Indiana Jones: The Search For King Solomon's MinesBy: Hydra
Published Under: Interactive Fantasies
Released: May 05, 1997
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As soon as you see "Interactive Fantasies" on a ZZT title screen you know you're in for a treat. In its active days, IF (as it was often shortened as) was easily the ZZT company famous for both its quality and quantity of titles! (The Museum as of writing currently has exactly 100 files marked as being published under IF! Though keep in mind several are different versions of the same games.) The bar was set high with their releases, many of which are some of ZZT's most charming and memorable.
Today I'll be exploring Hydra78's Indiana Jones: The Search For King Solomon's Mines, one of the earliest releases for the company. I went in never having actually played it before, just intrigued by how well the Indiana Jones property could be conveyed in ZZT.
How much of a fan of the film series Hydra was I couldn't say, but I'd suspect that the true inspirations for this game were the LucasArts games, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. My reasoning comes from looking at Hydra's next two releases: King's Quest ZZT and Quest For Glory. I think it's a safe bet to say Hydra was a fan of the adventure game genre.
Adventure games are one of the better genres to handle in ZZT which is more than capable of handling investigating rooms, picking up items, and conversing with others. Indiana Jones feels like a character that would fit in quite nicely in a ZZT environment, fighting off bad guys and collecting gems and other treasures. An Indiana Jones ZZT game should quite frankly, be very much possible, and something that could likely be done rather well by a skilled author.
This is where I'd say "unfortunately, Hydra was not a skilled author", but that's being rather hostile. Solomon's Mines definitely lacks the depth Hydra's later games would have, however it's still great fun to play. It's not the ZZT masterpiece you can imagine coming from the source material, but it's clearly an enthusiastic fan response to the existing works in the series. There will be faults to be sure, but you absolutely can have a fun experience here.
I mean, the game opens to a loving rendition of the Indiana Jones theme, and it's no mere transcription of the main verse. You get nearly a minute and a half here before the music begins to loop. Solomon's Mines makes it clear that it's a labor of love right from the start.
The game's introduction is optional and has its own passage from the main menu. Indiana is bored and longing for some adventure, and sure enough...
A heavily injured man, trailing blood arrives at his door and begins repeatedly ringing the doorbell.
No time is wasted. The legendary mines of King Solomon have been discovered by this man, who was then attacked by unknown persons. It's up to Indiana Jones to find any artifacts that belong in museums. Unfortunately this means that Indy himself will become a target if he dares to get in the way of whoever it is that wants all the treasures for their own.
Indy puts the man to rest, though that man promptly dies in bed.
This is a cute way of telling the player the scene is over.
Speaking of cute, the next scene begins with some helpful labels. We have a prisoner in white, "General Von Klaumphauf" in green, and lastly in white on the right:
Deceit already! Who will Indy be able to trust on his adventure?
The use of arrows to let the player know who is who right away is honestly a pretty smart idea. It can sometimes be pretty ambiguous who is who in ZZT cutscenes, but Hydra makes sure that you know exactly who we're dealing with.
Our very German (and very evil) and very likely though never explicitly called such Nazi general is quickly established as the villain. When the prisoner says that he really has no idea where the mines are, the general orders the shopkeeper to kill him.
And the shopkeeper gladly follows his orders.
There's a lot of narration to try and keep the story moving along without confusion, but it does lead to a lot of stating the obvious to make sure the characters' motivations are extremely clear. The secretly evil shopkeeper is trusted but shouldn't be! The player is repeatedly told this in advance rather than have their trust and inevitable betrayal be shown through the story where maybe it could have an impact. (Ok, we're meeting and being betrayed by the shopkeeper on the very same board, there's not much time to grow attached to him as a character Especially when we see him being evil before friendly.)
Indy arrives and... rings the doorbell at a store? Alright. The shopkeeper rushes inside from the rear entrance while the general takes his leave.
Indiana, renowned archaeologist asks the shopkeeper if he knows anything about the mines so he can begin his own search for them. The shopkeeper very slowly thinks about how Indy being on the trail of the mines as well means he has to be eliminated.
I say slowly because sure enough even Indy catches on to the shopkeeper's silence.
They head off to different room and Indy takes a seat reading, something? Whether or not it has anything to do with the mines or not is ever stated. It exists solely to keep Indy distracted while the shopkeeper calls for the general to arrive.
You might think he'd try and be sneaky about it, but as soon as the general enters Indy is immediately aware of his presence.
I love the use of special characters to play up his thick accent.
And so Indiana Jones is put into danger for the first time. Betrayed by a friend standing right beside him, and a general ready to kill him right by the room's only exit. It's time for Indy to do what he does best and use his whip and gun to escape impossible odds!
Indiana Jones just bolts it out the door.
And so ends the introduction, with the shopkeeper and general left standing there.
The game begins proper with the player standing just outside the village gate where Indy just made his very easy escape. There's not a lot the player can do here as Indy won't enter the shop again and ringing the doorbell gets no response.
There is some ammo to collect near the body of the dead man. Investigating the body also leads to the discovery of a map to give the general whereabouts of the mines. Thankfully by showing up the shopkeeper and general never had a chance to actually examine what the dead prisoner had been carrying.
There's a path through the village which is the only actual exit. I do wish it was a bit more clear about where exits were since there's nothing to indicate that the player can't go north, south, or west unless they go as far as to try to walk off the board edges.
There's a banana tree on the next board very reminiscent of the one in Super ZZT's Monster Zoo. Here however, the bananas can't be picked, just described as "tasteful".
As long as we're on visual flair, I think that bridge is fantastic.
Lastly, just outside the pub is a pouch of gems to handle Indy running off without any money. How did he get here anyway? Transit will be a large part of this game so it's actually a bit odd that Indy goes from his home to Kolapagol without a cool scene of a line being drawn along a map indicating flights around the world.
The pub probably would've been a more fitting place for Indy to search for information than a random shopkeeper, and work as a reference to the bar fight scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Here, Hydra populates his bar with a bunch of angry/drunken people who want nothing to do with Indy save the strange looking fellow in green sitting by himself.
So this is Okwonkwo! He is an extremely stereotypical generic tribal African, and will be tagging along with Indiana Jones on his adventure to Africa. He's likely meant to be a sidekick character akin to Short Round from "Temple of Doom", and we'll be seeing more of his great and not at all racially insensitive dialog throughout the game.
Oh, and I really want to share this random conversation with one of the villagers drinking at the pub:
In addition to the patrons, there's also a slot machine Indy can play at until he wins. Once he's won from it he'll call it quits for the day. This may seem like a fun little side thing, but depending on the players ability to find secrets later, it may turn out to be necessary to get enough gems here in order to be able to buy some things later. I won on my first try (it's a 50/50 chance to win).
The last item of interest in the pub is the bartender. Not so much for the process of placing an order (beer is the only thing you can buy), but because he has some really thought out coding.
When the player touches the counter, the bartender begins walking left until they bump an invisible wall or are aligned with the player. If they hit the wall, they pace in the opposite direction, and so on until lining up properly with the player and moving south. This creates a nice effect of the bartender walking over to where Indy is standing and approaching him at the counter to get his order.
It's a really simple little detail where most games would just set the bartender at a single spot and require the player to interact with them from the counter they'd be next to. (You can also touch the counter and then run off and force the bartender to pace back and forth endlessly.)
Oh hey, Okwonkwo immediately dropped the accent. His request is basically the way the majority of the game works. Indy arrives somewhere and has to find that area's macguffin in order to be able to proceed without getting a game over for not having some necessity for survival/progress. In this case, Indy needed the map from the dead prisoner.
There are also a lot of notices throughout the game to save. You see these a lot in early ZZT worlds, and I'm not a fan. That the player should save should be made obvious through the board itself, "Show. Don't tell", and all that.
On the next board, Okwonkwo is there waiting for Indy so they can board the train. Alas, in the time it took me to talk to him and the guy selling tickets, the train flew right past the station, leaving us stranded, and resulted in a game over.
At least the train giving no time to board makes a little more sense after talking to the guy at the station.
Jumping on the train consists of wedging the player in between the two objects that make up the train so it can carry them away. It's incredibly basic, but by getting to lean against the established character of Indiana Jones it works for me. I can absolutely imagine a scene in an Indiana Jones film that has him leap onto a moving train, although maybe not for the purpose of getting from point A to point B. In most ZZT games, this board would feel incredibly silly. Here however, it seems like exactly what Indy would do.
Okwonkwo meanwhile, was left behind.
The train consists of several sleeping cars for Indy to explore, a bathroom, and a supply closet. The occupied room can't be opened, but the others are fair game.
Because this is a ZZT game after all, Indy flushes the toilet and floods the bathroom. It's okay though because a very good plumber shows up right away.
Mario: "Here's the one-and-only Mario!"
You: "Where's Luigi?"
Mario: "He's playing on his NES!"
Mario: "The NES rules (especially
with my games on it!)"
Mario: "But, Let's fix the toilet."
Mario: "Okay, that'll be $140.000."
You: "Sort it out with the author!"
Mario: "I'll do it. Bye!"
• • • • • • • • •
I'm so glad Mario and Indiana Jones exist in the same universe. Mario then opens the train car doors and jumps off. Once he's gone, Indy can examine the paper towel dispenser and find blood on it. What does it mean? No idea. At least, that's what the game tells you.
I should also mention that the trees in the background and foreground move across the screen endlessly to fake that the train is indeed moving towards its destination. It looks nice!
The supply closet is a bit of a trick in that only the ammo can be accessed. All the keys and energizers are inaccessible due to vacuum cleaners that block the back. More importantly though, lying on the ground is a bloody knife!
Up ahead in one of the private rooms is none other than General Von Klaumphauf, who appears to have captured Okwonkwo (who made it on board after all?) and is now trying to intimidate him to get information on how to get to the mines. Okwonkwo's accent comes back for this scene where he refuses to give in and says that he'll only help Indy because he's friendly.
Don't get too sucked in by the dialog though, or else Okwonkwo will in fact be killed and the game will end once more.
Instead approach cautiously.
And shoot him!
Simply touching him also works and results in the same message. Either way, he gets upset and leaves. At least, once Indy steps aside to let him pass since the hallway isn't wide enough for him and Indy to both fit.
Okwonkwo thanks Indy and heads back to whatever cabin he has claimed as his own since neither of the two purchased tickets for this train. Presumably the general didn't either since the train wasn't actually stopping at Kolapagol village. Objects can't use transporters, so moving between cars here is handled by having the first Okwonkwo object vanishing and a second one appear in the previous car by popping out of a wall. Hydra could have easily just had Okwonkwo disappear at the first transporter and called it a day, but put in the extra effort.
The duo arrive safely in Islamaba during this next cutscene where the train slows to a stop and drops off its two stowaways. The narrator warns that this village will be the last before entering the jungle.
Indy arrives in center of the village and discovered that Okwonkwo has ran off once more. He generously decides it's not worth delaying his adventure to search for him, and just hopes he'll show up again later.
In the center of the board is a large set of stairs with a monument on top dedicated to those who have died searching for King Solomon's Mines, but Indy is obviously not deterred by this.
I really like the way that the monument is set up with multiple sets of visible stairs to climb your way up to the top of it. Even better, if you try to get down by going over the top, Indy falls off and loses some health. A player clone is used to force the player over the edge and back to the ground below.
There's only one place to go in town, and that's the local shop. The player has 51 gems and will need to purchase a boat immediately. If the player won the slots earlier they can also purchase food. If they can't afford food, they'll have to find a secret passage in order to not die of starvation later on.
When you do make a purchase, the object will actually walk to the relevant door to "get" an item for Indy and bring it to them. Just more cute little details.
Indy can't just enter the jungle though as it's guarded by someone in order to prevent more people from dying in their search for the mines. There's not really any response of note for the first two options, and the third is correct in order to proceed. The guard realizes he doesn't know where he's standing and decides to ask the mayor. So with the guard gone, Indy can now enter the jungle.