Reviewed: July 13, 2009
Released: June 9, 2009
It’s been six long years since we’ve been treated to an Indiana Jones game and that was on the PC and original Xbox. About a year after the release of Emperor’s Tomb I remember seeing some exceptional footage from the new next-gen installment of the franchise at the LucasArts booth at E3 and then all was suddenly silent. The franchise vanished as quickly and mysteriously as Atlantis and it wasn’t for three more years until some of that next-gen footage I remembered started to resurface, only now it was on last-gen systems like the PS2, PSP, and Wii – okay…Wii isn’t really last-gen but it’s certainly inferior to 360 and PS3.
So here we are, long after the release of the Crystal Skull movie, with Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings, the latest adventure of our globe-trotting hero, only this time we travel to the past, to 1939, before the events we’ve seen in the various movies as Indy races against time and his arch nemesis, Magnus Voller, to obtain the Staff of Moses.
While some of the imagery, locations, and even some specific action sequences have been carried over from what I saw years ago, the game has been given a total redesign to make the most of the unique abilities of the Wii, and while the visuals are less impressive that I remember, this is easily one of the most fun games on the Wii, and one that makes me feel more like Indy than any of his past adventures.
First off, I have to commend A2M on some solid Wii motion controls that had me fist fighting and cracking my whip like a season pro long before the lengthy opening tutorial was over. Of all my Wii games, this is probably the most interactive and realistic experience I’ve played to date, and never once did the game feel gimmicky or the actions forced.
The Staff of Kings will present plenty of unique opportunities for Indy to engage in melee combat using the Wii and Nunchuk combo for throwing punches. You can also block, dodge, and counter-punch, a tactic required on some of the larger brutes. You also have your trusty whip; an invaluable tool for navigating treacherous levels as well as whipping enemies into submission, either by pulling down environmental objects onto them, or whipping an enemy to yank them off their feet or jerk them toward you where you can finish them off with some fists of fury. There are also sequences where you get to use your pistol, using a duck and cover mode and aiming at the screen with the Wii-mote much like a light gun game.
The game is balanced in favor of combat over exploration. You might have a few brief moments of exploration or discovery, perhaps a secret item or a moveable bookcase leading to a new area, but these areas are often full of enemies, divided into minor battles and usually one or two brutes that require some strategy in their takedowns. Through all these combat sequences you have Glory Moments, where you can interact with the environment and perform classic Indy moves to unlock extra content. There are also some fantastic action sequences like a biplane chase through a canyon where you actually hold your Wii-mote upright like a joystick, or ride a rampaging elephant through the streets of Istanbul or take a wild whitewater raft ride. The Staff of Kings is a non-stop action-adventure ride and you are constantly involved in the game and tied to the action.
Of course there are a few negative issues with the game starting with a poor checkpoint system that can have you repeating large portions of the game, and if those portions happen to include tutorials you cannot skip them. Nothing is more boring than being forced to repeat a class on boxing or pistol use because you accidentally died several minutes after the tutorial. The health system is rather unforgiving and you will take plenty of damage during heavily outnumbered encounters with no real way to heal other than to make it to the next checkpoint. There are also some heavily scripted areas where you must perform a certain action, even if they defy logic or the rules of the game. An example is during one of the first gun battles, there is one guy you cannot shoot, even when you have a clear shot. You must shoot the light over his head because the story dictates a preset course of events.
The Staff of Kings takes a stab at multiplayer with a cooperative adventure where Indy teams up with his dad and unlockable multiplayer challenges for up to four players that allow you to dogfight in biplanes or engage in tank battles. Sadly, these extra modes seemed a bit tacked on and not entirely developed. They are fun to try but you probably won’t finish the co-op mode or find much enjoyment in the mini-games. Perhaps the best bonus feature, and possibly reason enough to purchase the entire game is the inclusion of an emulated version of “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis”, one of my favorite PC adventures of all time.
On any other system this game would be just another average adventures but the Wii adds so much with intuitive and responsive controls. What little learning curve there is you will become a master by the end of the tutorial level and you can even repeat the tutorial from the menu if you forget some moves later on.
The graphics are not nearly as impressive as what I saw so many years ago in my next-gen demo at E3, but they are impressive for the Wii and they have a solid PS2 or original Xbox quality about them. What they lack in textures and complexity is cleverly disguised through fun animations that respond directly to your slightest movement of the controller. There are some brutally painful moments that probably push the boundaries of the Teen rating.
The game truly excels in the sound department with the wonderful score and memorable theme music, but sometimes the soundtrack will fade away creating some awkward moments of silence. The sound effects are brutal and I would visible wince when hearing the sound of a shovel or a tire iron striking the head of an enemy. Fire crackles, wood splinters, glass breaks, elephants shriek, planes buzz through the skies, and rafts float down raging rapids. There is the iconic snap of the whip and bang from the pistol and plenty of punching sounds. The voice acting is outstanding and kudos to the best sound-alike for Indy ever - short of checking the credits, you will swear they actually got Harrison Ford to do the voice for this game.
Expect a solid 8-10 hour adventure with the Staff of Kings, although some of that may be repeating parts of the game due to the flawed checkpoint system. I didn’t find much use for the co-op or multiplayer modes – they weren’t much fun and nobody was interested in playing them – they just seemed so tacked on. Fate of Atlantis is still waiting for me, and I can’t wait to dive back into that adventure again.
While I still wish I was playing this game on a true next-gen system I have to admit that A2M and LucasArts has spun this adventure onto the Wii with some awesome interactive controls that have me feeling more like Indy than any other game in the franchise. All I need now is a hat and a whip attachment for my Wii-mote…