Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings (Wii)

Long before we even knew the title, Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings was expected to be a next-gen homecoming for the world’s favorite archaeologist on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 based on some early tech demos for Lucasarts’ Euphoria animation engine. Four years later the game that arrives on retail shelves is headlining on Nintendo’s little white box. For most, this is an automatic disappointment but for those that take the time to play the game instead of judging by what console it’s on, and on which its not, will find an adventure worthy of their time.

Staff of Kings begins with Indy in Sudan where he runs into some Germans. From there, Indy’s journey takes him around the world as he searches for his lost professor and the titular, Staff of Kings. The story feels very much like classic Indiana Jones with Indy traversing ancient tombs, the streets of China town, to the mountains of Asia

Production-wise, the game clearly is not on the level of many of the Wii’s top games such as Mario Galaxy or Metroid Prime as the game was clearly built with a Playstation 2 port in mind. That said, the game succeeds in handling itself quite well as the graphics are indeed pleasant though not impressive. Many of the grunt enemies have quite diminished polygon counts but the star of the show, Indy, looks just like he should.

Gameplay-wise, Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings is a brave title as it embraces motion-based controls to a degree even few Nintendo games dare to tread as just about every major action is mapped to some gesture of the remote. The combat controls, for example, are reminiscent of those in The Godfather: Blackhand Edition for the Wii, where movements of the remote trigger various punches. Although the controls work fine most of the time, the gesture recognition isn’t perfect and you’ll find yourself repeating certain gestures. Beyond that, the game will throw special controls at you for certain situations, such as using the Wii’s pointer function for gunplay sequences and using the remote as a joystick in a flight sequence.

Still, not everything is well with this adventure. Probably the biggest annoyance is that cut scenes and tutorials are not skippable. Granted, many will probably watch a cutscene the first time, maybe even the second or third, but beyond that, having to watch the same cutscene over and over, standing between you and your gameplay, it begins to get fairly annoying. Heck, you can’t even skip the game’s opening logos.

Also, the game is perhaps a bit too easy for many of the grizzled video game veterans. Puzzles rarely consist of more than hitting a switch or finding an item. Still, the simplicity of the puzzles does keep the game moving at a good pace which makes it resemble the Indiana Jones films all the more. It really depends on what you prefer.

Beyond the main adventure, the Wii version of Staff of Kings includes several bonuses such as a co-op adventure, loads of concept art, trailers for all four Indiana Jones films, and the classic Lucasarts adventure game Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis in its entirety. Unlocking most of these requires finding artifacts hidden throughout the game or accomplishing achievement-like Glory moves.

The extra modes while fun diversions, for the most part feel pretty unnecessary. There is a Survival mode in which you and several friends (via controller sharing) take turns seeing who can defeat the most enemies, highlighting the game’s combat system. There is also a versus mode in which up to four players can go head to head in either a plane or a tank. This mode is definitely more entertaining than Survival but it does feel somewhat out of place.

One of the more noteworthy extra modes is the co-op adventure, which brings in an additional player as Indiana’s father Henry Jones (played masterfully by Sean Connery in The Last Crusade) in a new, shorter, story. This mode uses still artwork to convey the story as opposed to 3D cutscenes used in the main game. This mode starts off with Henry and Indiana rafting down a South American river. The rafting sequence will definitely annoy a few people as each player is required to row with their Wii remote to maneuver, but if you don’t mind actually using motion controls, they work quite well. The rest of the gameplay is similar to what was seen in the main adventure, though modified to work with two players. It should also be mentioned that Sean Connery’s sound-alike does an excellent job in this game.

The next noteworthy game mode is the entire LucasArts adventure game, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. This 1992 PC adventure game is a classic of the genre and primitive though the graphics may be, the game is still a joy to play for anyone that enjoys point-and-click adventures. The version including on the disc is the 1993 re-release which includes full voice-overs for all characters. Definitely one of the best unlockables in a video game in recent memory and the porting job makes a strong case for adventure game re-releases on Nintendo’s console.

While Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings is not a big-budget blockbuster, it is a more than able game that keeps the spirit of Indiana Jones alive better than a certain movie that shall not be named. The game looks good and the gameplay is enjoyable if you don’t mind actually using motion controls. The main adventure may be short, but there’s still the co-op quest and the classic Fate of Atlantis, which is worth the price of admission alone, to extend your time with this game, and even the throwaway versus and survival modes if you’re at all curious.