If you’ve never played the classics of the ‘metroidvania’ genre of video games The Mummy: Demastered will more than adequately function as a short and accessible introduction to the format. The gameplay is heavily inspired by a simplified vision of Super Metroid with 2D platforming, interwoven level design with upgrade-based map progression, and gun-based weaponry. WayForward Technologies have made their biggest waves over several decades with a string of approachable, fun 2D platformers starting with Shantae on the Game Boy Color. I have been a Game Boy Advance fanatic since it’s release and their game Sigma Star Saga was one of the cooler RPG variants I played on that system, so I’ve kept tabs on their output since.
From Contra 4 to the continuation of the Shantae series and Double Dragon Neon WayForward have knocked out a ton of almost-hits with me but The Mummy: Demastered is the first skewed away from the ‘E for Everyone’ crowd. While it has a lot of great ideas, tight controls, and excellent 2D art/animation The Mummy’s brief and cryptic plot amounts to a half finished concurrent side-story based on the movie it was licensed from. You’re playing as a soldier working for Russell Crowe‘s character from the 2017 movie series reboot starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella. It was a mediocre movie with Razzie award-winning performances and the only thing that reasonably translates from the movie to the game are the appropriately foreboding lines from protagonist Princess Ahmanet. I’m positive that this game’s audience is mostly metroidvania fans and not The Mummy fans, so ignore the license because it barely ties into the game.
As a Prodigium soldier you are as expendable as the henchmen that chase after every protagonist in every video game or big dumb action movie. The most interesting, but underutilized, system in The Mummy: Demastered is comes in death. Imagine if Nathan Drake’s trail of murder in Uncharted left behind zombies, conjured back to life with Princess Ahmanet’s curse. When you die you leave behind a corpse with all of your upgrades and weapons, but it doesn’t just sit there as a pile of riches rather your corpse is resurrected and will serve as an enemy for the re-con soldier that replaces the last with each death. Think of it like Nioh where you leave behind a spirit that people can fight for gear when you die, but you -need- to kill it in this case because you’re otherwise left with basic starting gear. This is a great idea for a metroidvania, or even just a platformer in general, but fighting your former self as a zombie was never challenging and I felt like I died very few times outside of boss fights.
So, the ‘gear’ itself consists a set of guns that are wildly varying in their usefulness. They’re essentially all Contra inspired from the automatic rifle to the flamethrower and the tracer/evil-killing laser. None of them follow Metroid or Castlevania series trend of using them for traversal, unfortunately and I played 70% of the game using the flamethrower and alternating with the mercury rifle (spear gun) when underwater. This wasn’t necessarily my preference but my biggest ding to the score of this game comes from it’s enemy placement and types. For the first two hours most of the enemies you’ll run into are either zombies that pop out of the floor or wall crawlers. Locusts with linear movements, bugs that drop when you’re under them, and giant spiders that barf out weak poison all just plopped in place. They all seem more like busy work, particularly the rats that crawl the circumference of the room they’re in in great numbers but offer no really substantial threat. Later in the game the enemies become more threatening and creative but none of their designs are up to the caliber of the boss designs.
Boss fights are designed much like Super Metroid bosses where you might to get hurt while learning the pattern of the boss but none of them are particularly complicated. The larger scale animation for the bosses offers some of the more interesting visuals from a game with a relatively brown color palette and flat backgrounds. I basically had to dump all of my ammo from every weapon to beat each boss but never took more than 2-3 tries for each. The hardest was easily the scarab at the top of the clockwork tower area just for the platforming challenge of certain phases of the fight. The Mummy: Demastered sorely needed at least one more big boss fight and none of them measure up to the brilliant standard set by games like Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, Metroid Fusion, but veer closer to those of Axiom Verge.
I spent a few days away from this game after I finished it and was basically done with it. There were two more ‘exploration upgrade’ powers I could have found and I would need to do a ‘zero deaths’ playthrough to get the Platinum trophy after that but I saw no great motivation to do so. I’m not sure if I’m slowly recovering from my need to be completionist or if the game was just generally mediocre. I’ve been a huge metroidvania fan for about 20 years since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and these simpler, poorly thought out additions to the sub-genre are generally hit-or-miss and overall The Mummy: Demastered is a miss. You could squeeze a good solid 7-8 hours out of the game and have some fun, but the sense of exploration doesn’t compare to modern entries in the genre that are far more detailed and original in concept. While I would recommend this game as an ‘on sale’ purchase it doesn’t compare to the full and repeatable experiences of Hollow Knight, Guacamelee!, Salt and Sanctuary, or Headlander. Taken for what it is, a short and streamlined metroidvania experience with some good ideas I’d say it was worth seeing through.
|Genre||“Metroidvania”, Sprawling 2D Action Platformer|
|Released||October 24, 2017 | WayForward Technologies|
|Platform(s)||Playstation 4 Pro|
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