Developer: The Collective
Release Date: 3/28/2003
Nearly everyone has seen at least one of the Indiana Jones movies and recalls how well each movie in the trilogy captured the very spirit of adventure. The Indiana Jones trilogy as a whole is considered one of the classics in motion picture entertainment, but in the past when the franchise has been transplanted into the digital realm things never turn out as well as one would hope for. Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb is the newest game to bear the burden of the Indiana Jones license, and unlike it’s digital brethren it actually looks, plays, and feels just like one of the movies.
Every Indiana Jones movie has a solid, flowing plotline behind it and Emperor’s Tomb is no exception. One day when working in his study Jones is approached by a mysterious man and his beautiful assistant. They bring a request to Dr. Jones, to find the Black Pearl. The quest starts off simply enough, but everything isn’t as it seems and almost as soon as Indy dusts off his trademark hat he finds that this adventure isn’t as straightforward as he had been told. During the course of the game Indy will visit jungles, underwater caves, a Hong Kong ballroom, the city of Prague, and the dusty rooftops of Istanbul, with every stop unraveling a bit more of the puzzle.
The first thing that hits the player when booting up Emperor’s Tomb for the first time is that the game absolutely oozes style. The main menu is cast again a fully 3D oriental palace room, complete with gleaming pillars and incense giving off soft plumes of smoke. To create/save/load a file you open a book on a mantle and flip through the pages, which adds a nice touch. The game’s instruction manual is also rather unique and truly cool; it’s written in the form of a diary kept by Dr. Jones, complete with a handwritten look and the occasional inkblot.
Emperor’s Tomb’s gameplay is similar in many ways to many other 3rd person action/adventure games, but is polished to the point that is surpasses nearly all of them. Controlling Indiana and performing his vast regimen of moves feels very solid and yet is also simplified a bit so the emphasis is entirely on the gameplay and the immersion. Indiana can run, jump, hug walls, move hand over hand along ledges, use his whip to swing over gaps, and climb ladders, and swing on vines, chains, and ropes. The main thing is that not only can you perform all of these moves but also in total you only need a small handful of buttons to do it.
Every level in Emperor’s Tomb isn’t exactly flat and straightforward, so as the fit and agile Dr. Jones you have to put your skills to the test to transverse obstacles. For instance, you may have to use your whip to swing across a gap over a large drop, then grab onto a ledge and lift yourself up. A good chunk of the gameplay emphasizes a platformer style of gameplay but never comes across as being too geared as such. There are very few “jumping puzzles” and while there are a couple of times where you just barely make a long jump as long as you are lined up correctly you’ll always hits your mark.
Combat plays a large role in Emperor’s Tomb, more so than any previous Indiana Jones game. Not only can Indy use his fists and feet to negotiate a little excavation rights, but also at Indy’s disposal is melee weapons such as Turkish swords, bottles of liquor, and shovels, and also ranged weapons such as Indy’s trusty revolver, Lugers, Mausers, and throwing knives. The ranged combat is decent but doesn’t seem near as polished as the rest of the game. If you have some sort of ranged weapon in your hands and are generally facing an enemy when you fire Indy will pop a shot off and usually hit them, but the ranged combat isn’t nearby as fun as the melee.
The up close and personal, in your face style of melee combat is where both Indy and the game excel. In the basic form, Indy can use each fist to deal some pain to the receiving foe, whether it be in the form of simple jabs or combos. The Left mouse button controls Indy’s left fist, and the Right mouse button controls his right. Combos can be formed via simple combinations of those two buttons, making Indy deliver uppercuts, head butts, and savage hooks to the enemy. When both mouse buttons are pressed at the same time Indy grabs the enemy by the collar, where you can then beat him senseless in a couple of ways or simply throw him in a direction of your choosing, like into another enemy, into a wall, or off of a large drop.
The melee combat isn’t limited to simply pummeling the enemy with your fists however; nearly anything in a level that isn’t bolted down can be utilized as an impromptu weapon. You can pick up chairs and break them over an enemy’s body, break tables and use the legs as a club, or pick up bottles of liquor and not only break them over the head of an enemy but also throw them to hit ranged adversaries. Many things like chairs and tables break easily, so if an enemy is sent flying into them they will shatter into splinters.
When looked at as a whole, the game is about half combat and half exploration. With the exploration half you are swinging on vines, whipping across chasms, and dodging traps just like Indiana Jones, and with the combat half you are dealing with foes that aren’t exactly tickled with the fact that you are after the Black Pearl. To break it all up though, nearly every locale has some form of boss fight, whether it’s a diabolical monstrosity or a gigantic sea creature. The boss fights can be a bit tricky and frustrating, but once the way to defeat them becomes clear the odds are evened and the experience is memorable.
The graphics in Emperor’s Tomb aren’t the pinnacle of digital entertainment but are relatively eye popping in their own right. Indy looks just like Indy, down to the facial expressions and movements. The other characters in the game also have a high degree of quality in both their look’s and movements. The levels themselves are all very well done, from the organic look of plants and stone in the jungle with it’s rivers and vines, to the dusty, earthen look of Istanbul. The effects in the games such as explosions and smoke add a nice touch and do their part to keep the player immersed.
Sound in Emperor’s Tomb rivals the sounds and music in the movie’s themselves, but with one exception. As a whole the voice acting is superb, the voice actor for Indy sounds almost exactly like Harrison Ford, but the voice acting for Mei Ying is terrible. Imagine a slender oriental girl, but voiced by someone that sounds like their cheeks are filled with gravel. Other than that, the voice acting is enjoyable right down to the Nazi’s purposefully horrible accents. The music in the game when sneaking around or while combating the enemy sounds like it was taken directly from a movie, and to top it all off the Indiana Jones theme song hits you like a ton of bricks. The reports of pistols, the clang of a shovel hitting someone upside the head, and swish of Turkish swords slicing through the air all sound very high quality and fit very well with the rest of Emperor’s Tomb’s audio.
Indiana Jones and Emperor’s Tomb has had some big shoes to fill with the failures of past Indiana Jones games, but rather than being yet another low quality game Emperor’s Tomb not only has the look and feel of the big screen but rivals the quality of other action/adventure games. Emperor’s Tomb is a great game with a solid, compelling plotline and gameplay with a quality level the likes of which is unseen in most games. Whether you are young or old, a fan of Indiana Jones or a newcomer, Indiana Jones and Emperor’s Tomb is a very enjoyable experience and truly takes the character that is nearly synonymous with the word adventure straight from the big screen to your computer screen.
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