Developer WayForward has channeled its knack for crafting eye-catching retro games to make The Mummy Demastered, a licensed game based on the recent (and disappointing) Tom Cruise movie. It’s an unusual fit, but don’t let that dissuade you. Unlike most games based on movies, The Mummy almost completely abandons its source material to try something different, and mostly succeeds.
The Mummy is, at heart, a mixture of Ghosts n’ Goblins and Metroid. It looks and plays as if it would be perfectly at home on the Super Nintendo, and everything about it will feel instantly familiar to anyone who’s played their fair share of 16-bit side-scrolling action games. There’s one giant map where new sections are opened by either finding new abilities and items or defeating bosses. Monsters immediately respawn as soon as you enter a new room or area and secret treasures encourage exploration.
Supply boxes are scattered throughout the world containing everything from an assortment of new weapons to health upgrades. Weapons include machine guns, a flame thrower, shotgun, rocket launcher, and more, including several types of grenades, ranging from standard explosive to fiery napalm. The Mummy also features destructible statues containing secret scrolls to grant you extra speed, higher jumps, and other necessary skills to reach new areas. It’s a tried-and-true method of progression that keeps you searching every passage, and there’s enough variety in the locations and room designs to keep the familiar gameplay from feeling stale.
The most notable aspect–for better or worse–is the way The Mummy treats death, which takes inspiration from WayForward’s DS action game, Aliens: Infestation. When you die in The Mummy, your character turns into a zombie and you take control of a new agent. In order to retrieve all the goodies you’ve collected, you have to successfully kill the ghost of your former self. This is a great idea that fits in at first but becomes incredibly tedious during tough boss battles. Since you respawn in a save room prior to a boss battle, dying leads to an annoying series of events requiring you to kill the last agent, then go and kill a bunch of lesser monsters to regain health, before trying again to take down the boss. There’s no option to simply revert to your last save file.
It’s also a very tough game in general, ghost agents notwithstanding. Enemies constantly come at you from multiple angles, there are environmental hazards like toxic waste, and difficult bosses relentlessly test your shooting and dodging skills. All of these moments feel great in action, but the limited eight-way directional aiming is an occasional annoyance. Since you frequently have to shoot things at angles above and below you, the lack of finesse here requires constant position adjustments. It would have helped the combat flow to take advantage of modern analog controls and allow for a full range of motion when aiming.
Quibbles aside, The Mummy delivers a creative and action-packed adventure. Full of running, jumping, and gunning through tombs, forests, sewers, subway tunnels, and beyond, the game brims with challenging old-school charm. It’s sure to bring back a flood of nostalgia, while still managing to be a solid game on its own. Still, a few more modern touches to make it slightly more playable wouldn’t have hurt. As it is though, this is a fun and tough monster-filled trek that surpasses the license it’s attached to.