone. Who has time to think of laundry!

After the mission I told my C.O. a few things. Yes, the countryside is very rich and green. I definitely like the improvements in systems and handling on this version of the Electric Jet. The autoview alone is worth the new price tag. Absolutely, the new terrain and targets are a challenge I wouldn't miss trying out.

Sarge says the ship is ready--time to go back to work. But, you know, with this much action, and as light a touch as this bird is to fly, what's there to worry about?


Contributing Editor David Plotkin works as a chemical engineer for Chevron U.S.A.

Wolf Griffey is a product manager for Antic Software and a former Marine Corps fighter pilot.


Indiana Jones and the last Crusade: The Action Game, $39.95. Lucasfilm Games, P.O. Box 2009, San Rafael, CA 94912, (415) 662-1800.

Falcon--Operation: Counterstrike, $29.95 (Falcon F-16 Jet Fighter Simulation required), Spectrum HoloByte, 2061 Challenger Drive, Alameda, CA 94501, (415) 522-3584.

Project Neptune, $34.95. Epyx, 600 Galveston Drive Redwood City, CA 94063, (415) 366-0606.