Nintendo Wii – Indy rides again
If you can look past the tedious gameplay in the earlier part of the game, Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings rewards you with some pretty cool experiences later on.
DESPITE garnering generally bad reviews, I’m going to fly in the face of other reviewers’ opinions and say that Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings is a good videogame, although it does have its faults.
In fact, I wonder if most of the early reviewers that said there’s too much waggling of the Wiimote have actually finished the game, because while it’s true that the first chapter (which is largely a tutorial) does indeed have an irritating and arm-numbing amount of Wiimote and Nunchuk waggling, the later levels settle into a more comfortable and much less strenuous puzzle solving mode, with occasional fist fights and fun gun battles.
Plus, what most reviews don’t tell you is that the story in Staff of Kings is actually pretty good, and with a little tweaking and polish, would actually make a much better movie than the horrendous Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s get right down to why I think Staff of Kings is a good title.
The story of Staff of Kings is, as the name suggests based on the mythical staff of Moses — you know, the same staff that helped Moses turn rivers into blood, brought the plague onto Egypt and parted the Red Sea.
Anyway the story starts off in Egypt, with Indy looking for an ancient artefact with the Germans (the family friendly game omits the word Nazi and there’s no sign of the Swastika either) close behind.
This first level is more a tutorial and is meant to introduce you to the fighting and other gameplay mechanics. Anyway, before you know it, Indy has a fistfight with the Germans and ends up flying a plane through a canyon — all in the first half hour of the game.
The story then shifts to San Francisco’s Chinatown, where Indy finds out that an old friend of his is now being sought after by the Germans because he has in his possession a Jade artefact which could lead to clues on the location of the Staff of Kings.
The journey then takes Indy to Panama where he teams up with Maggie O’Malley, a photographer who just happens to be heading in the same direction. So as in all classic Indiana Jones films, it’s a race across the globe to find the Staff before the Germans do.
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings actually has a number of distinct gameplay sequences — you start off with a lot of hand-to-hand combat, but then move on to some fun on-rails shooting sequences, and then to an exploration and puzzle section and also some sequences where you control some kind of vehicle.
The story ties these quite disparate sequences together but the shooting, exploration and puzzles aren’t spread out evenly across the whole game.
This means that for the first third of the game, you’ll do a lot of Wiimote and Nunchuk waggling as you engage in loads of fistfights.
This early third of the game is filled with extremely boring cutscenes which precede each action sequence — worse, if you get killed in these sequences, the game starts you off with the cutscene again instead of just taking you back to the beginning of the actual gameplay.
Hand-to-hand combat is extremely frustrating in Staff of Kings — while the game has loads of punching options (uppercut, straight punch, roundhouse) and a few cool whip moves, waggling the Wiimote to achieve these actions is actually pretty unreliable.
One cool feature, though is the inclusion of so-called “hot sets” which are essentially enclosed arenas in the game where you fight a number of opponents.
In these hot sets, you can interact with almost any object you find — for example, you can pick up a shovel and whack somebody with it, or even use your whip to pull down a bookcase on a number of opponents.
However, like hand-to-hand combat, interacting with these objects is sometimes frustrating and unreliable — in this case it’s because you really have to be facing directly to the object to interact with it, which is extremely difficult when you have four or five opponents chasing after you.
Don’t even think you can just skip using these objects to fight, though — some enemies can only be hurt if you throw an object or whack them over the head with it.
Hand-to-hand combat remains the major Achilles heel in this game and it doesn’t help when the first third of this game involves so much of it.
I’m not joking when I say that I had some major joint and muscle pain from the hours of non-stop flicking and waggling of the Wiimote and Nunchuk.
Now, you’re probably thinking that this is about as good as it gets for Staff of Kings, but if you persevere till the Panama stage, you’ll be rewarded with a game that’s vastly better.
In the last two thirds of the game, it settles into a more traditional exploration and puzzle solving mode, with hand-to-hand combat down to a minimum and better spread out.
In this level you’ll solve puzzles, push blocks and avoid traps — all the things that one would expect from a game like this. In fact, the puzzle solving is actually pretty good, with some puzzles that really stumping me for a while, though the solution almost always turns out to be quite simple in hindsight.
Nevertheless, this part of the game is extremely enjoyable and had me playing non-stop till the wee hours of the morning.
The other enjoyable part of Staff of Kings is the on-rails shooting sequences, which are peppered throughout both the single player and two-player co-operative games.
At various points throughout the game, it switches to an on-rails mode and allows you to use the Wiimote to aim at the screen and shoot enemies.
These sequences are extremely fun and allow you to take advantage of the Wiimote’s strengths much better than the waggling and flicking in the hand-to-hand combat sequences.
There is one strange quirk however — some of these shooting sequences can only be completed by performing a specific action, such as shooting a crate of dynamite and as a result, you’ll end up getting killed a lot before you figure that out.
I would have thought that the game would allow you to at least shoot the enemies directly to complete these sequences and give you the dynamite boxes as an option if you can figure out that the explosion will take down a few enemies at once.
Planes, boats, bikes and automobiles
Another fun sequence introduced in Staff of Kings involve driving vehicles. In these levels, the game puts you in the driver’s seat and allows you to control a variety of transport.
These vehicles are often controlled by more Wiimote and Nunchuk waggling, and in the case of the bi-plane sequence, allows you to utilise the Wiimote by holding it vertically and using it as a joystick.
There’s even a sequence where you take control of a motorbike and control it by holding the Wiimote and Nunchuk facing each other horizontally, as if you were holding the handlebars of a bike.
These control methods can be frustrating at first, but they actually work quite well with a bit of practice and is certainly a lot better than the hand-to-hand combat controls.
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings gives you the option to play a couple of interesting extra modes, most notably an extremely fun multiplayer co-op game and the original LucasArts point-and-click adventure, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.
The two player co-op game is a completely different game from the single player experience with totally different levels and allows you and another player to play together as either Indiana Jones or his father, Henry Jones Sr.
The two-player co-op thankfully does not have any of the hand-to-hand combat sequences, and instead opts for puzzle-solving, on-rails shooting and vehicle driving — all of which can only be completed if the two players, well… co-operate.
For example, in a puzzle sequence, one player will have to open gates for the other, or disable traps while the other player pushes blocks into place.
The most fun part of the two-player co-op, however, has got to be the vehicle driving sequences.
Of these vehicle driving sequences, two sequences stand out here — one which puts both of you in a tank and another which has you pilot a plane.
Each of these sequences are timed and has the first player piloting the tank or the plane while the other player will control the guns.
Overall, the two-player co-op missions are a lot of fun and work quite well with the Wiimote controls.
The other bonus game is Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, a port of the original LucasArts game.
PC gamers in the Eighties will remember Fate of Atlantis — a classic point-and-click adventure title made by most of the same people responsible for the Secret of Monkey Island.
This game is in the Extras menu and other than being optimised for a higher resolution and the Wiimote,is exactly the same game as the excellent original.
You can complete Staff of Kings in about eight hours or so and while the game is not perfect by any means, I actually found myself enjoying it quite a bit.
Despite a frustrating and often boring first third where you feel you have little control over the story despite a lot of painful waggling of the Wiimote, the game improves a lot in the later levels.
Despite its flaws, the game manages to capture some of the fun and feel of the original Indiana Jones films, and is WAY better than the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull film.
I haven’t even mentioned the graphics in the game, which actually look very good for a Wii game.
Pros: Good story; fun gameplay in the last two-thirds of the game; Fate of Atlantis is included; fun co-op levels.
Cons: Boring first third of the game; frustrating hand-to-hand combat controls.
INDIANA JONES AND THE STAFF OF KINGS
Action adventure game for Nintendo Wii
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