Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis['Keyboard Bashing' is a new GameSetWatch column by Tales of a Scorched Earth's Andrew Smale which discusses the history, present and future of PC gaming. This inaugural column looks lovingly at a classic LucasArts title.]

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992) was the seventh LucasArts game to use the venerable SCUMM engine. It fell in between Ron Gilbert's influential The Secret of Monkey Island (1990) and adventure game fan favorite Sam and Max Hit the Road (1993). It could easily be considered among the hallmarks of adventure gaming, at the peak of LucasArts' influence on the genre.

It is also the best game I have ever played.

I can install it again as if it was the first time, and still get the same enjoyment from it. I can honestly say that it's like watching a favorite movie - but a movie that actually is as good as I remember it - and enjoying every moment spent re-solving the game's challenging but intuitive puzzles and listening to the wonderfully crafted dialogue. I'd even call the whole thing "cinematic."

In game criticism's search to find itself, the term "cinematic" is thrown around quite a bit, as if it was the only way to describe a game's presentation. Combining an appealing visual aesthetic with an engaging storyline keeps the player involved, who will return to the game simply to find out what happens next. As games approach levels of visual realism only dreamed about 10 years ago - with the hardware to produce it seemingly driving the industry - has the definition of "cinematic" changed?

It has, but only unwittingly. Back when there was nothing better to compare to, computer games were often described with the same terms they are now. But looking through my old copies of Computer Gaming World and PC Gamer is downright embarrassing to see what games the descriptor was attached to. A game can be cinematic without obsessing over excessive amounts of visual detail or immaculate sound, because it's about supplying a package.

Take the mask! It's scaring away my best customers.When I first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark as a young lad, I immediately wanted to be an archaeologist. Not because I was interested in history, but because it meant I would get to travel the world searching for ancient artifacts while trying to stay one step ahead of the Bad Guys. The Fate of Atlantis recaptured this feeling. You weren't supposed to be Indy; you were following him on one of his adventures. To this day I am convinced that in the right hands, a film based on this game would feel right at home in the Indiana Jones saga - it is so in touch with the mythos.

While made up of standard adventure fare like navigating dialogue options, puzzles, and the occasional pixel hunt, each are presented to be seamless with the surrounding storyline. The opening scene involves Indy looking through the archives of Barnett College for an Atlantean artifact, which is subsequently stolen by a Nazi spy to set the game's story in motion. What follows is an introductory sequence of sorts, where Indy must get in touch with Sophia Hapgood, an old friend who will aid in the search for the truth about Atlantis. It turns out Atlantis really does exist, and its location is buried in Plato's Lost Dialogue, an ancient text that was thought a hoax. Once the Dialogue is obtained, the game presents the player with some options.

Do you partner with Sophia, and hope that she can provide some valuable insight for the remainder of the adventure? Or do you fly solo, and go against Indiana Jones tradition? Perhaps silly puzzles aren't for you, and the road to Atlantis is paved with blood and lost teeth. Each path touches on key points of the story, but take slightly different routes to get to the Lost City, some of them exposing areas only available in a particular path. Like any adventure game, you can't expect too much freedom, but the presentation of The Fate of Atlantis doesn't allow you to dwell too much on it.

The superb voice acting and the great sense of humor shared by all of LucasArts' early adventure efforts added some depth to the experience. The dialogue feels naturally constructed, and carries over well between cutscenes and when you have the option to choose what to say. The iMUSE system, which was first introduced by the version of the SCUMM engine powering this adventure, controls changes in music when the action on screen changes. The game's artwork is practical for the majority of the game - it's simply recreating the films' familiar time period. The Lost City, once found, is successfully conveyed as an ancient place that was still capable of developing technological marvels. It's all fantasy, but it's completely convincing.

Step onto the machine, Jones.Part of what made LucasArts' classic adventure games so family-friendly is that your character could never die. In The Fate of Atlantis, Indy can die. There are few ways in which this can happen, but they are situations in which death is a perfectly logical outcome. Allowing Indy to mutter "over my dead body" to his Nazi counterpart in one scene results in exactly that. Once inside Atlantis, you have to sneak by the wandering Nazi guards that have control of it. If you walk by them, it triggers a simple fist fighting mini-game that you have to win, or Indy will die. The final confrontation at the heart of Atlantis involves navigating a very intriguing amount of dialogue options, one of them resulting in Indy's death. I really felt like I had outsmarted my adversaries once I beat the game. While not essential to the story, Indy's mortality adds a sense of danger to the adventure. It's not meant to be serious, because we all know the hero isn't supposed to die. It simply mimics the nature of the films.

While the game does not chronicle the hunt for a religious artifact - the basis for every one of the films - there is still something spiritual about the quest. Sophia Hapgood is shown as a performing psychic and renowned authority on Atlantis at the beginning of the game, with her Atlantean necklace clearly her most prized possession. According to her, the necklace allows her to speak with a long dead resident of the Lost City, a talent that ends up providing a bit of assistance along the way. Sophia's belief in the power of the necklace blinds her to the truth of what really went on inside Atlantis; in a crisis of faith she realizes that there was a reason the Atlanteans didn't survive their so-called advanced civilization. Once again we are taught that some things are probably best left undisturbed.

The Fate of Atlantis provides a glimpse of what the marriage of a well-known property and good storytelling can do to a graphical adventure game's overall effectiveness. It is also an excellent example of cinematic presentation, without relying on the ultra-realistic visuals that are expected of games developed in last few years that are so arbitrarily assigned the term. Indeed, The Fate of Atlantis is an adventure game for the ages.