Egypt 1156 B.C.: Tomb of the Pharaoh

Review by Orb
February 2002

Egypt 1156 is an edutainment title that exhaustively recreates the culture and environment of ancient Egypt in partnership with Reunion des Musees Nationaux. There is an expansive companion documentary zone to further study aspects touched upon by the game. It boasts good-looking cutscenes that are one of the highlights of the game. It also has beautiful, exotic music. These are the best features of the game. The rest of it is mediocre at best, agonizingly bad at worst.

The story of Egypt 1156 BC: Tomb of the Pharaoh is a mystery to be solved. In ancient Egypt during the time of Ramses III, tombs are being ransacked, and your character's father has been accused of arranging the looting of the tombs. Playing as Ramose, it is your job to find proof that your father is innocent of this crime and to bring this evidence to the Pharaoh.

I consistently had the unpleasant sensation of exasperation as I moved through this game. A number of areas were impossibly dark, or absurdly identical, almost as though the designers resorted to visual trickery in lieu of well constructed ideas. As for gameplay itself, the direction of the game is very linear, and the player is pretty much led by the nose from one location to the next, each with its inherent design flaws: too dark, too repetitious, often with grainy images.

There are dead ends in Egypt 1156. There are a specific number of clues that must be collected, and if any of these are missed, you may not return to earlier areas to look for them. Instead, you must restart or load an earlier saved game.

Puzzles in the game are inventory-based, and they are original. Unfortunately, the inventory system reduces the items to tiny white outlines in orange boxes—ugly and indecipherable. Luckily, there is an onscreen description of each item when the cursor is run over it, as otherwise it would be a complete mystery.

As for game controls, the game has something called an "Omni 3D Engine." What this actually means, I soon discovered, is "spin around like a nut until you throw up," even on the very lowest possible setting. How fun. In fact, the wrong move with the cursor can cause the game view to twist and spin wildly out of control, so while playing you must be ever mindful to keep the cursor very close to the center of the screen and not near the outward edges. And let me tell you what that trick does for any possible immersiveness one might otherwise experience. Blah!

There is a horrible mapping system—you have to spin in a circle while running the cursor over pixelated lumps that are locations to visit, looking for a slight change in cursor and font of the name of each lump to determine which is the one that is open to be visited at that time. And since the game is very linear, only one is open next, and the game controls when the map is accessed, not the player. Why even bother with a map at all if the player cannot go to it when she wishes and can only go to the next place she's supposed to? Why not just send her to the next scene and cut out the mind-numbing spinning pixel hunt?

Another bizarre and confusing thing that the game has going for it, in a twisted hall of mirrors sort of way, is that all of the male characters in the game have eerily identical faces, looking strangely like cartoonist Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead. Talk about disconcerting. Of course it would be very Zippy-like to shoot from one location to another all the while talking to himself, so that would be okay, except that the game is so darned humorless that you just know this wasn't done on purpose. And if it was, it was most likely done with the belief that we would be too stupid to notice that everyone in ancient Egypt seemed to have the same father.

One of the better portions of the game concerns playing a game of Senet against the computer, with a board and stone pieces. Senet was played originally in ancient Egypt, and this was a fun and entertaining puzzle to include in the game.

This is a very somber and overly serious little game. Egypt 1156 explores ground covered by a number of other, better-built, games, including Riddle of the Sphinx and Secrets of the Luxor. My suggestion is you pick up one of those, where they can be found, and skip this one. Unless, of course, you'd like to spin around in a dark, frustrating country populated by strangely identical but unrelated men. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Canal+ Multimedia
Publisher: Cryo
Release Date: 1997

Available for: Macintosh Windows

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System Requirements

Windows 95
Pentium 90 (133 recommended)
4X CD-ROM drive (8X recommended)
SVGA, thousands of colors
2 MB video memory
Sound card recommended

Power Macintosh 68040
4X CD-ROM drive
Thousands of colors
System 7.1 or later
Soundmanager 3.0 or later

Where to Find It

Playing Games 9.95

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