I’ve Got a Bad Feeling about This
When I was a kid, Indiana Jones was my hero. Not only was he a kickin’ action hero, but he was also smart. This combination of brains and brawn made Dr. Jones one of the most intriguing characters of cinema, and the three original films that followed his adventures and exploits are modern classics.
However, even though Indiana Jones has become a legend on-screen, He hasn’t really made an impact in the world of video gaming, and I’m sorry to say that Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings on the DS doesn’t really do much to reverse this trend. The game takes place in 1939, when Indy is still in his prime (and not seeing aliens). His longtime friend Archie is suddenly kidnapped, and it is soon discovered that a mysterious group of evildoers is seeking out the Staff of Moses (also known as the Staff of Kings). Indiana must then go on an adventure to not only track down this legendary artifact but also rescue his friends.
The format of the game is very linear, and you follow Indy through several small locations. The levels are goal-directed, so as you progress you will be prompted to find chests, open doors, and solve puzzles. However, one thing I noticed early on was the way in which you reach these goals is very specific and not always clearly defined.
For instance, for one segment of the game, my goal was to find a door to a Chinese restaurant. I found this door fairly simply, and I expected to pass through it straight away and then move on to the next goal. However, much to my surprise, the game blocked me from going through the door, and it even paralyzed the character from moving forward. I then backtracked and tried to approach the door again, but this time instead of approaching from the right, I approached from the center. This triggered an enemy appearance, and after the enemy was defeated, I was then able to go through the door.
Although this may seem like a minor grievance, situations like this one defined the gameplay, and I found myself severely annoyed that I had to figure out both how to reach the game’s outlined goals, but also what the game wanted me to do specifically to reach them as well.
Even though the game’s very rigid structure was irritating, one thing that just flat out didn’t work was the combat system. The game uses the stylus for all the controls, and in order to fight the different enemies, you have to enter combat mode by pressing the L button. Once in combat mode, you can strike enemies by moving up and down with the stylus, you can use the whip by pointing with the stylus, and can use a gun by tapping the gun icon and then tapping your enemies.
Although this sounds good in theory, the stylus-based controls are just not that responsive. Tapping up and down to use the whip only worked about half the time, and the striking mechanism did not allow you to really aim or plan your shots, which resulted in a lot of missed and blocked hits. The only combat element that worked decently was the shooting, but the game doesn’t allow you to carry more than one clip of bullets with you, so I had to rely a lot more on the broken elements of the game than I wanted to.
In addition to the combat facets of the game, there are also puzzle elements too. The puzzles in the game take the shape of a water puzzle where your main task will be to get a droplet of water from one end of a maze to the other by pressing switches, avoiding traps, and breaking doors. The puzzle mode is actually pretty interesting, as you don’t directly control the bead of water. Instead, you have to tilt the maze itself in order to control the action on-screen. You can also play with a friend with a DS in special two-player puzzles that you can unlock.
As far as production value is concerned, this game just doesn’t look like it was produced with the attention the franchise deserves. The visuals are very basic, and the look of the game is reminiscent of launch titles for the DS. The character models are very blocky, and they don’t include large details like facial features. The animations are also very jagged. The game does have plot scenes, but instead of being nicely animated, the plot points are delivered slide-show style, which honestly makes the game feel boring. Truly, the game’s visuals look like an early Nintendo 64 game, and it has to be one of the poorest-looking titles on the DS that I have seen this year.
Sound is also very underwhelming in this title. Background music is ok, but the already boring slide show plot scenes are absent of any voiceover, which just reduces them to the level of a power point presentation. Although I wasn’t expecting amazing things from the sound scheme, it is just one more facet of this title that contributes to the poor overall package.
Although the Indiana Jones franchise is loved by millions, including myself, there isn’t much to love about the DS version of Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings. I was really hoping that this title would be good, as Indiana Jones is a naturally action-packed franchise, and it seemed to be a perfect launching pad for a new series of current-gen titles. But, poor production values, a boring story, and rigid gameplay make this an adventure best left alone. If there is ever a sequel on the DS, it will need a lot of polish before cracking its whip again.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.1 Graphics
Character models and environments lack detail, animations are not fluid, and the overall design feels bland. 2.5 Control
Running and jumping is easy enough, but combat controls are barely responsive and hard to deal with. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Level music is inoffensive, but the lack of voiceover is regrettable. 2.2
The game is a little too linear for any replay value, and the puzzles have singular solutions which makes them too repetitive.
2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.