Indiana Jones, you'd think, is perfect video game material. Sure, when he first started waving his whip around, game technology would have struggled to fully realise the potential on offer. Since then, however, you could successfully argue (without much difficulty) that the Tomb Raider franchise is almost a direct ripoff of Indy. It seems reasonable to assume that a new Indy game would borrow heavily from Lara's pretender throne to create an Indy-themed Tomb Raider-like game with whips in it.
It seems, however, that this is not what LucasArts have attempted with the Staff of Kings - the latest (and first in a while, for that matter) in the Indiana Jones stable of games. Exactly what they've attempted is unclear; that there are elements of Tomb Raider-esque adventuring is relatively obvious, but they're quite linear and awkward.
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings, as it turns out, is sub-optimal.
First up is the visual presentation. The graphics are mostly ok-ish, given the limited capability of the platform. Some of the sequences are even good-ish with some quite nice lighting used occasionally to good effect. Unfortunately, the adequate graphics are let down (in no unsubstantial way) by the awkward, stilted animation. Everyone's childhood hero Indy becomes 'Generic Poorly Animated Dude' when these animators get their hands on him - his trademark actions and stances become inexpert parodies which are difficult to watch and quite unlike the original. Also physically he doesn't look quite right either - he's too short, too small, his shoulders aren't wide enough, etc...there are plenty of references to draw from / copy, surely?
Next is the sound - it's basic. There are limited samples, and they're typically played inappropriately (like the dead guy saying "I've found him!" or Indy grunting like he's just dropped 20 feet when he stumbles over a pebble) and there are plenty of examples where they play over and over like a stuck CD in a seedy secondhand store.
Gameplay suffers from the "jack of all trades, master of none" scenario. There are so many types of gameplay on offer here: from the extensively wiimote-controlled combat to the Lara-ish platform stuff, to the flying around in caverns shooting things in a plane to the (admittedly kinda ok-ish) lightgun sequences. If they'd tried to be a little less ambitious and spent time on fixing up fewer of these modes, it could have been ok - there's little hints at fun gameplay from time to time. But they didn't, so it isn't.
Combat is stilted and awkward, with an awful lot of thrashing about of the wiimote. Most of the time your best bet is to simply wait until the enemies are about to attack and perform your dodge move, after which Indy auto-attacks (an attack which never misses). Targeting exactly who you want to is clumsy, typically resulting in lots of running around trying to draw the enemies into a predictable position so you can hit them as you intend to.
The camera is frustratingly bad, often hiding behind things or preventing you from positioning it (via the d-pad) where you can see what's going on. Typically it flubs your ability to see what's going on in combat, resulting in plenty of sequences where you can't see enemies until they're right on you.
Levels are poorly designed, being entirely linear and yet sometimes hard to figure out where you're going, due to lack of clues and tiny areas which trigger the informational display you need to figure out what to do.
You'll frequently fall from places you were trying to hang off the side of, or find yourself pressed up against a cliff when you were trying to drop down and hang from the ledge beyond it. The bits where you can use your whip to get across chasms (etc) are awkward and stilted to use - occasionally these automated, almost quicktime events will throw you off the cliff into the sea when the exact same method next time around gets you across okay.
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings is all the more frustrating because there are tiny, oh-so-brief sprinklings of entertainment to be had - they're just padded wall to wall with frustrating gameplay and below average presentation. It's not pretty, rarely fun and it feels like a rushed attempt to cash in on the license. If you like Indy and you like cutting yourself, this could be just the ticket - otherwise, save your money.