Indiana Jones games: “The Emperor’s Tomb” (PC)

Indiana Jones games don’t always have to be adaptations of the original trilogy or even be developed by LucasArts, as The Collective’s action-adventure Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb is just as entertaining escapism.

Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb (PC)
(USA 2003, developer: The Collective (now defunct), publishers: LucasArts (now defunct), platforms: PC, Xbox, PS2)

In 1935, Indiana Jones tries to prevent the Nazis and other evildoers from getting their hands on a powerful artifact called the Heart of the Dragon, a black pearl that was buried with the first Emperor of China

A new Indy adventure in China
Despite having a few references and being a prequel to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the plot works independently and offers everything one would expect from an Indy movie: globe trotting, perilous traps, some romance, and obviously Nazis. Being set in China, there are also a lot of kung fu fighting enemies, which might be clichéd, but fits the adventure context. The atmosphere is spot-on, but the story and characters don’t quite live up to the big screen experience. There are a few thrilling set-pieces, e.g. trying to outwit an enormous crocodile, but the characters Indy meets are instantly forgettable, while the plot isn’t the most suspenseful, either. Sure, there are a few twists, but they function more as reasons to go from one place to another, without offering anything particularly interesting or new.

The supernatural elements, while always somehow present in the Indy movies, are also highly exaggerated and veer towards the nonsensical, the more one progresses in the game. Unlike a game like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, it simply goes too far with undead warriors and some boss fights that might be stablemates in console gaming, but feel disconnected from the more down-to-earth approach the adventure stories of Indy provided (although one could argue they make more sense than Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull‘s alien plot).

Fight like a beat-em-up-adventurer
Tomb Raider was obviously the template for this game, as everything that made the action-adventure great is present and correct here, although to varying degrees of success. The mix of hand-to-hand and shooting combat, together with platforming and puzzle solving works well, and as most levels offer new challenges, it rarely gets boring. The fistfights are especially satisfying, as one can even throw enemies through windows or over railings, while it’s also possible to pick up bottles, chairs or other objects and either throw them or crash them over people’s heads. Of course enemies can do the same, and they’re not too stupid, either, as they follow Indy over ladders and rooftops, get weapons they dropped and generally put up a good fight. However, in the latter stages of the game, these scenes become very frustrating, as one is constantly pushed back or attacked from all sides and often ends up falling down from high places. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the game had savegames, but it doesn’t. So dying during a level means restarting it. Despite often being of a suitable length, some levels offer more than their fair share of unfair parts.

Shoot like an action-adventurer
Choosing different weapons is a nice touch, but as the aiming and especially camera work that is also the reason for many platforming deaths is pretty bad, one shouldn’t rely too much on this. While it’s possible to switch to first-person view for better aiming, this takes too much time and isn’t always the best option. There’s a wide range of weapons, and using grenades or a machine gun to clear out a room is just as satisfying as in some of the Indy movies, but one often falls back on the good old fistfights and only use the whip to take away enemy weapons. It should also be noted that swords and other hand tools are less effective than using fists. Much more fun are the on-rails shooting parts in which Indy has to take down enemies on bikes, in cars, or even on planes. Even if these can’t be compared to modern action set-pieces extravaganzas, they’re still nice distractions.

Puzzle like a classic adventurer
It’s not all about fighting and shooting, though, because there are many platforming segments and puzzles that have to be overcome, too. The former aren’t the most original or come close to the acrobatics of Lara Croft’s adventures, but the use of the whip to get over chasms or swing from one rope to another works in the context of the movies. If it weren’t for the frantic camera that often obstructs the view and if the controls were more responsive, these sections would be more fun, though. This is especially apparent when swimming and trying to evade or attack sharks and underwater enemies. The same also holds true for the boss fights. While they all require different strategies, they become very difficult because of less than perfect controls, e.g. running away from a tank and jumping/swinging over precipices or getting rid of a octopus with planting explosives on stone columns. Why these are included in the first place is anyone’s guess, as despite breaking up the platforming/puzzling/fighting levels, they’re not a lot of fun and make the Indy adventure even more nonsensical at times.

The puzzles themselves are varied and range from simple button pushing to more point-and-click adventure like conundrums that usually involve a few logic puzzles that aren’t too difficult if one is aware of one’s surroundings and clues. The only problem is that one can easily overlook some essential items. While one doesn’t carry around many objects, browsing through the inventory is cumbersome, especially in some time-sensitive situations. Overall, the quality and quantity of the puzzles is satisfying, and as each level has certain objectives and a map (as obscure as the drawings look), one usually knows where to go and what to do, except for some backtracking. As one is usually told by a cinematic camera if something was triggered or where something has to be done, it doesn’t take too long to complete a level, although it will take around 10 hours or so to finish the game. The number of traps Indy has to survive is also very high, and while they obviously fit the tomb raiding theme, they often lead to trial and error sequences that usually result in deaths and restarts.

Digging up or just digging the old presentation
Being a game from the early Noughties, it still looks rather nice in places, with Indy’s animations being the most accomplished. It’s nice little touches like him losing his hat during fights and then being able to pick it up that make it so enjoyable to play. Facial animations are another matter, though, as these are as weak as some of the levels’ backgrounds. While the cinematic cutscenes are well done, this isn’t a game that will wow players today with lighting or water effects. There were certainly better-looking games when it was released, and there are obviously more today.

Fortunately, audio hasn’t aged as badly. Including the iconic Indy theme, there are also other very good orchestral set-pieces that fit the cutscenes as well as the individual levels. Voice acting isn’t too shabby, either, as Indiana Jones almost sounds like Harrison Ford despite involving another actor. However, there are way too many lines, including those of the supporting cast, that don’t quite work in the situations they’re spoken in. This is too bad, because they aren’t too bad on the ears, but a bit more enthusiasm and knowledge of context would have done wonders.

Not a classic, but still classic Indy
Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb is a good licensed game and Tomb Raider imitator, although it doesn’t quite reach the highs of the source material or Lara Croft’s adventures. The atmosphere is great, thanks to the cinematic presentation and varied levels with all kinds of vicious traps to overcome and puzzles to solve. However, the story and characters aren’t anything special, while the controls could be much better and the gameplay more refined. The lack of a savegame is a no-go, too. Ultimately, it’s nowhere nearly as good as Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, but as it doesn’t simply rip off on many movie sequences, it’s still a recommended title for Indiana Jones fans, especially those who like a lot of cool fistfights.

Score: 7.5/10

Buy the digital PC version on

Buy the retail version for PC on
Amazon Germany
Amazon UK
Amazon USA

If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using the GOG or Amazon links and buying the product also helps ;).

About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
This entry was posted in Game reviews, Gaming. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Indiana Jones games: “The Emperor’s Tomb” (PC)

  1. Pingback: Overview of (blog) life in August 2018 | Emotional Multimedia Ride

  2. Pingback: Indie adventures: “Heaven’s Vault” (PC) | Emotional Multimedia Ride

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.