Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Toumb - Box

Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Toumb
Ages: Teen

LucasArts has given Xbox gamers the opportunity to become the intrepid explorer, Indiana Jones. Set in the years before Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb (IJET) is solidly grounded in the atmosphere of the Indiana Jones movie franchise.

The player is catapulted into Indy's world even before turning on the Xbox. LucasArts bypassed traditional design for the instruction booklet. The move lists, controller diagram, and other game information is presented as a selection of clippings, notes, letters, and telegrams that Indy has collected before setting out on the expedition. It's clever, and the information is clearly presented. I'd like to see more game developers take this immersive approach to their printed material.

IJET's menus, sound effects, and beautiful soundtrack keep the mood intact. The menu backgrounds depict artifacts in a museum, with each submenu and setting screen panning to a different artifact. It's simple, but it's nice. Indy's voice actor is also quite good.

The game's complicated control system is elegantly introduced by the best tutorial and hint system I've ever seen in this type of game. Moves are introduced one at a time in the first few levels of the game, with concise instructions printed at the bottom of the screen as they become necessary. The player is given adequate opportunity to practice before a new move is introduced. Unlike Buffy, also done by The Collective, or Dark Angel, the instructions are pleasantly devoid of banter.

When an object in the environment can be manipulated, the game displays an icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. The color of the icon corresponds to the color of the button needed to manipulate the object. For example, let's say Indy needs to make his way through a thick carpet of vines. A green machete icon appears on the screen. Pull out the machete from inventory, then use the green "A" button to hack through the vines. Simple! This fantastic hint system eliminates the guesswork from exploring - the player doesn't have to click on every single tile in every single wall and object. If Indy can use something, an icon comes up. No icon, no usable object. My thumbs say "thank you".

Unfortunately, the interface designers are in a whole different league than the programmers. Both the environments and the controls are sloppily executed. The graphics, while OK for a Playstation system, are decidedly sub-par for the Xbox. IJET features an unforgivable amount of "clipping" - areas where objects appear to pass through one another. Indy is forever walking partway into walls, punching partway into bad guys, and standing on what looks like empty air. This makes it tremendously difficult to perform the feats of timing and control that make up the bulk of the gameplay.

The misleading environments are compounded by a finicky control system. The buttons work all right, but the analog control stick used to move Indy around is terribly sensitive. In theory, the farther you push the stick in one direction, the faster Indy goes. In practice, there's almost no "give" before he starts running. This makes it incredibly frustrating to position Indy for leaps off of narrow surfaces, or to turn him in place to throw an object.

IJET's puzzles offer a nice breather from the otherwise frustrating gameplay. They're not difficult (though they do get tougher as the game progresses) and they leave the player with a sense of accomplishment. Sadly, that sense is soon demolished by the next frustrating run-and-jump challenge.

Combat works similarly to other third-person games like Tomb Raider, Buffy, and Dark Angel. In hand to hand, the player simply mashes buttons until the bad guy falls down. Enemies are intelligent - if Indy gets hit and drops a weapon, the bad guy will pick it up and use it. The game also features a first-person mode for shooting firearms. Like many other games in the genre, first-person mode is invoked by holding down the left trigger. It's tiring, and would work much better if it were simply toggled off and on.

Your enjoyment of Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb will ultimately depend on your tolerance for the vagaries of the control system. If you're easily frustrated by game glitches, rent before you buy. If you adapt quickly to the game's quirks, however, you'll find the game an amusing way to spend an occasional hour or two.

Summary: Moments of brilliance marred by terrible programming

Reviewed by: Finn Kisch - 04/03

  • Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Toumb
  • © LucasArts $49.00
  • Xbox
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