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The Mummy: Demastered Review


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On 10/29/2017 at 12:00 PM by Julian Titus

I expect better from you, WayForward.
RECOMMENDATION:

If you're desperate for an old-school action/exploration game and also consider yourself a masochist, maybe this will do it for you.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear about an indie developed game sporting a pseudo-16-bit pixel aesthetic I find myself rolling my eyes. This goes double when said game is an action/exploration game (“Metroidvania” if you’re lazy). I just find these types of games to be played out. However, if you tell me that WayForward is working on the game you pique my interest enough to plunk down twenty bucks on The Mummy: Demastered, a game I hadn’t heard of. Was my curiosity rewarded? Ehhh…

To answer the pressing question: yes, this is video game tie-in to the poorly received Tom Cruise movie from this past summer. You know, the one that was supposed to kick off this Universal Monsters cinematic universe that no one asked for? Yeah, that one. “Demastered” is an apt title for this game, as not only is it a throwback to a simpler time in video games, but also recalls when every blockbuster movie had its own game on the shelves. The only problem is that WayForward was so excited to show that they could do this they never stopped to ask if they should.

That may be a bit harsh. WayForward remains at the top of 2d sprite art, and The Mummy looks amazing. While most of the monsters and player character may not do anything that Super Metroid or the post-Symphony of the Night Castlevanias already did, the animation and backgrounds are superb. The Mummy takes place in the real world and not an alien planet or mystical castle, but somehow each area is appropriately moody and detailed. The backgrounds have impressive levels of parallax scrolling, and every screen is meticulously crafted.

On top of that is an amazing soundtrack by Gavin Allen. Often creepy and foreboding, while other times rocking and adrenaline spiking, the music in Demastered is one of the highlights. Since the game is smaller in scope than other titles like it, it’s a shame that there are fewer opportunities for the music to shine. Even so, the music is always pitch perfect to the action on the screen, and I often found myself letting the game sit on the title screen just to take in the theme.

Unfortunately, the actual gameplay of The Mummy: Demastered is where the experience breaks down for me. The character, an unnamed agent from the “Prodigium”, controls well and can find real world weapons that make this game stand apart from others in the genre. While there is an experimental plasma weapon to find, it’s cool to bring machine guns and shotguns to bear in this adventure. It’s almost tragic, then, that the game feels like an unbalanced mess at almost every turn, as if it was never play tested.

To start things off, everything involving your character and the enemies seem off by just enough to make things frustrating. Even basic zombie enemies, like the type that go down in one or two hits in Castlevania, take a shocking amount of damage from your starting weapon. Conversely, the agent takes a surprising amount of damage in return. The agent also starts out with very limited mobility and, while this is par for the course in action/exploration games, the items and artifacts he acquires by the end of the game make him feel like how I would expect him to handle at the outset.

Exacerbating the situation is a general feeling that the game wasn’t tuned well. Enemy placement is exceedingly frustrating, and I often found myself jumping to or from a ledge only to be hit by a creature that I couldn’t see. The game also throws tons of respawning enemies that do far too much damage considering how many of them are constantly coming at you. This can happen multiple times in a jumping section, and for large parts of the game I was close to the edge of death. Games in this genre usually produce health and ammo according to your need, but that isn’t the case with The Mummy. There were plenty of times where I was on death’s door, killing respawning enemies from a safe place repeatedly, only to have little to no health drop. From my perspective, it felt like the enemies needed to do about 10% less damage to the agent, and the agent should do about 5% more damage. These issues became less of a problem as I got some health tanks and ammo upgrades, but even at the end of the game I was spending more time farming for health and ammo than I was exploring.

The wonky enemy placement, damage ratios, and lack of health pickups can lead to some cheap and frustrating deaths, and that leads me to my biggest complaint about Demastered. When you die, the mummy raises your corpse as an undead agent, and you continue as a new character. You retain any mobility artifacts you’ve found, but lose all your health tanks, weapons, and grenades. The only way to get them back is to hunt down the previous agent, provided you don’t die on the way there and create another undead foe. Undead agents have all your abilities, take a lot of damage before going down, and can use your missing arsenal against you. I came very close to reaching what game developers call a “fail state”: a situation where you cannot proceed because you can’t overcome the obstacles in your way. I had lost my gear in an area full of respawning enemies that could kill me in 3-4 hits, and died multiple times on the way back, leaving me with sometimes three undead agents to kill on a single screen. The only reason I kept going was out of spite. I wasn’t going to let this game beat me, not when I had conquered multiple, far better games in this genre.

The death mechanic takes on a new level of aggravation with the boss battles. While the undead agent will appear just before the boss, making it easy to regain your gear, you still have to replenish any ammo you had used before you died. So, if you, say, used all your assault rifle ammo on the boss before it killed you you’re going to have to go back and farm for ammo to stand a chance. The bosses take an insane amount of damage before going down, and if you only have the starting weapon it’s practically pointless to try. I fought the fourth boss for nearly half an hour, having learned its patterns, only to die from a couple mistakes at the end, forcing me to spend another 10 minutes getting my ammo back just to try him again. While some gamers may enjoy the thought of a Dark Souls-style mechanic added to this genre, the way it’s implemented here completely takes any fun out of the game. After all, in a Souls game you may lose your upgrade souls if you die, but at least you still have your weapons and armor.

The Mummy: Demastered comes from an excellent pedigree, and on paper it sounds like it should be a slam dunk. I was having a great time with it until I hit a wall in the form of the second boss, and it was downhill from that point on for me. There is a ton of potential here, but an overall lack of balance ruins the experience. 

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

daftman

10/29/2017 at 08:36 PM

Your opinion is harsher than some others I've read but the consensus is about the same. It sucks because I had the same reaction as you when I discovered this game existed. I just wasn't willing to plop down the money sight unseen lol

Blake Turner Staff Writer

10/31/2017 at 06:25 AM

Yeah, this game is way too difficult to begin with.  Especially with the death mechanic, which should be cool and kinda is, but it's so poorly implemented and not balanced at all. Fortunately, all of these things can be fixed in a patch. It's not entirely doomed.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

11/08/2017 at 12:02 AM

Yeah, I feel like this game was just some game testing away from being something really special. 

transmet2033

10/31/2017 at 11:25 AM

One of the things that bugged me dawned on me yesterday.  I am about 3/4ers of the way through the game and I feel just as helpless as I did at the beginning of the game.  Yes, I have collected upgrades, but they don't really make me feel powerful.  In Super Metroid, at this point in the game, you feel like a complete badass.

Julian Titus Senior Editor

11/08/2017 at 12:03 AM

I will say that I made a final pass through the areas before beating the game and the final relics I found boosted my armor and weapon attack, but honestly this just made the character feel the way he should have from the outset. 

transmet2033

11/08/2017 at 04:48 PM

I was more than a little annoyed when I found those final relics.  I don't understand why they were hidden behind late game abilities.
It would be nice to see them come back and rebalance the game because there was so much to love about the game.

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