As any seasoned gamer knows, the movie tie-in videogame is rarely one worth playing. Our good friend Indiana Jones, however, hasn’t fared too badly in the past, with such efforts as the recent Lego incarnation and the point-and-click adventure Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis. This is no doubt thanks to LucasArts, which has a good track record in general, particularly when it comes to adventure games. It’s with high expectations, then, that we approach The Staff Of Kings.
Based on early impressions, it doesn’t disappoint, with a reasonable, though not astounding, recreation of the Indiana Jones world. While it’s true the vacant stare in Indie’s eyes and the off-centre smile make him look a tad bit special, the environments are adequate and the camera is well-behaved as you run around punching bad guys, cracking your whip and doing a spot of Tomb Raider-style climbing and jumping. Most of this is achieved via motion controls, with punches being performed by swinging the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, and the whipping action using a similar method. It’s doesn’t always respond as you wish, but for the most part, it’s pretty good fun.
Puntuating the freer parts of the game are what you might describe as ‘quick time events’ (as they were known in the popular Shenmue games), which require the player to press a button, or a combination of them, in response to on-screen instructions. These sections aren’t implemented as well as in some other games, such as Fahrenheit, but they do add a little variety to the proceedings, as do the shooting bits which are reminiscent of classic lightgun games. There are also some interesting segments that include flying a biplane, using the Wii remote as a flight yoke. It’s horribly inaccurate, but still manages to be pretty good fun. Clearly, there’s no lack of variety here.
Taking all the elements mentioned so far, we have a decent game, which isn’t going to win any awards, but is an entertaining romp anyway. Unfortunately, all the developer’s good work goes out of the window when you realise you can’t skip the cut-scenes. Even if you’ve watched it before, you’ll be forced to watch it again.
To make matters worse, the game uses an autosave feature which rather cleverly decides to save right before one of these cut-scenes. If you die, you get to watch the cut-scene all over again. Woo. Hoo. It’s not even like they’re any good. Frankly, this aspect of Staff Of Kings displays some of the worst game design we’ve ever seen, and we can only imagine that very little play testing was carried out prior to the game’s release. This theory is supported by the fact that, during our time with Staff Of Kings, the game on several occasions failed to play the next cut-scene and allow us to progress. That meant going into the menu and restarting the level, meaning, yes, we had to watch all the cut-scenes again.
With a little bit of thought for the player, Staff Of Kings would have been okay, but you’ll spend more time watching a demented, poorly rendered 3D Indiana Jones delivering badly acted and written dialogue than you will actually playing the game. It really is a shame that such a basic mistake has cost this game so dearly, but it wouldn’t be right to recommend it when it’s so utterly frustrating. On the plus side, one of the unlockable extras is a full version of Fate Of Atlantis, which is probably a far better game and also has the option to skip cut-scenes. Now there’s a novel idea.