Game Review

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Spencer McIlvaine

You call this archaeology?

Filled with cut scenes and swashbuckling action sequences, The Staff of Kings has the feel of an actual Indiana Jones movie. There are a lot of concepts included here that, if fully realized, could have made for a spectacular movie-style game. Sadly, as it turns out the imagination of the game’s developers exceeded their grasp.

Indiana Jones, the world’s foremost Nazi-killing grave robber and part-time college professor is back searching for yet another Biblical artifact to satisfy his “gotta catch 'em all” obsession. The story is relatively short and should take maybe around six hours to complete. We say ‘maybe’ because although the game is short it is full of bad design decisions that will force you to replay certain levels ad nauseum until you get them right.

For example, when the game first lets you use your gun it first teaches you how to use it in a mini-tutorial. This is most appreciated. However, what follows is a sequence where one of three things may happen:

1) You get shot to death while trying to figure out how to kill your first gun-toting opponent (hint: you can’t actually shoot him back. Ever.)
2) While trying to figure out where to go next after killing the bad guy, you fall off of a ledge into a fire and instantly die, or
3) Both of the above, repeatedly.

We chose option 3 for a while until finally finding a window that we could get through to advance. Much of the puzzle solving is like this. Wander around until an icon appears showing you what to do next. Rarely is there fire for you to fall into as in this scene, but death is always a possible outcome and when it happens it means that you have to start the level over from the last checkpoint. In this specific instance it means you will have to sit through the tutorial again on how to use a gun. The tutorial, like every other cut scene in the game, is unskippable and you will get to watch it each and every time you die until you get to the next checkpoint. Although there are plenty of checkpoints throughout the game, because of the trial and error technique used here you will often have to replay entire fight scenes to get to the one place you died because you could not figure out what to do next. Each time you fail to figure out your current dilemma means one more trip through replay hell.

After you get to use your gun, you might be thinking the game will turn into some sort of shooter and the fist-fighting tutorial in the first level was a waste. You couldn’t be more wrong. Borrowing an idea from Red Steel, Indy only uses his gun when the enemy has a gun. Otherwise, he only fistfights. This is a rule of engagement that the Indiana Jones in the movies would never abide by as the films document quite clearly that, much like Han Solo, Indiana Jones shoots first. Especially when the other guy doesn’t have a gun.

As a result, much of the combat involves utilizing motion controls to engage in boxing matches with Nazis and others who mysteriously are not carrying any weapons either. This part of the game perhaps best demonstrates the high concept but poor execution problem the game faces in general. While going through the tutorial the controls seem exciting as you learn to do jabs and uppercuts and even to use the whip to knock a weapon such as a board or bottle out of someone’s hand. But in practice, the controls are sluggish and will leave you frustrated and flailing around trying to pull off any punch at all. Combat is best approached slowly and patiently, waiting a second or two in between each punch to make sure that the next one registers. But this is maddeningly slow and counterintuitive when fist-fighting a room full of enemies.

The game changes things up now and again, such as in the second level where you pilot (but don’t land) a plane or at the end of the game where you drive a motorcycle. But these sequences use unique motion controls that are described only in a diagram: prepare to crash your plane multiple times until you get the hang of it. By the way, you’ll be flying through a canyon so you’d better learn how to steer fast as the plane instantly explodes upon crashing. After an extensive sequence teaching you how to fistfight, you might expect more help with something truly difficult like this.

If you survive the canyon scene and manage to shoot down four enemy planes you’ll get a “Glory” (i.e. “Achievement”). It’s not the first glory of the game but it is the first seemingly inevitable one. So by now you should have unlocked the classic LucasArts game “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis” as it requires only one glory to unlock. In the pantheon of well-loved LucasArts games, Fate of Atlantis ranks near the top. As such, its inclusion here is very much appreciated and for some fans of this site may be the primary reason for purchasing Staff of Kings. They’re not wrong, as there is more humor and wit in the opening credits to Fate of Atlantis than there is in all of Staff of Kings combined.

The graphics in Staff of Kings are PS2 quality. This should not be surprising as the game is yet another PS2/Wii release, but the music is at least classic Indiana Jones theme music and shouldn’t get too old in the short playing time.

When you finish the main game and have a friend over to play, Staff of Kings features a nice co-op mode with new levels that let you play as Henry Jones, Indy’s dad from the third movie. It’s a nice bookend to the experience and along with Fate of Atlantis leads us to conclude that Staff of Kings is more desirable for its bonus features than for the game itself.


With clunky controls that would have worked great with a little more attention, sub-par graphics, and unsatisfying puzzle solving that can leave you frustrated, Staff of Kings tries very hard to disappoint its players. But the attempt to make a great Indiana Jones game that actually feels like playing through a movie is lying there somewhere under the surface. No doubt some will overlook the frustration factor and enjoy a taste of what could have actually been a great game. Most, however, will find far more enjoyment with the Fate of Atlantis bonus, which saves this release from being a disappointment.

From the web

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User Comments (32)



brandonbwii said:

You didn't touch as much on the motion control as other reviewers which I hear is overused and quite broken. Too bad. This game sounds filled to the brim with untapped potential. Even motion plus wouldn't have helped such a rushed product.



Knux said:

I'm still considering buying this game because of Fate of Atlantis.
Great review!



Chunky_Droid said:

I want Fate of Atlantis! The fact they made an emulator to get it to work on Wii gives me hope of SCUMM on VC

Very unlikely hopes, but the hope is there!



Matthew1 said:

I've got the DS version, its pretty good. Do a review of that one. One thing though why are you reviewing the game now? It came out 2 months ago.



bonham2 said:

I haven't played the game, so I can't really comment on the score, but I'm going to anyway. It seems like a pretty forgiving score based on the review - "sub par graphics, clunky controls, and unsatisfying puzzle solving". I've heard some pretty terrible things about this game, and this review is not going to sway me.



pixelman said:

I rented this - I'd give it a 4, just because of the broken motion controls for punching. They should've used Z-targeting and button combos + simple motion, ala Punch-Out!!. Otherwise it was pretty enjoyable.



tomjcd said:

I just got finished playing through this game and in spite of it's lack of polish, I had a lot of fun with it. It's true that the game can be quite buggy at times, but if you can over look this, it can be an enjoyable experiece. Especially since it's only a $20 game now. I didn't find the brawling motion controls to be frustating and actually enjoyed those sequences. It kind of plays like a cross between Zelda and Uncharted and while not nearly as good as either, the variety in game play keeps it fresh. I would give it a 7.



vherub said:

Could someone speak more about the co-op?
If they released this game at $15 with just the co-op (and fate of atlantis) would it be a 9 or 10 star game?
I'm thinking of picking it up just for two player gaming.



Darknyht said:

I also had hopes for this game, but was watching the DS version. I haven't seen a review for it yet, hope that one appears here.



mrmicawber said:

What can you say about a game who's high point is to pretend to be a movie? No wonder I am such and EAD and Wiiware junkie - it's in my blood. Thankfully there are several INDEPENDENT GAME prooperties to make up for all the licensed dreck - am I right?



ejamer said:

What a shame. Extras like co-op and Fate of Atlantis are almost enough to justify the $20 right out of the gate... but the development team managed to make enough bad design decisions to balance out all that potential? The game has a great premise, and should be tremendous fun.



Stuffgamer1 said:

Multiple option 1's and a single option 2 for me, so not quite an option 3, really. It took GameFAQs to get me past that stupid first gunfight.

This is a very good review; definitely one of the better ones I've seen for this game. I honestly don't think the fighting controls are as bad as everyone makes them out to be, though I admit they could've done better. I like quick-throwing random junk at my enemies.

For the original asking price of $50, I'd emphatically shout "STAY AWAY!!!" For the new $20 price, however, I say give it a try! I had an opportunity to try it free and decided that $20 (well, $18.01 with discount and tax) was worth it for this decent game with awesome bonus game.



brandonbwii said:


Exactly, who uses boxing controls for an action adventure game? I still await a day when motion is done right in more action games. Where's the control balance?



cyrus_zuo said:

I rented this, and I have to say, I really, really enjoyed the game. For $20, I'd also recommend it.

I thought the fighting, especially some of the great environmental fighting bits, were just a blast. I was amazed at how well the fighting controls worked. I guess I didn't have the problems other people had? It felt a lot like an Indie movie, and that means the fistacuffs were entertaining.
Entertaining is really my key word for the game. I make games for a living, and I brought this game into where I worked. It wasn't turned off for 3 hours straight and gathered most of the company as a crowd to take a chance to play and/or watch. I take in games to work for the Wii nearly every week, nothing has ever gotten as big a crowd as this game did, and for a good reason. It's very entertaining and engaging, and flat-out fun. Especially for Indiana Jones fans (nerds ).
I really felt this is one game that did the controls right and it made me wonder why Dragon Quest Swords couldn't have been more in-line with what they did with Indiana. If you are a fan of Indiana Jones I'd say it's very, very worth a rental. I enjoyed playing through it more than last year's LEGO title, and I enjoyed that one .



Stuffgamer1 said:

@cyrus_zuo: Wow, I almost never hear a review that glowing over a game that is generally despised! Only other one I can think of right off-hand is Hardcore Gamer Magazine's 9/10 for Sonic Unleashed (I bought the game based on that review, and I mostly agree..maybe give it an eight, personally). I think it's really important for people with experiences like yours to speak out, so thanks a lot for sharing!



D00M said:

Wouldn't it be great if all Wii & DS games came with a option NOT to wave your arms around like a loon and scratch the sh$t out of yr lovely DS screen? I love Indiana Jones and would of bought a version but I really dont want to use the wiimote like a whip and so on, I want to kick back and play games like this, thats why I bought the cube version of Twilight Princess.
There are plenty of games which give you the option to use a classic controller. kudos to those companys that do so.




Personally I think one SHOULD have a game on a system like the Wii where you have gesture with your remote like a whip. What's the point in having a Wii then? Get a PS3 or Xbox and play a indy game on there then if you want an old style, diddy "joypad" experience. To be fair, they should have a GC controller option as well.

This game was just had badly developed wii controls



Gabbo said:

There's still a lot of holes in our coverage, and more games are released every day. In this case, I'm kind of cheap and noticed a couple weeks ago that there had been a price drop on this one so I picked it up on a whim.

I actually asked myself how I would have reacted if this game had been released as Fate of Atlantis with Staff of Kings as the unlockable bonus content.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@LEGEND MARIOID: Y'know, there ISN'T an Indy game on PS3 and 360, because that version was cancelled. Not unless you count Lego Indy, which isn't what we're talking about here, far as I can tell. Now, you can get Staff of Kings on PS2, but that version doesn't have Fate of Atlanis in it, so screw that!

I don't think anybody's suggesting that the motion controls shouldn't have been an option at all, just that they would have preferred Classic/Gamecube controller support as well. Pretty much your sentiments, from the look of it, and mine, too. Shouldn't have been too hard to throw the PS2 version's controls into the game, I would think. To be fair, I have no idea how hard it would REALLY be. I don't claim to know anything about programming.



cyrus_zuo said:

Glad that someone liked my positive thoughts. I don't know what I'd score it as (out of 10) it's one of those games that I just really enjoyed. While playing my son turned to me and said (this is awesome!) and my wife, who rarely spends more than a couple of seconds watching games, said that she thought it was really pretty. (that means she liked the graphics) I thought the graphics were good myself, but perhaps my SD TV is better for this type of game?
I've had a GameFly account for 2 years now, getting a new Wii game every couple of weeks. I can't say what is the best and what is not, but I enjoyed this game. My complaint is just that it was short, you could play through the single-player mode in a weekend. However, I'd rather have something 7 hours long that is fun than 20 hours long that should have been much shorter!
I played Ghostbusters the next week and wasn't really impressed (it's fairly repetitive in environments and gets fairly tedious with rather uneven difficulty). Currently I'm enjoying Little King's Story, which is another fantastic Marvelous game (Rune Factory Frontier is tied with WiiSports Resort for my favorite Wii games this year).



Kadaj said:

I thoroughly enjoyed this game!

I don't understand why people had a problem with the controls...I found them responsive and fluid, and I really got into the action. The game was just plain fun.



Superman said:

This games can't be much worse than those Indiana Jones movies. Pure garbage, that's what Indiana Jones is (that and Star Wars).



brooks83 said:

I'll admit it. I bought this game just to play Fate of Atlantis, and I wasn't dissapointed



evilcorgi said:

this game is like a other dimention of the rather recient Homefront game for Xbox 360. Graphics took the back seat, huge potentiol wasted, and broken controls. Rent this game, and like the american rebbels, hope for a better future.



melechofsin said:

This is a fantastic 3D platformer which has intense variety of gameplay. The motion controls work great. There is one or two broken scenes here, where they used the motion too much, but for 90% of the time, they worked really well. The graphics are great, outstanding story, and there are tons of bonuses, co-op, and of course "The Fate of Atlantis". It's really an awesome package put together.

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