Indiana Jones is so freakin’ cool. Whether he is exploring uncharted lands, shooting Nazis, getting the girl in the end, or just chilling in his awesome fedora, every adventure with the legendary archaeologist is a nonstop thrill ride through history.
I mean, who hasn’t been inspired by Indiana Jones? I can tell you one group of people who especially have: sadistic indie game developers of brutally difficult 2D platformers. On today’s market exists a groundswell of quality games starring a fedora wearing, whip wielding archaeologist who digs through the trap infested dungeons, deserts, and jungles to find their secret treasures.
What happened? Did these guys watch The Last Crusade’s amazing tank scene one too many times and get infected by the deep belly voice of Sallah?
“Indy! Indy!” …” Indie! Indie!” … “Indie gaming! Indie gaming!”
Ok, it’s a stretch of a bad joke, but you can’t deny that they two don’t sound similar. Alas, the jovial Sallah planted the seeds in quite a few brains of some bright eyed Nintendo children because here are the brightest and the best 2D indie platforming games in which Indiana Jones was clearly the biggest inspiration.
Aban Hawkens and the 1001 Spikes
Developer Nicalis has been porting indie games like Cave Story, Night Sky and VVVVVV to the Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita for years, so they have the experience dealing with quality indie games to make their own.
Aban Hawkens and the 1001 Spikes is another one of these typical 8-bit inspired platformers with an infuriating level design and unfair abundance of cheap traps. Like the rest of the games of its kind, it’s clearly designed to be practiced through trial by error just to prepare for that one perfect run.
Those without twitch skills need not apply.
Indiana Jones in this game is named Aban Hawkens, an American man charged with finding the infamous treasures of South America as well as his estranged archaeologist father. Yeah, not too subtle with that one, huh?
And if the fedora and Daddy issues weren’t enough to tie 1001 Spikes to Indiana Jones, just look at the Steam header.
We jump from the newest of the Indiana Jones platformers to what is probably the most popular. Spelunky has captured the indie world and speed runner scene with its infinitely high replay value. This tough little gem is all about providing a new experience with each dive into the most miraculous mines of all time.
Every journey is a new and random quest with places like the Mines, the Jungle, and the City of Gold to explore. Of course, one of the treasures our nameless archaeologist has to pick up is a Golden Idol *wink wink*, and he rescues blondes who have stumbled deep below the Earth somehow.
Not only is this HD remake a great game, but the freemium PC title developer Derek Yu made first is still just as entertaining.
It’s true. He wears more of a mining helmet designed to look like a fedora rather than an actual fedora, and he is more akin to using bombs, ropes, jet packs, and rocket launchers than he is to using whips, but the Indiana Jones inspiration is still more than obvious.
Speaking of inspirations…
Derek Yu has directly cited this amazing game as the biggest inspiration on Spelunky. Both started as freemium games on the PC before the original developers decided to go big time and remake their gems into full retail products.
The main difference in popularity comes from Yu going with XBLA to launch Spelunky, but Japanese indie team NIGORO went with WiiWare for its La-Mulana, the reason you might not have heard of it. Thankfully, a Steam port has given it a much more worthy stage to perform on.
La-Mulana is easily my favorite of the Indiana Jones indies. NIGORO’s masterpiece “metroidvania” turned the team into the rock stars of the Japanese indie gaming scene overnight, even if it still can’t quite escape from the shadow of Cave Story.
Of all the “metroidvania” games released over the years, this is the only one that can truly hang with the masterpieces Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night. It’s that good. Music, level design, graphics, lore behind the setting. Everything is fleshed out like the works of true professionals who get the genre.
Now with the sequel fully funded through Kickstarter, you’ll be hearing about them even more mostly because I’m not going to stop talking about them.
Our archaeologist is 31-year-old Lemenza Kosugi, and it’s a surprise that he can make it through this place alive. He is also hunting for his lost father along with the secrets of the ruins he explores.
This should be a game everyone should experience at least once before they die. How a group of curry addicts made such an amazing game is beyond me, but this is the real deal, folks. Hunt down this treasure on PC or WiiWare. You won’t regret it.
Platformance: Temple Death
Nothing too much about this one besides it being a simple and really challenging twitch based platformer with level design that is nothing short of devilish. Magicko Games really knows how to punish its players.
Our hero is not named in this game, but our delicate damsel in distress is. Starlet Grace Belly, one of the silliest name references ever, has vanished during a photoshoot and it is up to you to get her back.
Overall, this is a really solid game that feels a bit more primitive than 1001 Spikes, maybe a bit more similar to an early arcade games rather than one inspired by a console game if that makes sense. Check it out on PC or as an indie game on the Xbox 360.
For a bonus, Magicko Games also made Platformance: Castle Pain using many of the same ideas but giving the game a castle and knight theme. It’s not as popular because knights simply aren’t as awesome as Indiana Jones.
Hook Champ is one of the original “runners” on the iOS market back before iOS games became a bit more sound of an investment. Mobile games didn’t quite have the quality reputation back then as some do now at least. Hook Champ, though, was and is still great fun to this day, even if its sequel Super QuickHook is admittedly better.
Starring a sassy fedora dawning hero, this time named… Jake T. Hooker… (ouch, my brain), this game set itself apart from its contemporary runners by having a sweet grappling hook mechanic which led to some fantastic level design. Hooker doesn’t use a whip per say, but it’s close enough where it counts.
Plus, I love his sprites five o’clock shadow.
Hooker, of course, steals treasures from temples and mines and must swing himself to safety before they cave in or he gets caught by a floating black head with one killer set of teeth.
What does Hooker do with his money? Well, he buys more fedoras of course!
Any Indiana Jones inspired platformers from the last few years that I might have missed? Sorry, I was in too much of a rush to finish this so I could go play some La Mulana.