4 Reviews

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings

Quick-time events. Why'd it have to be quick-time events?

We're playing one of the greatest adventure games ever made, a title with excellent dialogue, a wonderful plot and satisfyingly fiendish puzzling. But enough about Fate Of Atlantis - what about Indiana Jones And The Staff Of Kings?

You see what we did there? LucasArts' fondly remembered 1992 point 'n' clicker is included here as an extra, but to a certain type (and age) of gamer it's going to seem like the other way round. If you've never played Fate, see it as an added bonus; if you're familiar with the game, the Wii port doesn't offer anything new. In either case it's not a big enough gesture to excuse the things wrong with the main game.

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But perhaps we're being hasty. To describe Staff Of Kings as a game seems a bit disingenuous - this is a collection of smaller sub-games, similar to Disaster: Day Of Crisis. There are puzzley platform bits, typically involving copious whip-cracking and vigorous remote-pumpage; there's brilliant environmental combat, which lets you hurl snooker balls at bad guys, shove them into aquariums or whack them in the head with garden tools; on-rails gun battles will also occasionally break out, dumping Indy behind cover and letting you peek out and aim with the remote.

If you were hoping for a robust plot to hold these elements together, expect to be disappointed. Indy has his passport stamped everywhere from San Francisco to Istanbul, but cutscenes are so stilted and awkward it's difficult to be entirely sure why. He's searching for the legendary Staff of Moses, we know that much for certain, and, as ever, heaps of Nazis are right on his tail.

Previous Indy games The Emperor's Tomb and The Infernal Machine translated the licence into Tomb Raider-style exploratory platform outings, but aside from similar pastimes Indy has very little in common with Lara Croft. This series has always been more at home with spectacular action sequences than precision acrobatics or slowly dragging a box across a room. With a focus on the action, Staff Of Kings is probably the closest a game has ever come to recreating the spirit of the movies, even if it does fudge the execution quite a bit.

You do get to trudge around ancient environments, but stages are limited in size and not that interactive - you can only use your whip to climb walls, topple structures or swing across gaps at particular moments, and never at your discretion. 'Exploration' soon comes to mean 'running around, triggering occasional quick-time events'. As such, the platforming's never particularly exciting, but as the glue that holds the superior combat and puzzle sections together it suffices.

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Indy's all about the set piece, you see, and there are some genuinely impressive moments here. Puzzles are typically of the block-pushing variety, but some - including one based on Mayan football - are inspired.
On your travels you'll happen upon a pirate ship that was somehow moored under San Francisco, ride an elephant through the streets of Istanbul, and stumble into messy bar fights with Chinese hardmen. It's all terribly Indiana Jones.

The combat also embodies the spirit of the films, and for the most part involves highly enjoyable man-punching, with the ability to pick up tools and make use of your surroundings. The nunchuk's your left fist, the remote your right. You can dish out jabs and hooks, dodge blows, grapple and throw people, and chuck anything littering the environment at enemies' heads. Your trusty whip will also bring bookcases and the like down on enemy bonces, offing them in one crushing swoop. It's great fun, reminiscent of a number of fights from the films, and with masterful use of motion controls.

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