After Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, fans haven’t exactly been clamoring for more Indiana Jones. But if Skull was the final nail in the franchise’s coffin, consider Indiana Jones And The Staff Of Kings the cremation. Set in 1939 (a year after Last Crusade), Staff’s hinted-at plot puts Indy on a globetrotting quest to unearth the titular artifact before, yes, those pesky Nazis. Players encounter action sequences that simultaneously feel faithful to the series yet uninspired, like a tedious shootout in San Francisco’s Chinatown, in a fireworks factory where nothing explodes. Perhaps nobody expected Staff Of Kings to be an Oscar-worthy tale, but the game is marred by its inexcusable “controls,” which lean heavily on the Wii’s motion-sensing capabilities without making them even passably responsive.
This is especially baffling considering the game’s lengthy tutorial, which, as you get deeper into the adventure, proves wildly incomplete. For instance, after dragging you through a hand-holding of the controls, Staff Of Kings is content to change them erratically and shove you into a biplane—a sequence preceded only by a flowchart-looking image where it’s unclear whether the Wii-mote is being held backward. This uneven coyness repeats throughout.
That aggravation carries over into combat, where battlefields are minefields of context-sensitive icons telegraphing what items are weapons or what obstacles can come tumbling down on your enemies. But this is neither strategic nor satisfying, and so slapstick-like that it wouldn’t be surprising if the Three Stooges emerged to douse you with seltzer water. One of the game’s few redeeming elements comes from enemies’ occasional unwillingness to wait their turn to attack: They will smash a bottle over your head while you’re grappling with one of their comrades—that is, if they don’t get stuck behind a suit of armor or some other simple obstacle they’re too stupid to get around. Knowledge certainly isn’t anyone’s treasure here.
Beyond the game: There’s a handful of boring unlockables (big-head mode and trailers), and two-player and four-player modes that are only fun because they allow for co-op mocking.
Worth playing for: The Wii version’s inclusion of the classic 1992 Indy point-and-click adventure, Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis—a nearly two-decades-old game that surpasses Staff Of Kings in everything but the latter’s GameCube-like graphics.
Frustration sets in when: You’re repeatedly forced to sit through unskippable cutscenes and tutorials after dying from Staff Of Kings’ defiant ignorance of gaming logic.
Final judgment: The whip takes a swing and a miss.