Harrison Ford has played a lot of amazing characters but one of my favorites, if not my favorite, is Indiana Jones. The iconic poster for Temple of Doom is seared in my head as what a real-life action hero would be like. So when the chance to review a game that has gamers solving puzzles through the movies came up, I jumped at the opportunity acting like a second grader saying “ooh ooh pick me! Pick me!”
The publisher provided a review copy of this game in exchange for an honest review. As a piece of that transparency, I would like to disclose that I am employed by the Walt Disney Company who owns Lucasfilm. I do not work with anyone in games or the licensees and, as always, strive to provide an honest and unbiased review.
Grab your fedora-shaped thinking hat, kick on the John Williams music, and let’s get to decrypting Indiana Jones Cryptic.
At its core, Indiana Jones Cryptic is an Escape Room/Puzzle game where you step through various scenes from the film as well as a few things that happened off-camera.
The game comes with three cases, each roughly following the plot of the first three movies. These cases are Covenant of Raiders (Raiders of the Lost Ark), The Cult of Doom (Temple of Doom), and Quest for the Grail (Last Crusade). The core of the game is Indy’s journal, which is written in a first-person account as Indy narrates each scene and outcome of each puzzle and pathway based on how well you did. Coins are earned at the conclusion of each scene and are tallied at the end of the case to give a final score so you can gauge how well you did.
Puzzles involve solving light riddles and putting clues together from the prescribed materials. These might be assembling a few components or deciphering symbols to build a word or find a word that acts as a code to look up in the back of the book. Most puzzles allow a hint that will cost you a coin to get but can be extremely helpful if you’re stuck.
The Pathway tests are where you place a transparent piece of plastic over a card showing a location and marking the starting dot. Then you’ll move this sheet one pen’s length from the card and try to draw the best path you can, picking up objectives and trying to avoid hazards. Once you’re done you flip over the card and check the back of the journal, losing coins for hazards and missed objectives. Some of these pathways will also require the use of special templates that you can use a predetermined number of times.
You know that moment in action movies where the tension is rising and the hero has this look of dread as they look on at a seemingly no-win predicament? That’s me right now, as I realize the challenge of reviewing games like this without spoiling anything. And since I can’t just ask you to close your eyes for the rest of the review, I will do my best to minimize anything spoilery but I’m assuming you’ve watched the movies. If you haven’t, you can still play the game and have fun but you should bookmark this page, go watch the films, and then come back to read this later. I’ll wait.
And while you don’t have to know the movies, the game will give away some of the main story beats and plot twists in the films. Some of the violence from the films is casually ignored or glossed over, making this playable with an audience that may not be ready for the face-melting goodness of films themselves.
Starting off with something many gamers worry about, and is a small negative here, the replay value is very limited since you’ll know the puzzle and the solution after playing. I replayed the Raiders of the Lost Ark case with both my wife and son after playing the first time with just my son (who’s never seen the movies). There was one puzzle we got stuck on the first time that my wife figured out the second time. Meanwhile, a different one set up slightly differently and we almost got the wrong answer the second time. I couldn’t figure out what we did differently which tells me it might be a bit fragile.
Countering the negative on replay value, nothing gets destroyed during play so this is a game you can replay with other friends or pass on when you’re done. There’s a nice selection of components with cardstock maps, cardboard token/templates, and some extra bits. Something I thought was really cool was the first time the boxes were used to build a set, for lack of a better word. That hole on the front cover? It’s there for a reason. At first, I thought it was a damaged box but nope—it’s part of the game.
Many of the puzzles were neat to figure out whether it was deciphering a code or solving a riddle and I enjoyed feeling clever when I could piece things together. There were some puzzles and pathways that were not intuitive. One of the puzzles left me perplexed so I used the hint but I doubt I would’ve been able to piece the information together without it. There was another puzzle where I really felt like the narrative made the puzzle harder to solve as it established that something we had was incorrect but that was a piece of the solution where you had to separate true and false information. And there were two times where the components weren’t quite up to their assigned task. For one of these, I had to reset the components between each step of the puzzle which was a mild nuisance.
Meanwhile for one of the pathways it was unclear if the template had to be used the whole time or if it was only used to solve a secondary objective. Overall, the pathways are fun and it’s harder than it seems to visually draw the path while looking at the map. It’s neat how as you lose coins for making mistakes and it’s accompanied by some narrative as Indy describes each error. And, even if you get squished by a giant boulder, you get to move on to the next scene making it a “fail forward” and I love that in a narrative-based game.
While you get a final score and ranking at the end of each scenario, this is more of an activity than a game. That’s not a knock against Indiana Jones Cryptic and I had a blast playing through some of my favorite movies from my youth (and Temple of Doom /rimshot). And based on this experience, even with some of my little quibbles, I’d happily pick up other games in this line (which is Star Trek Cryptic at the time of writing this). While there were some great Eureka moments there were also some minutes of head scratching before looking up a hint and realizing we never would’ve known where to start or how to finish without that clue. Some of the pathways were brutally challenging but the results of mistakes were just as fun to enjoy as a lucky success.
Final Score: 3.5 Stars – This puzzle and pathways game allows you to relive some of the great moments from the first three Indiana Jones films.
• Sometimes I felt like Marcus Brodie when failing
• Pathways were not always intuitive
• A few puzzles felt like they needed to provide more information to solve