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Indiana Jones's cinematic exploits have played a huge role in shaping adventure video games down the years. Without him, where would Lara Croft have found the inspiration for all her tomb raiding? More recently, witnessing Nathan Drake fling himself through lost cities, springing traps and collecting priceless artefacts in Uncharted, it's easy to see the similarity in themes. Indy's own forays into the gaming world have had their highs and lows, but there's always the hope that when a new title is announced, his whip-cracking, boulder-dodging antics can lead LucasArts to another success. Unfortunately, The Staff Of Kings is not that game.
The PSP version of The Staff Of Kings takes the guise of a third-person action/adventure, with the initial lure being a new storyline devised specifically for the game. It's set just prior to the outbreak of World War II and sees Indy seeking the Staff Of Moses, accompanied by Irish journalist Maggie and chased by an ample supply of goose-stepping Nazis. John Armstrong voices the explorer in place of Harrison Ford but sounds spookily like him; executing a host of sarcastic barbs and quips with complete aplomb. The short 'n' sharp levels unfortunately leave the storyline feeling a little constricted, which is a shame as there's certainly potential for a more involved narrative.
Levels tend to last anywhere between two and ten minutes each and offer a varied, if rather simplistic, playing experience. Typically, the action sees Indy beating up Nazis, dodging boulders, flicking switches and solving puzzles in some of the infrequent, cerebral moments as well as the odd quick time event and escape mission. Sadly, tasks are mostly dished out one-per-level, meaning different facets of play rarely overlap to give the game a feeling of depth. Thus certain individual levels can have the feel of an extravagant mini-game. But whilst the gameplay is too basic to be truly diverting, there are lots of neat levels.
The pick of the bunch include Indiana escaping from a burning building; he has to navigate perilous beams whilst shooting out windows to let in air, to buy valuable seconds. Elsewhere, there's an impressively staged chase on the back of an elephant with Nazis in hot pursuit, though what it equates to is a rather dull set of "press the button when prompted" quick-time events. The puzzle element is grossly under-used but one instance, which sees you swinging a giant pendulum into a sequence of numbers, is nicely realised. Too many of the levels rely on fights to drag them out and they start to get samey very quickly, so the occasional team-up exercise with Maggie proves a welcome distraction.
The camera does the PSP version no favours, proving cumbersome and erratic in its attempts to stay behind the action, it often boxes itself into corners leaving the main protagonist unsighted. Combat is acceptable with a basic range of combos, whip attacks and (in what is likely a reference to the humorous scene in Raiders Of The Lost Ark) a revolver which instant-kills pretty much every goon there is. It's troubled by slightly sluggish response times, and Indiana feels exposed in the tougher boss battles, but there's a credible level of interaction; including the ability to throw enemies through windows or bring down chandeliers on top of them using the whip.
The Staff Of Kings is an attractive game, despite its problems. The presentation and mission briefings look low-fi and crude, but otherwise the in-game environments, which range from the moody night-time settings of San Francisco's Chinatown; to Istanbul and Nepal with their impressive, imposing temples and ancient architectures, really look the part. It's pretty nicely animated too as Indy in particular moves convincingly and sports some little signature mannerisms, most notably the shifting his hat. Musically, it makes predictable but welcome use of the timeless cinematic theme tune for the title screen backing but in-game, it's disappointing. Much like EA's Harry Potter tie-ins, the soundtrack is thematically familiar and yet strangely bland and incidental, rarely engaging with occurrences taking place in the game itself.
The reward system shows positive endeavour though and also encourages the replaying of levels. Rewards come in the guise of "Fortune" and "Glory; these are accrued by finishing levels quickly, achieving a certain amount of environmental kills, losing little health or finding hidden artefacts. They translate into either enhanced attributes (usually increased power for Indy's various combat moves) or extras such as cheats and concept art. A trio of difficulty settings helps give the game a little more bulk, though even with around 35 levels, it's easy to plough through most of it in a just few hours.
Indy has seen better days, but he's had worse ones too. Developer Amaze Entertainment deserves credit for quality visuals and a level of variety that belies the restrictions on time and finances that blighted the Staff Of Kings' development. Nevertheless, the combat and general platforming feels run-of-the-mill, and may have benefited from the various gameplay elements being combined to form a more cohesive package. As it is, the one-after-the-other nature of levels and their simple tasks leaves the game feeling like less than the sum of its parts, and it ultimately doesn't feel anywhere near as cool or exciting as it should have given the licence in question. One to try only it if it's cheap and you're a fan.
Step into the shoes of the legendary hero, Indiana Jones, in an all new epic adventure! Set in the year 1939, Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings follows the rogue archaeologist on an all-new globe-trotting quest From San Francisco's Chinatown to the lush jungles of Panama, Indy must use his whip, fists and wits to fight through ruthless opposition as he spars with his nemesis, Magnus Völler, in a race for a relic of biblical proportions the Staff of Moses Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings features completely interactive environments, where players need to call upon their wits and daring to make each spring-loaded environment a weapon in order to dispense of foes in clever and unexpected ways. Also, embark upon thrilling action sequences that remain true to the spirit established in scenes such as Indy's pursuit of the motorcade in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the mine-cart scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and the free-for-all aboard the tank in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.