I don't understand why it's so hard to make a great Indiana Jones game. The movies have ranged from very good to classic, and they're perfectly suited to be video game-ized - all the ingredients for fun, bang, boom.
But Indiana games have largely left us wanting. And speaking of being left wanting, there is this new Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings.
Staff of Kings begins like the film Raiders of the Lost Ark began, with Indy questing his way through a side adventure meant to raise your adrenaline. Playing as Indy, you wend through caves, set spiders on fire (yuck), steal a golden idol, deal with gun-toting Nazis and make your escape by plane.
"That was close," Indy says, but he sounds weird, since the character here is not voiced by Harrison Ford.
After that entertaining start, the plot thickens and congeals. You (the violent archeologist) are determined to find Moses' walking staff. You must also save a young woman from the clutches of some nasty little man who shoots bullets at you a lot.
Along the way - from Chinatown to Istanbul and beyond - you beat up hordes of villainous henchmen. You shoot at some. You snap your whip around their feet, yank them toward you, then punch them to death.
All of this sounds just dandy. But there are two problems.
A) I reviewed Staff of Kings on the Wii (it's also available for PSP, PS 2 and DS). The Wii's interactive wands aren't always responsive. At one point, I was merely walking across a balcony when my Indy started throwing ghost punches. (A software error?) At other times, I tried to throw a punch but the game didn't register it.
B) Indy's journey here is arcade-esque. Unlike most games now, you don't get to explore your environs. You move along a preordained track. You must walk through this door, shimmy up that wall and punch these six fellows to death, fly this plane clumsily through a canyon, and so forth.
You can't even decide to shoot some villains and punch others. The game tells you in which scenes you can fire your revolver, and in which scenes you must right-hook someone to death. Here's a news flash: We gamers are are accustomed to being allowed to pick between guns and fists at our whim.
So while this is a better-than-decent Wii game, it doesn't give you many choices to make on your own, and that makes Staff of Kings feel like an artifact of games of yore.