Of all of Lucasarts’ film-based games, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis is one of the most beloved. A classic-style point-and-click adventure released in 1992, it wouldn’t be followed up until ‘99 with The Infernal Machine, a distinctly more Tomb Raider affair. But why the wait? Well, a new digital history lecture has explained that an adventure game sequel to Fate of Atlantis was deep in production and eventually scrapped during the interim.
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In a huge nine-page feature over at adventure games enthusiast site The International House of Mojo, it has been revealed that Lucasarts were creating a second point-and-click Indy game: Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix. A 1947-set story, it would see Indy seek out three sections of the Philosopher’s Stone as he tried to prevent the Nazis from using it to resurrect Hitler. It was to feature a finale in South America that would see Hitler’s face melt and explode, Ark of the Covenant-style.
The project was originally headed up by Joe Pinney, but later handed over to studio veteran Aric Wilmunder. With a sixty-page document created in 1993 with outlines for plot, puzzles, and cutscenes, work was already underway. Background artist Bill Stoneham created concept art, and the intention was that new SCUMM engine enhancements would allow multi-dimension scrolling rooms. The game was to see a certain level of freedom in finding the three stone sections, akin to the Three Map Pieces act of Monkey Island 2.
Yet despite these ambitions, The Iron Phoenix was never to rise. Development issues related to staff being shuffled onto new projects saw constant fallbacks, and technology issues meant there were further stalls. But there was a larger issue: Germany.
At the time, the German market was huge for adventure games and a far more lucrative territory than the US. But in Germany any Nazi symbolism is banned from use in toys, which videogames are considered as. While Lucasarts had feature Nazism in the previous game Fate of Atlantis by changing things like swastikas into iron crosses, there seemed no way around censoring a tale that was literally about bringing Hitler back from the dead.
As a result, production on Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix was shut down after just a year of development.
“In some respects I wasn’t upset, just disappointed. I would rather not build a product, than to build a bad product. I had spent years working with teams building great products, and I wanted nothing to do with a game that was a step backwards,” Wilmunder told International House of Mojo.
“I hate to say that I agree with management. Bill and I may have forced the decision since we both thought that the situation we were put into was not going to lead to a successful outcome. Management either needed to commit or close it down.”
If the name Indiana Jones and the Iron Phoenix means something to you, it may well be because the premise for the game was used for a four-issue run comic at publisher Dark Horse. But while the premise was used, the overall story was not what had been envisioned for the game.“The first three issues of the Dark Horse Iron Phoenix comic were based on my designs. Unfortunately in the last issue the went all zombie-nazi on the story.... literally," said Wilmunder.
Unfortunately, it looks like The Iron Phoenix is one for the history books only. Or perhaps a museum. Yeah, that’d be fitting.