Twenty-five hundred years ago, a mischievous god built a doomsday weapon at the base of the Tower of Babel. When the tower was destroyed, this "Infernal Machine" was divided into four parts and hidden throughout the world. Now, it is the 1940s, and the Russians want to get their hands on this mysterious weapon. As the swashbuckling archaeologist Indiana Jones, it's up to you to sleuth, swim, and whip your way to the missing pieces of the legendary machine before the Russians beat you to it.
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine is a puzzle-solving action-adventure game for the Game Boy Color. Despite a somewhat haphazard level design, it's a pretty decent game. As the title suggests, the overriding goal is to gather the four pieces of the Infernal Machine. To claim these magical items, you'll need to help Indy navigate his way through 15 levels full of tricky puzzles, dangerous wildlife, Russian soldiers, and six supernatural bosses. Overall, the gameplay is reminiscent of THQ's other GBC maze-crawler, Tomb Raider, in that emphasis is placed more on finding the best route through mazes while avoiding danger than on charging headlong through obstacles.
As mentioned above, the level design is not the game's strong suit. Each area has its own unique puzzle to solve, usually involving the gathering of various items to trigger switches that lead to an artifact or onto the next stage. Unfortunately, once you're in a level, there's precious little guidance as to where to go next. Worse still, even when clues are given, they're often too cryptic to be of practical use. Thus, while there are plenty of lagoons to swim through, ladders to climb, bridges to build, and posts to swing across, the spectacle is somewhat watered-down by hours of back and forth travel.
Still, once you get used to all the wandering around, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine is fairly enjoyable. Indy himself is capable of running, jumping, climbing, digging, and swimming as the situation dictates, while his trademark whip and pistol come in handy for dealing with the various soldiers and creatures you'll encounter. You can even use the whip to swing across wide chasms, provided there is a post to latch onto. In terms of variety, each area has numerous stones to move, switches to trigger, and false walls to discover--with plenty of hidden treasure waiting as a reward. Each of the four pieces of the machine will add to Indy's abilities, enabling him to open blocked passageways, become invisible, leap great distances, and power ancient alien devices. As you complete each level, a password is given to record your progress.
To back up its diverse gameplay, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine delights the senses with exotically colored backgrounds and fluid character animation. Indy's adventure is presented from a top-down three-quarters viewpoint that is nearly three-dimensional in execution. This serves to give you not only a bird's-eye view of the action but also an immaculately detailed rendering of each level on the GBC's tiny screen. Although the game reuses its pool of tiles way too often, each of the game's 15 different environments are a joy to behold, with settings ranging from dense jungles and blustery snowfields to raging rivers and gilded tombs. One level even puts you in control of a raft on choppy rapids, while another has Indy swimming through the remnants of a sunken submarine. No matter the setting, a variety of trees, structures, vehicles, and wildlife keeps things interesting. Character sprites, especially those of the Russian soldiers, are a bit on the small side, but each movement--whether by Indy, a twitching spider, or a Russian thug--is wonderfully lithe in its fluidity. Thus, while you may need to squint at times, the action is fun to observe.
Other than a short musical cue at the opening of each level, there really isn't a soundtrack to accompany all of the game's gorgeous visuals. Strictly speaking, sound effects are it. Thankfully, they're pretty copious. For each object you gather or switch you trigger, there is an accompanying sound effect, and when walking, your footsteps are crisp and vary in pitch depending on whether the terrain is wet, dry, or snowy. There are also specific sound effects for firing Indy's pistol, hitting the ground, climbing ladders, and splashing into the water.
If it weren't for all of the pointless wandering and the lack of plot development, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine would have been a great game. As it stands, it's just a bit too bogged down with esoteric puzzles and random battling to achieve the sort of cohesiveness that similar titles, such as Tomb Raider, demonstrate. Indy fans will find much to enjoy though, as a healthy smattering of canonical in-jokes should weather the game through just about any amount of criticism.