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David Low
27 Jun, 2009

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings Review

Wii Review | Fair crack of the skull?
Indiana Jones hit the cinemas for the first time in 19 years in 2008, and while the response to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was mixed at best, it has at least led to some renewed interest in the brand, and it was surprising there wasn’t a tie-in game produced, Lego Indiana Jones notwithstanding. In fact, looking back at the series history, Crystal Skull will actually be the only Indiana Jones movie not to have received a videogame adaptation. But what was likely started with the tie-in concept in mind has now been released as Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings.

Initially announced and demonstrated as a PS3 and Xbox 360 game, something went awry in development, and nothing has been seen of that build in years. As seems to be the case with licensed games these days, other versions were in development alongside what was presumably the ‘main’ version, and while that project appears to have gone off track (most likely outright canceled at this point), the other versions came together. As such, Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings has been released on Wii, DS, PS2 and PSP, with no HD version in sight. And despite some obvious flaws, the Wii version has turned out pretty well. While possibly held back by simultaneous PS2 development (an unfortunately still common story with Wii games), it’s still a good looking and sounding game, with great gameplay variety. And best of all, it captures the action-adventuring spirit of Indiana Jones admirably.

Indy surveys the area for fridges

Indy surveys the area for fridges
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With only a few films on which to base tie-ins, Indy games have had a long history of branching into original stories, which works particularly well given the pulp-adventure genre the films are mimicking is a mine of pleasant cliché just waiting to be dug up. Take some kind of ancient mystery,a lost or stolen artifact, combine with a mid 20th century menace, add in some globetrotting, tomb raiding and pre-modern American optimism, and you’ve got yourself an Indy stew brewing. This adventure’s artifact is the Staff of Moses (that used by the Israelite leader to part the Red Sea in the Bible), the settings cover the usual gamut of exotic locales from San Fransisco to Panama and Nepal, and the bad guy role is filled by a variety of international thugs.

As makes perfect sense for a 3D third-person Indiana Jones game, the gameplay is a combination of brawling, Tomb Raider-like adventuring, and action set-pieces. While this description also matches the last two Indy console games (Infernal Machine on PC/N64 and Emperor’s Tomb on Xbox/PS2), Staff of Kings takes it to another level, removing much of the padding of your average adventure game and jumping from one gameplay type to another in quick succession, Disaster: Day of Crisis style. While it sounds limiting, it actually just keeps the pace right up, and in the regular flow of the game you’ll never be bored, as there’s always something new to do. The lack of padding does mean the game is quite short, likely only about five hours long for a quick playthrough of the main quest, but it remains a rollercoaster all the way through.

The fighting can be fun

The fighting can be fun
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Probably the main gameplay mechanic is the brawling, and developer A2M have attempted to fully involve the motion abilities of the remote and nunchuck, with mixed success. The basic idea is you perform various left and right punches by swinging the Remote and nunchuck. It works on a basic level, but as usual for Wii games that overuse simple motions you’ll have to use exaggerated moves to perform the punches correctly, and you will tire of it. Other moves work better, and you can have some fun whipping down objects onto enemies, beating enemies with a large variety of environmental items you can pick up, and grabbing enemies to smack into tables, aquariums etc. The sloppy controls might be a problem if the enemy AI wasn’t so universally pathetic. Little more than an annoyance, thugs basically wait around for you to take them out one by one, and you can usually clean out a room in whatever manner pleases you. Somewhat like the recent Madworld, you have to get your enjoyment from creatively using the environment to fight rather than anything inherently satisfying in the combat, but also like Madworld, there is ample opportunity for this.

Adventuring works much better, with Indy moving around, climbing, swinging across chasms very well in a very traditional manner. You can move the camera comfortably with the remote’s d-pad in either scenario, and the camera issues often associated with adventure games on the Wii are not much of an issue. It’s all pretty basic though, and you’ll never have your brain strained by any of the puzzles, so adventure fans may be disappointed.

It's pretty last gen, but environments are nicely detailed

It's pretty last gen, but environments are nicely detailed
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There are also ‘stop and pop’ shooting scenes, where the camera fixes itself and you go into a Time Crisis-like ‘shoot from cover’ light gun game, using the Wii remote’s pointer to aim Indy’s revolver. They’re never really very difficult, and many work more like a point and click adventure, just waiting for you to shoot the right thing in the right way to progress, but either way they’re well implemented and give the game some pace and over-the-top action that would traditionally by relegated to cut-scene, or worse, quick time event. Unfortunately Staff of Kings does still feature the odd quick time event as well, but they’re fairly limited in number and easy to pass. Checkpoints are also an issue, you can lose five minutes of play time, and have to watch a cut-scene or even a lengthy tutorial again.

Presentation wise there are high and low points. The basic graphics engine is pretty low-end, well and truly PS2 level tech, but at least good PS2 level. Accepting this, many of the environments are very nicely detailed, feature good effects and lighting, and best of all manage to capture the Indy-look. Really, everything looks quite nice, until it moves. While Indy is decently modeled, his animations are a bit creaky, with jerky transitions between movements. But he has nothing on the enemies, which are almost N64 level in their awkwardness of movement. Overall it’s a decent visual package, and there a are a few nice touches that put it over the top. One thing that tickled our fancy every time it happened was the re-spawn animation after you die – the game cuts to a shot of the floor at the re-start point, and the famous Fedora blows into view, followed by a pair of legs as Indy reaches down to and grabs it. The main menu is a classily designed re-creation of Indy’s office. And one true absolute winner is the sound design. The Harrison Ford sound-alike does a pretty good job, guns whips and punches sound great, and it’s nigh-impossible for an Indy fan not to smile at the excellent integration of the music of the films, which always matches what you’re doing perfectly.

Fate of Atlantis is quite a bonus

Fate of Atlantis is quite a bonus
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While the main campaign is quite short, the unlockable extras in Staff of Kings should be an example to all. First and foremost is the inclusion of the fully voice acted version of the 1992 point-and-click adventure title Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Regarded by many as one of the best games ever released in the genre, it’s a satisfying adventure with a story that perfectly matches the Jones mythology. While it shows its age with a midi soundtrack and low resolution graphics, and many of the genre annoyances are in full force (mostly related to getting stuck in progress due to obtuse puzzle design and awkward navigation), the Wii Remote pointer works brilliantly with the port, including some nice shortcuts (like using the B button to automatically interact with an object in the ‘correct’ way, eg open a door without having to select ‘open’) and it is quite a relaxing and enjoyable experience 17 years later.

Another great extra is a short but enjoyable co-op story mode, featuring Indy and his father Henry Jones Sr. There’s also a combat arena, and some alternate costumes and modes, including Han Solo!

With iffy and overused motion controls, simplistic enemy AI, obvious puzzles and a very short main quest, Staff of Kings could very well fit in average licensed shovelware category. But despite obvious flaws, the details are all spot on, and most of the time it’s just plain fun. It' still not the game the great man deserves, but given his patchy recent record, this time around Indy gave us more enjoyment than expected.
The Score
A flawed but enjoyable experience for Indy fans. Much like the last film really. 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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5 Comments
4 years ago
Hmm... tempting to pick up just for Fate of Atlantis... Probably only if I see it in a bargain bin though.
4 years ago
PALGN wrote
A flawed but enjoyable experience for Indy fans. Much like the last film really.
So if i played this game I'd fall asleep 1/4 of the way through... hmmm.

Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis however does look pretty cool, never played it but i love those old point and click adventure titles.
4 years ago
Honestly, judging by the screenshots, the graphics don't look too bad.
Compared with many current Wii games, I think they hold up nicely.
4 years ago
Nice score
4 years ago
3mt wrote
Honestly, judging by the screenshots, the graphics don't look too bad.
Compared with many current Wii games, I think they hold up nicely.
The graphics are quite good. It's the animation that's awful.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  17/06/2009 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $99.95 AU
Publisher:
  Activision
Genre:
  Action Adventure
Year Made:
  2009

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