Sunday 27 May 2012

Review - Indiana Jones Akator Temple Race Game

Having recently purchased a war game based on the movie Platoon, I thought I would post a review of another game in my collection based on a well-known movie. This is a review for Indiana Jones Akator Temple Race Game, which is based on a single moment in the movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The review first appeared on BoardGameGeek back in February 2011, but now you lucky people get to read it with pictures.

Indiana Jones Akator Temple Race Game
Published by Hasbro
Designed by Will Creech and Dan Sanfilippo (it took two of them?)

For 2-4 players, aged 7 to adult

I'll be honest, Indiana Jones Akator Temple Race Game wouldn't be in my collection at all if it wasn't for two reasons:

1/ I am a big kid;
2/ It was on offer in my local supermarket for just £5.

As far as I am concerned, if I spend £5 on a game and play it only a couple of times, I've pretty much got my money back. It always surprises me when people complain about replayability (and lack thereof) in any game. If I buy a game for £40 and only play it ten times before getting bored of it, then that works out at £4 a play, and each of those plays has probably kept me entertained for a couple of hours or so. By comparison, taking my wife out for the evening can easily set me back £100. In that light, it is understandable that I am quite forgiving of games that might only have a limited lifespan; and why I am prepared to drop £5 on a game that I suspect will be a load of old rubbish.

I certainly expected Akator Temple Race Game to be on the poor side. For a start, it is based on a movie (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Games based on movies and television shows are generally not the deep, strategic wonders that hardened gamers are looking for. Also, this game features a large plastic 3D tower that makes it clear this game is being sold as a "toy" for a younger audience.

All that being said, I was actually surprised with it. Not because it was strategic (it isn't), but because it was actually pretty good fun, and suitable for adults as well as children.

First of all, a quick run-down of the components:

I have to mention that this game ships in a windowed display box. It has a cello front-piece so you can see that wonderful 3D tower and the little Indiana Jones characters running around it. This is great for drawing attention to the game on the shelf, but not great for storing the game once you have it at home (especially as the tower requires some additional assembly which means it doesn't then fit back in the box anyway).

My box is currently in the attic (which is why there are no pictures of it in this review), while the game sits on a shelf in my gaming cupboard with the cards, dice and playing pieces in a ziplock bag. I would much rather be able to store the game back in the box, but you can't have everything... It's not a deal-breaker, but some people will not appreciate this at all.

The game plays up to four people, who each get to move a little plastic Indiana Jones (Indiana Clones! Man, I need better material). This, again, is something that is going to bug people. Why make a game based on a movie, try to make it thematic by recreating one of the (sillier) exciting scenes, and then have every player be Indiana Jones? It would have been easy to make each player pawn a different character, but of course, these games are designed to be thrown together quickly, sold quickly, and then dumped from shelves as soon as the movie is no longer popular; so it shouldn't come as a surprise that costs were cut in only using one mould for the playing pieces.

Indiana Jones clones
Indiana Clones.

The game includes two custom dice (made with stickers affixed to the sides) and a small deck of flimsy cards. Anyone who has bought a Hasbro game in the last few years will know the kind of quality to expect. It's not great.

Indiana Jones Akator Temple Race Game dice
It's a shame Hasbro's custom dice are just plain dice with stickers.

Indiana Jones Akator Temple Race Game cards
Doom! Well... That can't be good.

But then there's that tower... This is a piece of genius that raises this game to a level of greatness it should never really hope to attain. It is a recreation of the temple stairway in the movie (that big cylindrical thing that collapses with all the heroes on it). It has a sturdy base with a cardboard insert, and plastic steps spiralling around the central column.

What makes the tower so cool is that is has a spinning top which rotates an internal mechanism; then, when you press the spinning top down, certain stairways temporarily drop 45 degrees, throwing off any pawns standing on them. As the top rotates, you never know which steps will collapse next. This is the main focus of the game, and where all the fun is derived. It reminds me very much of the old Ghost House game, where you dropped the skull into the coffin and it randomly dropped into one of four different slots, activating different traps around the house. (Yes, I do own Ghost House; yes, I will review it at some point.)

Indiana Jones Akator Temple Race Game in play
Red and Yellow are both safe on hooks... for now.

So, on a player's turn, he or she rolls the dice, moves the number of spaces, and then draws a card. The card might be helpful, it might not. Normally, the card will state to rotate the top of the tower a number of spaces, and then press it. If any pawns fall, they are returned to the top of the tower. If the card you draw is a crystal skull, you keep it and roll a different dice on future turns (this one sometimes freezes you in place as the skull attempts to control you). If a player gets to the bottom of the tower with a skull, then that player wins the game.

That's it, it's that simple.

Well almost.

There are two minor tweaks which add a fraction more entertainment. Each player pawn has a little slot in the base and is carrying a whip. On certain spaces on the tower, there is a little clip that will fit into the slot of the pawn's base, and will stop the pawn from falling if that step should drop. Similarly, there are little holes in certain sections of the tower where you can insert the pawns' whips. If you do this, then your pawn will be left hanging if the step drops away. This provides two ways to avoid falling off the tower, and gives you a certain amount of control over your fate without relying entirely on luck.

Indiana Jones Akator Temple Race Game pieces
The Indiana Jones can-can line.

This game is obviously pure filler, and is obviously designed for families with younger gamers; but it really is a lot of fun. The mechanical elements work really well, and it makes the game feel like a toy as much as it is a game. The rotating section of the tower moves well, and steps always drop smoothly without sticking or failing to operate. If a pawn has a clip attached to the base slot it won't fall, and if the whips are properly inserted into the tower holes, then pawns really do hang from the tower as the ground falls away beneath them (at which point everyone starts to hum the Indiana Jones theme tune). It all works together very well.

Best of all, I played this game with my wife and my elderly parents over Christmas and they had a blast. Four adults played this game over drinks on Christmas evening (about four or five games in a row), and had fun! So, yes, it is silly; yes, it is a "kid's game;" but it has a place in my collection, and I intend to keep it.

Of course, at best it is only a 6 out of 10 sort of game, because it doesn't allow you any kind of real strategy other than trying to stay on the safe spaces of the tower, but sometimes a 6 out of 10 game is okay. A few laughs, a few drinks, dice rolling, a bit of smack talk... sometimes gaming really can be that simple.

But after those four or five games on Christmas day, I put this game away and we played Lost Cities: The Board Game instead. After all, humming the Indiana Jones theme tune is only fun for so long...

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