Thanks to Wayforward for the review code
Title: The Mummy Demastered
System: Playstation 4
Release Date: 10/24/2017
After hearing word of a dangerous creature known as Princess Ahmanet, the Prodigium Organization sends out some soldiers in order to stop her. But when contact with them is lost, they send out one more soldier to discover how powerful she is, while also trying to stop her reign of evil once and for all!
Continuing Wayforward tradition, this game is absolutely stunning, going for a 16-bit look and smooth animation akin to their Shantae titles, but with a bit more grittiness to it, bringing more to mind Contra 4 than anything else. As a matter of fact, the way your soldier and the Probotector animates seems so similar that I wonder if they partially reworked that sprite for this game. The soundtrack’s also stunning, ditching chiptunes in favor of haunting themes bringing to mind the sort of stuff I recall from Axiom Verge, and it does a fantastic job of being a memorable and fitting OST.
The Mummy Demastered starts off like a typical Metroidvania, with the player starting out in a field looking for the missing soldiers of the Prodigium Organization. Upon exploring the nearby areas, the game world slowly begins to open up, as you learn and grasp the mechanics behind this game’s combat. You can jump with the X button, roll forward with the O button, attack with the Square button, switch weapons with the Triangle button and use a grenade with the R2 button. Like in any metroidvania, you’ll discover new items and powerups as you progress, and going on an exploration off the beaten path will lead to you finding other weapons, health or ammo upgrades, equipment, or one of fifty Relics scattered across the map.
Unfortunately, one major thing Mummy Demastered does differently to distance itself from other metroidvanias come from how death is handled. You see, you don’t just reload your save and go back to the last save point upon death nor do you respawn in the current room you were in, but instead your old body becomes zombified and you take control of a new soldier with the bare minimum in terms of equipment, with you having to hunt down the zombie in the same area where you died.
This means that if you have a lot of health and upgrades, dying will force you to endure a grueling trip to the area where your zombified corpse is, forcing you to battle and defeat it in order to get your equipment back. This process of death can get downright irritating, since backtracking to defeat your older self gets real boring after the fifth or so time you’ve done it. On one hand, this does encourage you to be a lot more careful to avoid death, but on the other hand it can make the moments when this game gets downright cheap even more infuriating. You see, sometimes an enemy projectile will linger even as it starts to fade away, meaning that unless it’s 100% invisible some projectiles can still damage the player.
This is only a minor annoyance at first, until the second boss battle, an hour and a half through the game caused my playthrough to stop to an absolute halt, leading to the hiatus that led to this review taking a long time to wrap up. This battle is against a dinosaur, initiating right after a conversation with Ahmanet that you can’t skip or speed up. It’s not too terribly long, only taking a minute, but it’s still annoying that you can’t speed it up even after dying and having to enter the boss room again. Luckily in the case of boss rooms, your zombified corpse is placed right outside of them and they aren’t too far from the boss rooms to begin with, but that still doesn’t excuse the hell I dealt with for this fight. Unlike the prior boss fights that I had little issues dealing with, this boss gave me hell thanks to the aforementioned issue with projectiles, or as in the case of this dinosaur, his fireballs.
Once they land on a flat surface, the flames linger for a bit before you’re able to jump on the platforms safely, but the issue where they still hurt you even as they’re fading causes this fight to be downright cheap at certain points, despite the simple pattern, since if the fade out disabled the attack damage instead of retaining it, this would be a fair, fun fight where the main goal is to jump up and down between a ledge and use a newly acquired Ceiling Scroll to shoot at the dino’s head, progressing through multiple phases before being defeated. Despite a balance patch that was issued several months ago fixing some other issues, jumping back into the game 11 months later to give things another go still led to frustration.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t feel comfortable reviewing the game with only two of the seven areas fully cleaned out, so on with only a sliver of health left and every other possible item up to that point obtained, I finally defeated the boss and made some more progress, although even once I made it a good ways through the fourth area, the game still lacked the addictive hook that most other metroidvania games manage to provide, and the stupid death gimmick doesn’t help much in that regard.
In conclusion, The Mummy Demastered is a gorgeous Metroidvania with a killer soundtrack and some interesting ideas. Unfortunately, the game is also filled with some strange design decisions that can lead to cheap deaths or unnecessary frustrations, and considering how one such boss battle led to me getting stuck on the game and putting it away for eleven months straight, that’s not really a good sign of this game’s balance, even though I did finally get over that obstacle and played more of it for the sake of this review, and the game itself got a patch for that very reason a few months back. This is still a title that should be released physically if all possible though, since the amazing presentation isn’t worth being lost to the ages for when the movie license inevitably expires.
I give The Mummy Demastered a 6 out of 10.