First, a word of warning: The default version on Steam is a steaming pile. Please do yourself a favor and download ScummVM and transfer the game's source files from the Steam directory into ScumVM so that you can play the game far more as it was meant to be played. Unfortunately, the DOS binary is not included here, so DOSBox isn't an option. It's a truly brain dead decision. Even more egregious is that there is no ability to change the game's settings. We are stuck playing the game in a tiny window with no full screen option. No up-scaling is permitted. Worst of all is the abysmal smoothing filter that has been applied. It turns the game's charming VGA graphics into a hideous smear of indistinct blobs. Please do not subject yourself to this. Get ScummVM.
Lucas Arts adventure games are spoken of today in hallowed terms as a golden age of adventure gaming. And indeed they are. Game after game from Maniac Mansion to their magnum opus, Grim Fandango, Lucas Arts hit it out of the park with funny, exciting, superbly designed adventures. Unfortunately, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the worst of all the adventures produced by Lucas Arts.
Last Crusade isn't necessarily a bad game - indeed it has it's bright spots - but on the whole it is a poor experience. The game's fatal flaw is that it has a crisis of identity. Lucas Arts clearly sought to bring the thrilling action of Indiana Jones into adventure gaming. This is not, in principle, a terrible decision, but the result in Last Crusade is an unqualified mess. We are left with a terrible chimera of a game that is simultaneously very lite in the adventuring department and highly frustrating in the action department. The result is a game that leaves no one very happy. The game's immediate predecessor, Zak Mckracken and the Alien Mindbenders (why is this not on Steam?!) is a significantly better adventure game in nearly every way.
Last Crusade is one of the last of the Lucas Arts adventure games to allow dead ends where the player is unable to progress due to missing an item that is no longer available. This requires loading an earlier save, or worse restarting the game. It is also one of the few Lucas Arts adventure games that allows player death. If you are going to play the game, prepare yourself for plenty of saving and loading.
The game starts out on a very positive note. The interface has been improved to include a Look command, a welcome change from the much more primitive Read command used in Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken. We are still confined to use of the What Is command to identify onscreen items to interact with, as this was not changed until The Secret of Monkey Island. As in Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken, this will necessitate plenty of pixel hunting. Be prepared. The first two chapters of the game do not include any action sequences, and not surprisingly they are the best part of the game. There are a number of puzzles to be solved, and while not very difficult, they are enjoyable. The Grail Diary will be a useful tool in solving them, which is a very nice touch. We are also introduced to the game's best feature: branching. At many points in the game, we are given a number of ways to proceed and the choice made will affect future options and events in the game. It's a wonderful feature that would also be used in the superb Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. We do, however, encounter one of the frustrating features of the game: mazes. There are not an excessive number of them, but none of them are interesting and the result is mostly to waste the player's time. They add nothing of value to the game.
However, once the player reaches the third chapter, the game screeches to halt as the player is subjected to all the game's worst features. The absolute worst is the inclusion of a number of exceedingly poorly executed action sequences. The most numerous are the hand-to-hand fist fighting that Indy can (and almost certainly will) engage in. While the game can be beaten without combat, it will take a walkthrough or exhaustive trial and error to find the nonviolent path. Neither option is any fun. The fist fighting's primitive mechanics includes the player taking health damage for attacking once his stamina bar has been depleted. Unfortunately, this means the player is punished for staying on the attack - a very wise strategy in any fight. Indy has a series of blocks that he can use, but it is tedious and difficult to sustain no damage while Indy's stamina recovers. The near inevitable result is that Indy will lose health fight after fight until he is simply defeated by attrition - game over. It's frustrating and it isn't fun. There is also an airplane chase sequence that is maddening. As Indy's father is manning the machine guns, we are given no control over when we are able to shoot or where we shoot the numerous enemy planes that pursue Indy and his father. We are only able to wildly attempt to both avoid enemy fire and land a hit on enemy planes that have no such problem hitting our plane on the move. It's incredibly frustrating - sort of like playing Mario when you have no control over when Mario jumps. Fortunately, this sequence isn't required to progress, but failure will only necessitate further fist-to-first combat or more save-reloading to find the right dialog trees. None of this is fun in any way.
Overall, I give this game a thumbs down, and it is the only Lucas Arts adventure I can say that about. There are simply too many aggravating aspects to the game. Play the far superior Fate of Atlantis to be treating to some incredible Indiana Jones adventure gaming.