Saturday, September 12, 2009

Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings

Whee! Last night I finally finished the latest Indy game "Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings" on the Wii. Wow, that took far longer than expected and was overall a mixed experience. The game was released on four different platforms (Wii, PS2, PSP, NDS) with different gameplays. The special stuff about the Wii version is of course the motion control. For the first time the player was suppose to really "whip" through an adventure. Well, at least that was the idea.

I guess by now (I got the game rather late and it took me quite some time to beat it) most Indy fans will know that the game was not as good as we all had hoped for. Just listening to the weekly Staff of Kings bashing on the IndyCast should have been enough of a clue. But it the end my thoughts about the game seem to be different than what most players thought.
  • The controls for this game suck. Most of the time the game is still playable but when things get hairy you will hate the wiimote & nunchak controls.
  • I read (and heard) that a lot of the players disliked the graphics. Yes, Indy did not look a lot like Harrison Ford, but I read years ago that they lost the rights to use his face. Which is why in the games Indy looks like Indy but not like Mr. Ford anymore. Other than that the other characters and the areas looked quite good to me.
  • I did hate the camera view though. Far too often it did not show what I wanted to see (which may not have been what the game wants me to see). Even controlling the camera by hand with the wiimote often did not solve the problem. Some angles simply could not be reached.
  • The music score seems to be quite popular. But not to me. Hearing countless melodies from the films is a nice touch but I started to wonder how many more locations should have a Raiders map room sound feeling. Are good music pieces in the style of the film score too much to ask for? I read that there is new music in this game but I simply can't remember hearing any during the game play.
  • I have a simple rule of thumb that will tell me if a game was rushed. If the levels get shorter and shorter, you can bet the developers ran out of time. Now go back in time and tell me the last Indy game that had long levels (or parts) at the end.
  • Funny enough, the same rule can be applied to the polishing of the game, usually guaranteed by a quality testing team. If there is a noticeable rise in the number of tiny bugs (little graphic errors and such) you encounter from level to level. Staff of Kings is again a classic example.
  • But all of this might still make a playable game if the game play would make sense. A good game has balance in game play. It actually "trains" the player while he plays through the story to prepare him for the level (or game) end bosses. This game does train you in fistfight, shooting and puzzling (this includes climbing etc.) - but for sure you will not need much of this in the last level. There you will rather fight the stupid controls of a crane and hold the wiimote and nunchak in a weird way to simulate driving a bike.
I am disappointed, like all the other players. I do not believe that some more time and polish could have saved this game. In the world of 3D action adventure games Indy still has not found a fitting game play style.

Here are some additional game infos that I could not find in the available walk-throughs:
  • Problems with the QTE when Suzie has to walk over the whip. Hold the wiimote straight up to begin with. When the QTE asks for up, point the tip of the wiimote towards yourself.
  • Solving the crane game. Oh what fun this was (not really). For this the wiimote must again be held straight up. To move the crane make very tiny moves in left-right-front or back direction. This of the wiimote as a very sensitive control stick for the crane. Never mix a left-right move with an up-down move. Always do those one after another. Always make clear single moves. When moving the crane to the other side always do the left-right move first and the up-down move second. The piano does swing much higher on the up-down moves and it is easier to hit the soldiers this way. And again: Make very tiny moves and the game is suddenly a lot easier to beat.
  • Clearing large amounts of enemies in fist fights. All but one (if I remember correctly) fights can be easily won if you can perform one simple move. The grapple (with the Z key), turn and push. While you grapple an opponent the others will not attack (they will once you start hitting the grappled guy). The grapple does not do much damage (it is actually a tool to clear a path trough enemies as the in game help keeps telling us). Now if you use the grapple, turn to any open window or abyss that's near you and push the enemy - instant kill. Using this simple strategy even the "hard" fights like the one in the zeppelin (yeah, open window) get rather easy. The only enemies left to fight are the brutes then.