Mummy: Tomb of the Pharaoh

Review by Jen

While I was sitting around waiting for my mail-order copy of Grim Fandango to arrive (I feel like I am always waiting around for some new game to arrive in the mail—just call this my standard introductory sentence), I was looking for something fairly quick to play. In my local software store's bargain area, I found a two-pack containing Mummy: Tomb of the Pharaoh and Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster, by Interplay/Amazing Media. It looked promising since both boxes said "Adventure" right on their spines, and for $9.99, I couldn't pass it up. The first of the two that I tried was Mummy, and here is what I thought of it.

You are Michael Cameron, facilitator for a mining company. You have been sent to Egypt to see why the frightened natives refuse to work in the mines. It turns out an ancient artifact had been unearthed in the mine, and the superstitious Egyptians feared the curse of the tomb. You first meet an oily henchman-type named Chris, who will only tell you where to find the mining compound's director after you offer him a bribe. You talk to the director, Davenport, who turns out to be another oily type, and obviously none too happy to see you, and you immediately distrust him. Since the corporate office bigwigs sent you, though, he does not have much choice other than to let you look around and see what you can see. By coincidence of the sort that only happens in video games, your ex-girlfriend, Lorrie, an Egyptologist, has also been called to the compound to verify or discount the authenticity of the artifact. This leads to one slightly uncomfortable moment, and then she is pretty much asleep (and useless) until the end of the game.

You search the compound and find several tools and items to repair or fiddle with, then you go to the mine. In exploring the mine, you find evidence of sabotage to the mining operations. You go deeper into the mine; when you get to the very bottom, you finally spot the title Mummy! Then an earthquake hits, and you must escape before the mine caves in and buries you alive. You make your way back into the tomb, where you must outwit both supernatural and natural beings to defeat Davenport in his attempt to locate a magic crystal worth millions of dollars. The plot was actually not bad, but it was a little hokey (there was also Nazi stuff).

Gameplay is first-person, point-and-click on the hotspots. Sometimes you can pick something up; other times, you have to interact with it somehow. I found, however, that I couldn't be too dependent on the hotspot cursor because sometimes I had to be holding the appropriate item before the hotspot would appear.

There were several instances where I died over and over while trying different items to save myself. This is one of my gaming pet peeves; I always save right before the death part and then have to restore and try something else, restore and try something else, over and over again. It's just plain boring! I usually am willing to die about three times in the same spot, then I give up and get a hint.

Mummy also has not one but two mazes. They are the kind that don't have a lot of different paths, but every part looks the same. Mazes are another one of my gaming pet peeves. They are so easy to solve just by drawing a map, but I find this whole process really tedious. Usually, I just give up and get a hint for the mazes, too. I have no patience for this kind of repetitive crap.

The puzzles are either really easy or downright impossible. All of the puzzles are typical of adventure games—they all consist of having to find the right tools or parts to repair something or open something or operate something. The impossible parts for me involved finding some of the tools. I had to resort to a UHS hint file on quite a few occasions to find out what I missed and where to get it, and I am usually pretty thorough in my inspection of areas in games. A couple of times, I neglected to click on the right part of something. For instance, I thought I might have to move a flag that, on looking at it, I could see no purpose for except to cover something up, and I clicked all over the rug with no results. Turns out I had to click on the very bottom left corner of it (this I found out from a hint). This game had too many frustrations for me, and I find a certain lack of satisfaction when I have to resort to my hint file too often.

The graphics are quite well-done. The game has live actors on either actual or rendered backgrounds. I found it hard to tell what backgrounds were real and which were rendered. Very realistic and atmospheric. This game only has one CD, but they made the most of it. There was a lot of repetition in the scenes; for instance, there are four trailers you can enter; they all look the same except for a couple of different things superimposed on each. Also, the mazes tended to use the same graphics over and over again, as stated above. However, I think the scenery was quite well-done overall and very convincing.

I usually find the acting not worth mentioning in video games, but the acting in this game is a cut above the rest. Malcolm McDowell plays Davenport; he manages to be somehow sinister and irritating at the same time—irritating in a good way that moves the game along, not just to annoy the player. The rest of the actors are unknowns to me, but they all do quite a good job. There is no hamminess (if I can make up my own words here; you all know what I mean) and no overacting.

The music sets the right ambiance for each area of the game, but when you get stuck in one area for too long, it gets really repetitive and thus annoying. The sound effects are in the right place at the right time in the right amount. They are pretty standard—the old stone-against-stone effect, for instance, appears in quite a few games. They blend in well with the game and are not overused.

This is not a bad game but far from one of the greats. I would not wholeheartedly either recommend for or against it. However, I found it well worth the $5 I spent on it and would recommend it for that reason alone. The game was put together very professionally, but the gameplay itself stunk. I think this is a classic case of where too much time and money was spent on the graphics and actors, which were first-rate, and not enough time spent on the actual game—the designers copped out on too many puzzles by trotting out the ol' tried-and-trues, and there was not enough, or rather no, originality. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Amazing Media
Publisher: Interplay
Release Date: 1997

Available for: Windows Macintosh

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System Requirements

PC:
Windows 95/98
DirectX/DirectShow 6.1 or Better
Pentium 166 MHz
16 MB RAM
4 MB 3D card (DirectX compatible)
2x CD-ROM

Macintosh:
68040 or Power PC
System 7.0 or later
5.1MB RAM
256 color
Double speed CD-ROM drive. Video display of Thousands or Millions of colors recommended. Accelerated for Power Macintosh.

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