I want to give special thanks to Wayforward for sending us this game.
Tie-in games often have a very negative stigma against them. Many are just cheap and quickly made titles that try to ride off the sales of their equivalent piece of media, whether it be a movie, television show or comic book series. On the odd occasion though a game with a lot of effort put into it will appear, and this was especially prevalent back in the days of 16-bit graphics. Super Star Wars, Turtles in Time and Capcom’s Disney games all spring to mind as tie-in games made with love, or at the very least games that ended up actually being great games. The Mummy Demastered by Wayforward (who were kind enough to send us a review copy of this game) is designed to be like these classic tie-in games. It opted to use pixel art and old-school game ideas to look like something from years gone by, and to great success. But, just because it is replicating these classic tie-ins doesn’t mean it is as good as them. So today, I am going to see if this game is one you will want to unravel or if you should avoid it like the movie it was based on. This is The Mummy Demastered.
The story of The Mummy Demastered loosely follows that of its film counterpart, using various set pieces such as the sandstormed streets of London and the London tube tunnels. However, rather than playing as Tom Cruise you instead play as the soldiers of Prodigium, being commanded by Not!Russell Crowe, who is tasked with hunting down and defeating the Mummy Ahmanet. The game doesn’t really spoil the movie so much as it retells it from a new perspective and you so you don’t need to have seen the movie to understand what is going on here. The story is about as prominent as the one in Metroid Fusion with a big focus on the gameplay. And while that would be the next section in our usual reviews, I first want to talk about the presentation.
The Mummy Demastered, as the name implies, set’s out to be a retro take on a current movie and it captures this incredibly well. The game really feels like it could be played on a SNES or 32x except that the pixel art is superb. Character sprites are highly detailed and the backgrounds are breathtaking at times. Little background details like the moon or a broken down ambulance really help to immerse the player and add to the feeling of ambient chaos that this game tries to give off. I really enjoyed all the varied environments, although I feel the designers have never been to London because if the tube system was really laid out like this then oh boy, no one would ever get to work.
The music I’m indifferent to. It is still really good, the usual quality of music that you find from Wayforward’s games. But the style of music, a mix of what I think is dubstep at points and vaporwave at others, can be hit or miss. Sometimes it works really well and other times it doesn’t. In particular, the sandstorm area’s music I began to get really fed up with, although factors I will discuss later may have influenced that. For now, I must say the presentation is great and Wayforward truly succeeded in this ‘demaster’ of the Mummy. So now let’s talk gameplay.
From first glance, it is obvious the game is a 2D platformer in the style of a Metroidvania and it does this to a T. The maps scream Metroid and hidden around are various upgrades and power-ups, including optional ones for those who choose to explore. There is even stand-still free-aiming which was only just added to Metroid in it’s latest 3DS outing, Samus Returns. But this isn’t just from Metroid as there are certain Castlevania elements sprinkled around.
Weapons don’t stack but can be equipped from a weapon cache after discovering it. The marine can hold 2 special guns and an explosive, all of which have ammo. You get a regular gun with infinite ammo to use in emergencies but it pales in comparison to the rest of your arsenal, which ranges from a shotgun to a flamethrower to a harpoon. While this system does strive for realism, as you can’t expect this marine to run around with nearly 10 heavy weapons on his back, it ultimately creates an issue that many guns become pretty pointless as the game goes on. I found the shotgun obsolete later in the game and the harpoon as it is only effective underwater. This is most obvious with the explosives however as once the final one is unlocked there is no reason to use any of the earlier ones. Ammo is refilled when the players goes back to a cache so it’s not like ammo is an issue, except when fighting bosses as they require so many hits.
The Marine can get a few special power-ups in the form of scrolls and trinkets which give an added boost to a specific stat or give the players special abilities like an air-dash or momentum in water. These are pretty useful and are literally required to continue on in the game. They are also needed to find all 50 of the games artifacts, an optional collectathon element that the game keeps track of along with your map and item percentage, as well as time.
Overall, The Mummy Demastered is a very good game that will satisfy anyone’s Metroidvania itch, however, it does have some very glaring issues that alone aren’t deal breakers but when combined can create a very frustrating player experience.
First-off, Medusa Heads. No one likes them in Castlevania as they come from off-screen in a weird pattern and they never stop. Once one is killed another one respawns, an infinite amount of enemies. The Mummy Demastered has the issue in spades with a ton of infinitely respawning enemies designed to drain ammo. Some basically fill the same role as Medusa Heads did but those are at least easy to kill. The mummy enemy does way too much damage, takes too many shots and one spawns almost immediately after the last one died. There isn’t any real benefit to fighting them either so I would recommend avoiding them which should be simple but, problem no. 2, the level design in this game is sometimes atrocious. Enemy placement is a bad one here with some strong enemies literally spawning under the player’s feet and there are some annoying placements of special rooms. It is impossible to warp to half of the zones, which is not too bad, but saves are scattered about too far apart in the later game. Again, neither of these are deal breakers on their own, but then we have problem no.3. Death.
Now before you groan at the mention of Dark Souls, let it be known it’s not the difficulty being compared here. One popular mechanic of Dark Souls is the idea that when you die, to claim your resources back you must go back to where you died and grab them. This is done both as a punishment for players who go into areas that they weren’t ready for but also to push players into trying again and again at a puzzle, hopefully learning something with each death, instead of leaving to do something else. Minecraft also had a system where players lose all their tools on death, as did Don’t Starve and Shovel Knight. The Mummy Demastered decides to take this one step further though by not only having all your stuff be collectible from where you died, but you have to also kill the reanimated corpse of the last marine you played as. This is a cool idea in concept but it seems like whoever designed this idea didn’t run it by the level designers as the game is not designed with this in mind.
This issue is not as bad early on but in the later game it becomes awful, and this is for two main reasons. First, you respawn back at your last save but as you could die far away from a save point that makes the trek getting back their more difficult, especially if you had to do a special puzzle to get there or if you died in a secret area. Second, when you respawn you are back to your absolute lowest point. Players keep the scrolls and trinkets but any weapons, ammo and life power-ups are gone. All the Marine has is the dingy machine gun and when that is your only weapon in a late-game area with infinitely spawning enemies and mobs that can take more than 50% of your hit points in one-shot, we suddenly have a much bigger issue. It actually frustrated me for hours and turned an enjoyable experience into an awful nightmare. The footage I have sped-up here for you all was me finally, finally, managing to get through a late-game area and reclaim my lost goods. I don’t even know what number attempt this was but it was after I had to leave and scream into a pillow for a few hours.
Now in hindsight I eventually found an ability that could have made this section much easier however, the problem here was that this was not only optional but I needed a specific weapon to get it and as some wandering corpse was about somewhere with all my health and weapons (which they can use to attack the player by the way) I couldn’t just go and explore to get stronger. I had to do this in my lowest base form in an area it clearly wasn’t designed for. This may never happen to you if you manage to avoid dying, but it happened to me and it ruined my experience.
Also, the difficulty curve is a bit wack with some early bosses being way too strong and some late bosses being way too easy. Although I might have glitched out one of the bosses because he eventually just gave up attacking me altogether and let me gun him down.
I know I ranted for a lot back there but honestly, this game is still very fun. It looks amazing and sounds pretty decent. It was certainly a better experience than the movie it was based on and anyone who just wanted a bit more Metroid after beaten Samus Returns can definitely scratch that itch here. But be warned, there are some bad design choices here from certain level areas to enemy placement and attacks. And, above all else, whatever you do in this game, DO NOT DIE (at least in the late game). I give The Mummy Demastered a three out of five.