Whip it good!
When I was a kid, archaeology was reserved for boring old men. All they did was scratch around in the dirt for broken pots and pieces of petrified pterodactyl poop. But that was before the adventures of Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones. He found cool treasure, beat up Nazis, dodged killer traps and always got the girl. Not to mention, James Bond was his dad! From then on out, archaeology was all about exciting adventures with whips, guns, and gross exotic dinners. Chilled monkey brains, anyone?
Now you too can live the adventures of Indiana Jones with Lucasarts' new bull whippin', butt kickin' action-adventure game, Indiana Jones and The Emperor's Tomb. You'll travel the world in a quest to locate the "Heart of the Dragon," a mystical Chinese artifact that is said to control the will of men. Naturally, a snazzy trinket like that would be a pretty handy thing to have if you're into world domination, so expect a few bad guys to be on the trail as well.
The Emperor's Tomb plays a lot like the first few Tomb Raider games (which, oddly enough, were obviously based on the Indy movies) with plenty of little platformer bits and door/switch obstacles. Throw in a nice little combat system and you've got the game down pat.
Rather than the tired old punch/punch or punch/punch/kick combos that games of this genre usually resort to, The Emperor's Tomb features a combat system that fits in perfectly with the Indiana Jones character. Smack foes around with varying right-left combos and double ax handles. Then grab them by the collar and slap them silly before throwing them into walls, other enemies, or off cliffs. You could also slip a headlock on a creep, add a few knees in for extra measure and generally dish out all kinds of punishment before throwing them to the ground and giving them a good swift kick in the side. Fighting multiple enemies is also a breeze thanks to a few sneaky backhands.
Hand to hand combat isn't the only thing to look forward to, though. What would an Indiana Jones game be without the bullwhip? Strike enemies just right and you'll be able to pull weapons from their hands or go for the throat and do your best Scorpion impression. Get over here! You'll also have access to a few guns for those pesky sword-swinging guys, as well as a few improvisational weapons. Not a bad fighter, Dr. Jones.
Another thing The Emperor's Tomb has going for it is some nice little gameplay quirks. Besides all of the running, jumping and punching, you'll also experience some sneaking, gunning and dodging. During the latter part of the game, Dr. Jones is challenged to infiltrate an enemy base. This involves avoiding guards, pummeling them before they can sound the alarm, and even a little disguise. It's no Metal Gear Solid, but it's a nice change of pace.
There are also a few areas where Jones must take control of a gun turret and hose down hordes of enemies. There's even one level where he must shoot down enemy planes from the top of a mountain gondola.
And then there are the traps. There aren't any giant boulders here, but you'll occasionally be faced with a series of traps consisting of things like spikes, darts and pitfalls.
Unfortunately, one of the traps is inadvertent - the evil action/adventure camera. Any actions performed near walls will scare the camera more than a pit full of vipers. This usually isn't too much of a problem, but it can cause some trouble when you've got your back to the wall and the only way to progress is to attempt a leap of faith.
Also strange is the lack of good puzzles. With the exception of the "clock" puzzle, The Emperor's Tomb is filled with mindless switch/door puzzles and a few other challenges that assume you're a second grade dropout. Not exactly the most stimulating of adventures for the good doctor.
The sights in The Emperor's Tomb aren't half-bad, but you won't find too many bright and shiny spots. It's a tomb, after all. While most areas look decent, a few of them have some obviously sharp edges. Shadows also play some funny tricks and show up in the weirdest places. But the vast majority of it all captures the feel of the films adequately.
The sounds in the game reflect Lucasarts' reputation for solid audio. With the classic Jones theme and a voice actor that does a great impression of Harrison Ford, your ears will easily be immersed in the adventures of our favorite archaeologist.
I find it kind of weird that you spend so much time swimming. I don't know if the developers have a secret Aquaman fetish, but Indy seems to spend at least a third of the game underwater. Swim through the jungle, swim through the ruins and swim through the Nazi base. I know that when it comes to Nazis, the first thing I think of is swimming. Maybe they just needed an excuse to throw in a giant crocodile and a handful of sharks. Someone get Jeff Corwin on the phone - I want to know how sharks ended up in small pools of stagnant water in the middle of a Mosque. Yeah, that's right a Mosque.
Religious sea creatures aside, Indiana Jones and The Emperor's Tomb is a good, solid game that generally captures the feel of what it would be like on an adventure with Dr. Jones. Better than average combat through exotic locales is always fun. Just steady that camera, grab your wetsuit and don't eat the monkey brains.