No time for love, Dr. Jones?

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings, for the Nintendo Wii
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings, for the Nintendo Wii

Ever since an E3 trailer showed off the Xbox 360 game footage to audiences for the first time in 2006, Indiana Jones fans have been clamoring for more news of the titular character’s newest console adventure, Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings.   The groundbreaking Euphoria engine that the game was planned to use would allow each enemy to think individually and react differently during a fight.  Unfortunately, numerous delays and development costs saw the game miss its intended release date and slowly it slipped off the radar altogether.

Sometime during that period, developer A2M was tasked with creating the PS2 and Wii ports of the 360/PS3 version.  While the latter eventually saw cancellation, the PS2/Wii ports continued development and the projects took on their own identity.  Flash forward 2 years later, and Indiana is finally seeing the light of day after a long hiatus.  But did the game still deliver on the thrills and adventure of its big screen counterparts?

Find out in my review after the jump!

Indiana Jones has made a miraculous return to consoles but, unfortunately, he is forced to deal with someone far worse than Mola Ram…fierce gaming competition.  Staff of Kings has been released during a crowded Summer videogame schedule, which is witness to high profile releases on all consoles.  Those that strictly wish to buy games for the Wii have Ghostbusters or the up and coming Wii Sports Resort to choose from.   Can Indy survive the sales charts unscathed?  Most definitely not, but many gamers, and certainly Indy fans, will be missing out on a small gem.

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Hmmm...what the heck do I do now?

Indiana Jones was last seen in major consoles, well in the flesh (not plastic), in The Emperor’s Tomb on the Xbox and PS2.  The game itself felt like a rushed mod of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer videogame that had been released a year prior on the Xbox.  The fighting engine was mostly the same, featuring the same animations and gameplay…which was still fun.  Many of the same textures and even enemies were used, so Indiana was oddly forced to fight vampire grunts out of blue.  Developer Collective cut corners at the expense of the game’s story and nostalgic value.  Players would find themselves in a Nazi castle for no reason at all and, upon stepping through a door, would have to fight hand to hand with a “reused” enemy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  What other enemies and obstacles did Indy have to go up against?  Well how about bats that shoot laser beams from their eyes, a giant alligator, or some arrows shooting from the walls?

Thankfully, Staff of Kings is more true to the films, featuring familiar enemies (Germans, Asian gangsters) and locales, along with smart traps.  Over the 6 hour single player mode, Indy will traverse across the globe, including Sudan, San Francisco (Chinatown), Panama, Istanbul, Nepal and Odin, on his journey to find the staff of Moses.  Each locale has some unique dangers.  Step on the wrong stone, you get torched.  Leap from a “rollercoaster” at the last moment, or face certain doom.  The game diversifies the action constantly: start off fighting hand to hand, then switch to flying a biplane, driving a tank, paddling in a raft, speeding off on a motorcycle or riding atop an elephant.

The Wii controls are vastly different for each of these gameplay elements.  Doing a whipping motion with the Wiimote can do any of a number of things depending on how it’s “whipped”.  Pull an enemy towards you by their feet by whipping the Wiimote down, or slap a weapon out of an enemy’s hand by whipping it forward.  Swing left and right with the nun chuck and Indy will give a left hook or right hook respectfully.  Holding the Wiimote like a flight stick will allow you to control the biplane, and lifting the nun chuck towards/away from your body like weightlifting will control the tank.

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Han Solo!

The short single player mode is disappointing, but there are plenty of bonuses to unlock from collecting artifacts in the game or performing “Glory moves”.  You can watch the old trailers for Raiders of the Lost Ark and the rest of the original trilogy (but you have to work your @$$ off to unlock the useless trailer for Kingdom for the Crystal Skull).  The player can unlock character skins (Han Solo!), multiplayer battle modes or single player survival modes or best of all, the 1992 PC classic in its entirety…Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.  The game is easily unlockable from the get go and still plays good using the Wiimote.  Also featured is a Co-op mode, where the second player takes the role of Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery).

The graphics are bright, yet simplistic (just don’t expect anywhere near the detail of PS3’s Uncharted) but they also lack some of the better lighting effects and detail than the recent Tomb Raider Anniversary.  The gameplay itself has issues from time to time.  Despite a review by IGN, the game is not a waggle fest….in fact, waggling will get you nowhere.  If you throw punches, they have to be slow and methodical.  If you waggle, the punches will not be thrown.  Which leads to a problem in all the handicap fights, Indy just isn’t quick enough to handle multiple enemies at a time.  The flight controls are trial and error themselves, as they are ultra sensitive and take careful touch by the player.

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Least impressive pyramids ever?

Another thing worth noting, which is also a contradiction to IGN’s comments…I would not recommend the PS2 version in the least.  The Wii version is not a port of the PS2 edition, it is the other way around.  The PS2 release simply has the single player adventure…no Fate of Atlantis…no multiplayer modes.  Cracking the whip is just a button, where is the fun in that?

What is the biggest hindrance in the game?  The Co-Op mode, which can be blissfully fun in parties but also a chore with its numerous glitches and accidental deaths.  Rather than in-game cutscenes, more boring “motion comics” are used.  The great music played in single player mode (which uses tones and mixes in songs from all four films) is mostly absent here as well.  Both players will suffer from “invisible oil slicks” that seem to find themselves on most cliff edges.  As far as glitches go, I once encountered a glitch that stopped gameplay midway through both characters solving a puzzle…the game decided that the level had been completed successfully and played the ensuing cinematic.

The game is a great “best of” Indiana Jones, presenting nostalgic references to all the films while at the same time making the adventure interactive (all we need is a whip accessory to stick our Wiimote in).  Just beware of the occasional scraps, torn shirts, and bumps that Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings will suffer along the way.

My review: 7 out of 10

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