LucasArts describes this as interacting with the game's “Hot Sets”. Indeed there are icons everywhere, for items you can pick up to use as weapons - such as brooms, glass bottles, pool cues and billiard balls – and for items you can interact with using the whip. We've mentioned being able to pull down objects in the environment to knock out enemies – Indy can swing across chasms with his whip, too. If you grab an enemy (with the Z button), and drag them to certain objects in the environment, an icon will pop up to show that you can slam them into it – a fish tank, for example (you can even pick up a fish and use that as a weapon), or a gong. This is a great way of knocking out enemies quickly, rather than whittling down their life bars with punches. The tutorial advises you to scout out an area before you start a fight. Good advice.
One of the big problems with Wii games is that the motion sensing technology isn't accurate enough to distinguish between subtle differences in motion. More often than not the animation you want to trigger isn't the one you end up triggering. In Staff of Kings this doesn't appear to be a problem. During my time with the game it was a rare occasion indeed that what I wanted to happen didn't. One of the mini-games, for want of a better term, involves striking flint and steel together to light a torch – you need to strike the Wii Remote across the Nunchuck a few times in the appropriate motion. This works, isn't frustrating, and is good fun.
After beating up a few Germans, it's time for Indy to make his escape in a plane, of all things. The idea here is to hold the Wii Remote upwards, as if it were the plane's throttle; moving it about will affect direction and aim the targeting reticule for the turrets. At first this was incredibly fiddly – I died three times simply from flying into great big rock faces. It wasn't until I was advised to hang the Nunchuck around my neck and plant the Wii Remote into the palm of my left hand that I started to make progress.
Back in the US, the game's second level is set in San Francisco's Chinatown - Indy's had word from an old archaeologist professor friend of his called Kingston, who has gone on ahead of you in search of the Staff, that there's some new information. On the street he witnesses a girl being kidnapped, and gives chase through back alleys, a money laundering facility and eventually into a club, where you need to beat up scores of Triads.
Although we've only really had a glimpse of what Staff of Kings has to offer, at least now we've got a good idea of what it's all about. But there's still much we haven't seen. For example, there will be separate modes and even a separate story (complete with comic book stills) for four-player coop, most of which involve vehicles. We're not sure how this is going to work, exactly, but it sounds promising. We haven't seen Indy's love interest, Irish journalist Maggie O'Mally, either. There's tons of unlockables, too, including different skins for Indy, new modes and, get this, 1992 point and click adventure Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. That's right, you'll actually be able to unlock the full game, untouched (bar the mouse cursor being replaced by the Wii Remote pointer). When LucasArts showed this off, in all its pixelated glory, it garnered the most attention of the day.
Some fans will bemoan the lack of a “next-gen” Indy game. And it is a shame indeed. You'd have thought, given that Star Wars: The Force Unleashed did so spectacularly well at retail across all platforms, that a similar fate would befall a fully multi-platform Indy release. But, alas, it's not to be. We're going to have to get used to the fact that Indy's new home is on the Wii. The good news is it's a lot better than it perhaps could have been. It's clearly aimed at a younger audience (the many icons on screen should ensure the whole family will be able to get something out of the game) but the combat system, cracking the whip and the “Hot Sets” hopefully will provide enough depth for more experienced gamers. In short, so far, so good.
Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings is due out for Wii, PSP, PS2 and DS June 12, 2009.