Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings Review

Entertaining combat and quirky puzzles save this game from belonging in a museum.

Even with input from George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and the original John Williams film score interwoven throughout, Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings for the Nintendo DS doesn’t feel much like a real Indy game experience. The gameplay is awkward in places, its relationship to the story is uneven, and the puzzle elements are far from challenging. But this is an action game after all, and in that department the game redeems itself with a series of enjoyable combat sequences that combine intuitive controls with a reward-based system that has Indy performing some classic moves. But while Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings performs well given the limitations of the platform, players will still have to look very hard to find the true Indy spirit in what could very well be just another DS action title.

The top-down camera doesn't always afford you a good view of your surroundings.

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings is set in 1939, a year after the events of the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The new pesky arch-nemesis is Magnus Voller, a former school friend of Indy’s who is now working for the Nazis. After Indy’s old friend and mentor Charles Kingston is kidnapped, Indy must set off around the world to find the elusive staff of Moses before Voller can get to it. The DS version of the game will see Indy visit San Francisco’s Chinatown, the jungles of Panama, the catacombs beneath Paris, a temple in Nepal, and a zeppelin named The Odin. For the most part, the story is fits well into the Indy universe, insofar as it features exotic locations, treasures, and Nazis. However, four to five hours of gameplay doesn’t leave a lot of room for story development, which results in a very rough transition between these two aspects. There are certain places in the game where you’ll be interrupted from play very suddenly to make way for story development; this is jarring, and it feels like you should be actually playing through these parts rather than watching them unfold in cut scenes. In one such memorable interruption, one of Indy’s particularly grueling fistfights is cut short by cut scenes that show him defeating his opponents, planting a detonator, and escaping to watch the ensuing destruction, while you’re left twiddling your thumbs.

Most of the game uses stylus-based navigation and combat. Players will also use the stylus to navigate by simply touching an area of the bottom screen where they wish Indy to go, and will be able to interact with objects the same way--grabbing onto ledges, climbing up and down ladders and moving objects will work this way. The navigation problems begin with the game’s top-down perspective, which doesn’t always accommodate for a lot of things happening on-screen at the same time. While it’s always clear where Indy is, it’s often difficult to make out where enemies are or what is coming up. This is particularly bad when Indy is exploring big, open environments (like the Panama jungle, or the Parisian catacombs)--the camera does not pull back to accommodate for any space outside Indy’s immediate surroundings. This happens even during combat sequences where the position of enemies is crucial, and players may often find themselves attacked from behind from off screen enemies, which is a frustrating thing to experience over and over again.

The game’s puzzle element differs from its console counterparts with the Cipher Mode, which involves moving a bead of water around a labyrinth to an exit in a set amount of time while clearing an increasing amount of obstacles. Cipher puzzles appear throughout the game, usually at the end of a chapter when Indy has found the treasure or clue he is looking for. These puzzles become increasingly harder as the game progresses, as the labyrinths become more intricate and include more obstacles, but do not offer much of a challenge--the only fun part is navigating through the obstacles with the DS controls, which will see players directing their water bead with the stylus, tapping stone obstacles to break them, and occasionally blowing into the DS microphone to clear sand obstacles and temporarily extinguish burning obstacles. While the cipher puzzles look daunting to begin with, they're easy to figure out after a few attempts, and by the end of the game you might wonder why the time limits for them are so generous.

The redeeming factor is the game’s action sequences. The control scheme is intuitive and satisfying to perform--the stylus-based combat allows players to perform uppercuts, stomach jabs and low punches by sliding the stylus upwards for high punches, horizontally for middle punches and downwards for low punches. But the best thing about the DS combat system is the Indy Move, a rewards-based power-up that lets players finish attacks in a spectacular fashion. Indy’s performance during combat is measured via a meter; when the meter burns, players can activate the Indy Move by tapping the meter with the stylus. This will cause Indy to get creative with his fists or whip, taking down up to three enemies at the same time in a variety of creative ways--tackling them to the ground and punching them until they’re out cold, ambushing them from behind, reeling them in with his whip and then kicking them in the stomach, and so on. The Indy Move is effective at defeating big groups of enemies in the game, particularly when Indy is running low on health and there are no health packs lying around. Players will also pick up a gun along the way, but this has limited ammo, and further ammo supplies are always hard to come by.

Combat sequences are fun and surprisingly varied.

Staff of Kings also lets you interact with the environment during brawls. Certain "weapons of opportunity" will present themselves to Indy when he is in a fight; these items will glow blue or green and can be used as weapons by tapping on them with the stylus. Once picked up, the objects (which include chairs, tables, bottles, shovels, and pipes) will usually inflict full damage upon enemies and deplete their whole health bar within two hits.

The graphics are impressive, with environments that show off plenty of detail, especially in the latter half of the game when Indy's travels take him aboard a zeppelin and through a number of well-furnished and impressive-looking rooms full of Nazi memorabilia. However, besides the weapons of opportunity and a few bookcases concealing hidden passages, there's not much to interact with. There are also a few glitches that crop up when Indy succeeds in walking somewhere he's not supposed to, such as walls disappearing if you get too close to them or the camera flipping over and obscuring Indy completely from view. This is obviously problematic for gameplay, but thankfully it doesn't happen too often and can easily be righted by moving Indy back into the centre of the screen. The audio is functional, complete with grunts, whip cracks, and occasional samples of John Williams' film score.

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings for the DS has its fun moments--particularly the combat--but the story falls flat and the gameplay is sometimes problematic. But this is not enough to drag the game down completely. The cipher puzzles, although not particularly challenging, are creative and make good use of the DS's capabilities. The action is ample without being tedious and for the most part it manages to carry the game through its minor troubles to a whip-cracking finale.

The redeeming factor is the game's action sequences. The control scheme is intuitive and in combat it's possible to perform uppercuts, body punches, and low blows simply by sliding the stylus in different directions. But the best thing about the DS combat system is the Indy Move, which is a rewards-based power-up that lets you finish attacks in a spectacular fashion. Indy's performance during combat is measured with a meter; when the meter burns, you can activate the Indy Move by tapping the meter with the stylus. This will cause Indy to get creative with his fists or whip, taking down up to three enemies at the same time in a variety of creative ways, such as rolling them on the ground and punching them until they're out cold, ambushing them from behind, and reeling them in with his whip and then kicking them in the stomach. The Indy Move is effective at defeating big groups of enemies in the game, particularly when Indy is running low on health and there are no health packs lying around. You will also pick up a gun along the way, but this has limited ammo, and further ammo supplies are hard to come by.

The game also lets you interact with the environment during brawls. Certain "weapons of opportunity" will present themselves to Indy when he is in a fight; these items will glow blue or green and can be used as weapons by tapping on them with the stylus. Once picked up, the objects (which include chairs, tables, bottles, shovels, and pipes) will usually inflict full damage upon enemies and deplete their whole health bar within two hits.

The game's graphics are impressive. The environments show off plenty of detail and polish, especially in the latter half of the game when Indy's travels take him aboard a zeppelin and through a number of well-furnished and impressive-looking rooms full of Nazi memorabilia. However, besides the weapons of opportunity and a few bookcases concealing hidden passages, there's not much to interact with. There are also a few glitches to be mindful of, should Indy succeed in walking somewhere he's not supposed to, such as walls disappearing if you get too close to them or the camera flipping over and obscuring Indy completely from view. This is obviously problematic for gameplay, but thankfully it doesn't happen too often and can easily be righted by moving Indy back into the centre of the screen. The game's sounds are functional, complete with grunts, whip cracks, and occasional pieces of John Williams' film score.

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings for the DS has its fun moments--particularly the combat--but the story falls flat and the gameplay is sometimes problematic. But this is not enough to drag the game down. The cipher puzzles, although not particularly challenging, are creative and make good use of the DS's capabilities. The action is ample without being tedious and manages to carry the game through its minor troubles to a whip-cracking finale.

The Good
Intuitive controls
Entertaining combat
Creative puzzles
Good-looking environments
The Bad
Over too quickly
Rough transition between story and gameplay
Sometimes glitchy graphics
6
Fair
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Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings More Info

  • First Released
    • DS
    • PlayStation 2
    • + 2 more
    • PSP
    • Wii
    Step into the shoes of Indiana Jones in an all new adventure set in 1939.
    6.8
    Average User RatingOut of 526 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
    LucasArts, Amaze, Artificial Mind and Movement
    Published by:
    Activision, LucasArts
    Genres:
    Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
    Teen
    All Platforms
    Violence