Can You Dig It?
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings is best described as a light version of Tomb Raider. It features action/adventure, platforming, RPG, puzzle solving, combat, and exploration through a series of bite-sized levels. It’s not very complex, nor is it deep. It’s similar in nature to the movie franchise in that it attempts to be more fun than serious. Unfortunately, the PSP version is not polished, and it comes off as a better-than-average adventure game instead of the blockbuster that it could be.
In this game, the artifact in question is Moses’ staff. Likened to the Arc in the original movie, this Staff of Kings holds incredible powers and is very sought after, especially by Jones’s main adversary, Magnus Völler. Locations are worldwide, as we follow the exploits of our legendary archaeologist from San Francisco to Europe to the jungles of South America. Combat involves punching, combos, whip wielding, gunplay, and the use of other interactive objects that can be used as weapons, in addition to environmental puzzles that can help you foil the enemy. The levels are small but plentiful. There are some frustrating elements to the gameplay. It becomes repetitive quickly, glitches are apparent, and, overall, the game is over all too quickly.
Following the traditional action game formula, you will guide Indy through enemies and obstacles while defending yourself in an attempt to complete your objective. Whether you’re navigating city streets, caves, catacombs, or jungles, the environments are essentially mazes. Once you locate the treasures or complete your challenge, it’s time to get the hell out of there. There is a time limit that adds some extra pressure. You’ll have ten minutes to complete your mission and get out of the level. In some instances, you’ll receive points for completing the level under six minutes. Other sources of points include collecting all of the treasures and perform mini-challenges such as eliminating all enemies or rescuing a dame from a building warehouse.
Points can be used to purchase items such as accessories and movie images, but you can also use them to upgrade Indy’s abilities in RPG fashion. Don’t expect a lot of depth in these upgrades, but they really do make a difference in the overall gameplay. You can make Indy more accurate, more powerful, and less prone to injury. Levels can be replayed to gain more points, ultimately making the game easier to play. It’s not really necessary, since it’s not a very difficult game to begin with; not to mention it’s quite short. Even though replaying these levels will add some value to the game, it can take the challenge out of the levels that you have yet to confront. Not to worry, because you can always increase the difficulty and even the playfield.
Puzzle elements become more difficult in subsequent levels, but the enemies just increase in number and strength; they are not necessarily more engaging or intelligent. To keep things interesting, the combat system adds new interactive weapons and combos. It’s not what you would call an evolving system, as it just introduces new elements. You’ll have some basic moves such as punches that can turn into headbutts combos. The whip is a staple of the Indy series and can be used in traditional hack-and-slash style but with more finesse. You can use it in puzzle situations such as pulling the legs out from under a platform, causing it to collapse on your enemy, or lashing at a chandelier to have it crash down on a horde of baddies. There’s a pistol, but it’s more fun to use it as a catalyst for environmental destruction rather than the “bringing-a-sword-to-a-gunfight,” kind of mentality. It’s more fun to use these weapons differently, but the game will give you strong hints as to what weapon to use and how to use it. A shield is also part of your arsenal and can be used to provide protection, or as an assault weapon by using a swipe move. Interactive environmental objects such as candle holders, bottles, and chairs can also be used as weapons.
Glitches appear like ants at a picnic, and they are every bit as annoying. The character will sometimes get stuck in the scenery, causing you to take unnecessary hits. The auto-lock targeting system might seem like a good thing but at times it’s almost impossible to get unlocked from a target, especially when that target is an enemy engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
Enemies will swarm you in seemingly endless waves, and if you can’t get yourself free, you’ll take a lot of punishment. At times, the camera will also lock onto certain objects and not afford you the best look of the environment. This is often the case when the camera should widen out but stays too close to the immediate action, not allowing you to see the enemies attacking from behind and beside you.
Amidst some of the more exciting aspects of the game there are some redundant and just plain annoying elements. Fighting the same hordes of enemies gets tiring after a while. The boss battles are something to look forward too, as here you’ll get to use your weapons in more interesting ways. There is an annoying balancing task that requires you to tap both the right and left shoulder button alternately to maintain your character’s balance while navigating obstacles on a beam or ledge. It quickly becomes apparent that this is a default, make-work scenario developed to bridge the more interesting content such as running from a giant boulder, shooting at moving motorcycles, and shooting from a moving streetcar.
The Staff of Kings is a good-looking game. It’s got colorful visuals with a great blend of 2D and 3D graphics that always maintain convincing spatial depth. Environments are impressive, and although they aren’t entirely interactive, you still get to cop a good feel of the more immediate items. The cutscenes are well produced and manage to convey the ham-fisted storyline. The music is epic, but the voiceovers lack authority. Indy is not voiced by Ford and the lack of charm is obvious. The sound effects are movie quality, but like many of the gameplay elements, you can expect a lot of repetition.
Due to the relative lack of replay value, the Staff of Kings will make a good rental, but it’s not ready for a serious commitment.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Solid, good-looking graphics with depth, color, and smooth animation. 3.3 Control
Lots of interesting moves, but the lock-on system is buggy. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Epic music and sound effects. Not great voice acting. 3.5 Play Value
Lot of gameplay variety, but the game is short and repetitious. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.