Dr. Henry ”Indiana” Jones is known for his accessories: He’ll rarely leave campus without his map, pistol, satchel, and whip (for swinging across the occasional chasm). But of all the manly accoutrements he lays claim to, it’s the battered fedora that best defines him. The original, made by the Herbert Johnson Hat Shop, now resides in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, but knock-offs and imitations are all over the Web (see indygear.com).
That kind of obsession isn’t required to enjoy Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb. In 1935, one year prior to the events of the first Indy film, Dr. Jones sets out to recover the missing shards of a Chinese relic known as Heart of the Dragon. Along the way he outsmarts Nazis and outmuscles Asian gangsters — with a little help from a lady ninja.
At its core, ”Emperor’s Tomb” is a three-dimensional puzzle jumper intermingled with action sequences. (Think ”Buffy the Nazi Slayer” meets ”Myst.”) Navigating the many levels is a snap thanks to some well-thought-out controls. But ”Emperor’s Tomb” is way too repetitive; here, it’s the old swing-across-to-the-ledge-and-fight-some-baddies-and-pull-a-lever-just-to-get-through-the-next-door routine. At times the game has all the pulse-pounding thrills of an archaeological dig.
”Emperor’s Tomb” is, however, a more-than-satisfactory way to prepare for the fourth ”Indiana Jones” movie, which is still two years away. We can assume that, pegged to that film, there’ll soon be another ”Indy” game in the works. Unlike our hero in the first film, we hope the game designers don’t make it up as they go. Here’s to fewer extended puzzle sequences and more big-action moments.
There is one thing the game gets exactly right: the fedora. If it falls off his head in the heat of battle, it stays off until he picks it up. Riches and dames come and go, but what self-respecting globe-trotting, pistol-packin’ archaeologist would forget his hat? It’s little details like this that prevent ”Emperor’s Tomb” from being a lost crusade.