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Indiana Jones and The Emperor's Tomb
CeylonSubsequent to two top-notch adventure games, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis, and following the first action adventure, Indiana Jones and the Tower of Babel, the man sporting hat and bullwhip is back with a vengeance in Indiana Jones and The Emperor's Tomb. While the predecessors required some brains to get them solved, the latest installment now requires you to skillfully handle the controls - publisher LucasArts and developer The Collective have jumped the popular 3D action train. This should be fine with fans of the archaeologist, since another movie starring Harrison Ford has been announced but is nowhere in sight.
 
Story:
IndySimilar to a movie, the game starts out harmlessly enough. In Ceylon, we accompany Indy on his search for an artifact that doesn't seem to have anything to do with the main story line. But once Indy retrieves the object, his arch enemies, the Nazis, appear on the scene and show a strong "interest" in Indy's trove. Although he can escape the clutches of von Beck and his henchmen, the Nazis continue to breathe down Indy's neck. No sooner has he reached his home university in the USA, he is paid a visit by two Chinese (one of them being beautiful Mei Ying, who will play an important role in the course of the game) who enlighten him on the nature of his find: it's a part of the key leading to the legendary Heart of the Dragon. This mysterious artifact in the shape of a black pearl is said to empower its owner to take control over other people's minds - no surprise that the Nazis are in for another round. And it's likewise certain that Indy embarks on a search for the remaining key parts that will culminate in the discovery of the Heart of the Dragon.
 
Training camp:
On the cable railwayAs expected, the path to victory is no walk in the park. Right in the first levels of Ceylon, the player is gradually introduced into the controls as Indy's repertoire of moves is quite extensive. Apart from standard maneuvers such as running, jumping, swimming, or climbing, Indy can shimmy along ledges, jump from one rope to another, or press his back against walls when the path gets too narrow. His main tool is his telltale bullwhip, with which he can disarm and knock down enemies, and that can be looped around lamps or jutties to overcome traps or abysses. The moment an enemy tries to bar his way, Indy tends to let his fists do the talking (after all, that was an integral part in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade). Contrary to the schematic fights then, Indy can now send his opponents into the dust by using different punch and kick combos, making fist fights a hilarious thing to play. Tougher foes are best kept at arm's length with bottles, table legs, or shovels. Although Indy has access to weaponry such as pistols, shotguns, or machine guns, you will invariably prefer a full-fledged brawl over a shoot-out from a distance. Generally, enemies won't come at Indy all at once, making it easier to despatch them one after another.
 
Gameplay:
Fighting palace guardsIn total there are 10 locations (e.g. Prague, Istanbul, or Hongkong), each featuring their own graphics and opponents. Apart from fighting Nazis every now and then, you encounter Arabs in Istanbul, Ninjas in Hongkong, or palace guards in China. In the later stages such as the Emperor's tomb, the foes turn more weird as you have to fend off undead creatures like zombies or skeletons. Every now and then, your way is barred by a boss enemy that cannot be defeated by conventional means. In Ceylon, a giant crocodile is waiting to be fed, in Prague you throw acid at a mechanical behemoth, and explosives come in handy when fighting a huge octopus. Indy can refresh lost hit points with the help of first aid kits, healing potions, or by taking a gulp out of his refillable water bottle.
While Indy isn't involved in any brawls, he has to prove his mettle in one of the numerous jump'n'run intermezzos. The greater part of the game you spend jumping along ledges, ropes, cages, platforms or scaffoldings, somehow reminding you of a certain Lara Croft. It gets tricky the moment you also have to cope with deadly traps, of which there are plenty. At times, sharp rotating discs, arrows or fire burst from the wall, then platforms give way under Indy's weight, and other times he's hit by lightning when stepping onto certain slabs in the floor. Puzzles are somewhat rare, but if you stumble upon one you mostly have to activate levers in the correct order. For example, you have to find the right constellation of a huge clock's hands, with murals hinting at the solution. Or you have to chime bells to produce a certain melody after hearing it once. Arcade-style shooting sequences have you shooting at enemies and incoming plances from MG installations, one of them being on top of an aerial tramway. Fun but not overly challenging is the ride in a rickshaw where Indy fires away at motorised pursuers. By the way, all the fights notwithstanding, you will see no drop of blood throughout the game - despatched enemies even vaporise after some time.
 
Look & save:
Within the templeAs if the numerous enemies and deadly traps weren't enough, the save system gives you additional (unintentional) surges of adrenaline as it isn't allowed to save freely within the levels. The game saves your progress automatically inbetween two levels. Some may consider this a challenge, but most times it's outright frustrating to bite the dust within sight of a level's exit and repeat the complete level anew. Although most levels aren't too extensive, but there aren't even saving points within the level to give the player a break. On top of that, the camera angle often makes things worse by "facilitating" Indy's premature death. Stepping close to a wall results in confusing camera jumps, making it impossible to follow Indy's line of sight.
Apart from the fidgety camera, the graphics are pleasant enough. With only a few exceptions, both the enemies' and the protagonist's animations are smoothly done. The designers have paid attention to nice details, e.g. Indy puts on his hat after taking a bath, he starts to waver when standing near the brink of a ledge, or he flexes his shoulder muscles while standing still. At times, Indy passes through impressive caves and building complexes. The story is propelled forward through sporadic in-game cutscenes that even reveal the character's facial expressions. One of the game's highlights that will make you instantly hum along is John William's original score that adjusts its pace to the situation (e.g. finding a hidden artefact). The only unnerving sound fx is Indy's panting whenever he breaks into a run.
Details:
Producer:
Collective,
LucasArts

Website:
Indy Jones

Graphics:
very good

Sound:
very good

Gameplay:
good

Verdict:
good

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Pros & cons:
The hereafterThanks to the original score, Indiana Jones and The Emperor's Tomb instantly generates the atmosphere known from the movies - the virtual Indy even looks identical to the "real" one. Although hardcore adventure fans might be appaled about the fact that the latest installment focuses on action rather than puzzling, the game is nevertheless fun and lets you explore a variety of exotic locations, interspersed with aracade-style action sequences. What's more, you cannot help but wonder all the time whether charming Indy will win the heart of beautiful Mei Ying in the end. Unfortunately, all the action adventure bliss is unnecessarily marred by the crappy saving system, making you cry out in frustration, especially when you cross the jordan because of the fidgety camera. LucasArts should have abandoned such console-style customs while leaving the saving option up to the player. If you're not deterred by these gameplay flaws and want to be entertained for about 30 hours of playing time, you should risk a glance - Indy afficionados will do so in any event.
© 10-13-2003 by CE

 
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