Much like the Star Wars franchise the Indiana Jones games have a long history of being mostly awful. The Last Crusade was near unplayable, and while Indiana Jones and the fate of Atlantis showed itself to be a great game the franchise then fell back to its old ways with The Infernal Machine being more a case of the infernal camera and controls. So when Indianna Jones swung onto the Xbox we didn’t have the highest of hopes.
Taking you through a variety of different locations around such as Hong Kong and Istanbul, you are made to feel at home straight away. Everything is presented excellently. Between locations you get the red line moving from dot to dot on a world map just like in the films. Even the control manual is presented like Indiana’s personal journal, everything hand written and rough looking. An excellent touch and one that shows a lot of thought has gone into the game, on a superficial level at least.
Graphically the game is good for its time. Every character looks solid and moves smoothly. Each environment looks sufficiently different from the last to make you keep trekking through in search of lost treasure. Surprisingly there is a lot of variety in location, not as expected every level being set in a Tomb. You get Amazon forests, Gothic castles, Chinese fortresses, Hong Kong night clubs and of course the odd tomb. All splendidly displayed as huge interactive environments to explore.
Another great feature is the sound. Or it is when it works properly. The sound does have a tendency to become very jumpy. Also it means the Xbox goes crazy trying to sort it out leading to possible scratching on the game disk. However, when the sound decides to behave it adds so much to the game. It’s just like watching one of the films with the score in the background.
Luckily the game play lives up to the quality of the presentation. Running on the same fight engine used for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it allows Indi to attack people in all directions with a large variety of weapons and combat moves. Apart from the fighting aspect of the game there is a heavy dependence on simple lever puzzles and jumping from platform to platform. Most of this is easy to achieve as the games main focus tends to be towards fighting and action.
The biggest problem is the controls for moving Dr Jones around are not quite as successful as when fighting. It’s easy enough to swing from one place to the next with the trusty whip. But try jumping and unless you hit the next surface dead on you may find instead of grabbing the ledge you fall down, most of the time to your death. This can be very frustrating when you know what you have to do is simple but the controls won’t let you do it. However this does not occur too often and as the levels are split in to small auto-saving chunks you never have to go back too far after plummeting to an untimely death.
With enemies and death defying leaps beaten the next unpleasant thing is the ingenious traps left around. Not apparent much early on. Later on you can guarantee around almost ever corner will be a pressure pad or something waiting to fire a dart at you. All the traps are nicely incorporated into the game and are what you would expect from the Indiana Jones franchise. Unfortunately, running away from rolling boulders dose not seem to make it into The Emperors Tomb.
Most importantly in games of this genre is the camera. If it isn’t spot on it will either leave you looking at the nearest wall or end up making you feel sick. Most of the time the camera behaves itself. But on the odd occasion it does leave you feeling somewhat nauseous. It can also be frustrating to look directly below you, not a problem that arises often. But every now and then you really need to know where the small ledge you’re falling on to is.
It’s the little touches that make the game so much fun to play. For instance get knocked over in a fight a you may lose your hat. Want to see Nazi’s with accents that would make Colonel Clink jealous, they are here to. Big Crocodile? Spinning disk weapon from the Predator films? Amazon women? It’s all here, everything you could ask for from an Indiana Jones game. And its all the better for it.
Overall, Indiana Jones and the Emperors Tomb is just a really good fun game that does not take itself at all seriously. For fans of Dr Jones it’s still great. Aside from that though, it also represents a missed opportunity. With a little more care it could have been a classic and the occasional slowdown and jumping music should not really be apparent in this day an age. Great fun, but a little disappointing.